Now that we’ve signed out of England and are in Scotland for a few days, I thought I’d give a few observations on English culture as we’ve experienced it. To our English friends – feel free to dispute or corroborate any of these claims! Even though England may not seem as foreign or different as some of the places we’ve been (hello Mauritania and Morocco), it offered us insights into another culture – and that’s worth something. Be Specific!
Something you never really think about is how people in different countries handle the idea of getting a product the most economical way. For example, in the US we will often ask service providers what the best solution is, whether that be suggestions on meals or which combination of services are the cheapest.
Here, that interaction simply does not happen. It took us three bus rides to figure out which ticket option was the cheapest – simply because in England you have to TELL the driver exactly what you want, not ask for which is best. It did not work (twice) when we asked; “We’re trying to go from here to Newcastle and back. What’s the best way to do that?” We ended up just paying too much for all day tickets to places we didn’t need.
This also happens in restaurants. Generally if you ask a server what they like best or which they recommend, there’s a bit of a blank stare accompanied by a, “I don’t know, they’re both fine.” Samples of beers in pubs are plentiful however, which is a similarity I appreciate!
Photos from England
As much as the ‘pedestrians have the right of way no matter what’ rule drives me crazy in Portland, the polar opposite isn’t so desirable either. English roads are riddled with roundabouts. It’s like a transportation planner put one and thought it was pure genius so every intersection in the entire country should have one. This means that it takes hours to go somewhere quite close. For pedestrians it means a similar fear of going near the road as I had walking along the streets of Marrakesh and Cairo. It’s a fear that says, “stick one toe in that road and a car could do anything at any moment!!” The added challenges of the roundabout plus a dirth of drivers that signal (not that you would know which way they’re going even if they did signal), plus the fact that they’re driving on the wrong side of the road (yes English friends I did say wrong) all leads to really having no clue as to how to cross the road at a roundabout.
Another observation on the transportation side of things is that people are really concerned with who got to the bus stop or queue first, and if you got there before, they will always step aside and let you board. Hmm.
Accents & Greetings
An interesting observation we’ve made is how focused people seem to be on the different regional accents here. England isn’t that big, but people seem to be able to identify a slightly different English accent at first mention of any words. Certainly we have different regional accents in the States, but America is HUGE. Just an interesting thought.
I do really enjoy, however, being greeted with a cheery, “Hiya!” or “You alright there?” instead of, “Hello, how are you?” Folks in the service industry also ask, “Can I help?” As opposed to, “Can I help the next person?” Little things here and there that we notice…
We’re also Similar
Aside from a few differences, some listed above, and a seemingly insatiable like of black tea and biscuits (that would be crackers in American English), our two cultures are very similar. Jon and I were both surprised at many of the societal similarities – being politics, social construct and lifestyle similarities. It’s pretty easy to be in England – if you take away the death-a-bouts and the cost of living.
It was an enjoyable few weeks in England, we saw so many castles, beautiful green countryside, laughed over plenty a pint and been astounded by the history here. It’s off to Edinburgh for 5 days now. During our time in England we’ve spent an enormous amount of effort working on our next adventure, which hasn’t come without struggle. Apparently when you can go anywhere, making choices becomes kinda overwhelming. We’ve finally had to realize that no matter where we go we will see something new, have a unique experience and probably enjoy ourselves. That’s nice.
First Photos of Scotland
Jon and I have ventured into the world of housesitting. It’s a way to see a new place, yet have a home (i.e. free accommodations). We’ve secured a job in Norway and will be flying to Oslo on June 26th and then up to a town called Follebu about 30km outside of Lillehammer. We’re hoping for a laid back, yet scenic 2 weeks in the countryside.
We also just secured a second housesitting gig in Murcia, Spain from the end of July through August! Murcia looks lovely, and is close to Alicante and Cartegena. This = jess beach time. Yay.
See ya’ll on the other side of the North Sea!
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