A Memo to Self on Cultural Adjustment
Here are just a few of the little nuances I noticed about the British in London:
The people are more shy about looking you in the eye when you pass on the street. It is like this to some degree in New York, as well. But, being a person who is naturally shy, I have been more recently making an effort to look strangers in the eye and offer them a smile… I discovered that was more difficult here. Perhaps it is some sense of politeness or propriety that causes them to avert their eyes. I wonder if it is like this throughout the UK, or if this is merely a byproduct of severe urban isolation.
When someone bumps into you on the street, or in the tube station (by the way, the tube, or the underground, is what they call the subway system here), they say “sorry” rather than “excuse me.” They say “sorry” even if it was their fault. That’s cute.
I also noticed that instead of saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” the expression “Cheers!” seems to fill in for both of these. It also serves as “Goodbye” (as I noticed in one instance).
The British seem to be very environmentally-conscious. There is almost no litter to be seen on the streets anywhere — and in general, the streets and subways are kept very clean. After a day out in New York, I always seem to feel a thin film of grime on my hands, but I never quite felt that here.
They also expect you to bring your own bags at the supermarket. They will provide a bag for you, but at an extra charge to discourage this. I rather like this and I wonder if it is this way throughout the country and in all of Europe.
Also, having “tea” means more than just having the hot drink. “Tea” is a whole extra meal between lunch and dinner, usually involving sweet pastries and sandwiches. This is called “Low Tea,” while “High Tea” is another word for supper. It rather reminds me of the eating habits of Hobbits. 🙂