If you have ever moved from one place to another, you have probably experienced some form of culture shock. You do not need to move to another country to experience this, I know I felt it when I moved 800 miles across California to go to college. However, culture shock is typically associated with the feeling of everything being different when you travel. After living in Wales for almost three months, I have been immersed in a culture different than my own and I have noticed some big differences from the United States. At first, I did not notice all the differences, probably because I was so excited and busy in the beginning, but as time goes on I miss bits of home.
One of the first differences I noticed was the size of everything! From cars to food to door frames, it is all so much smaller here. My American friends and I spent the first few weeks calling out how small everything is and my British friends claim it is because their country is smaller and rebuttal with the size of everything being normal. It is very rare to see SUVs or trucks driving around, one of the biggest cars I have seen is a Range Rover. The inside of cars are tiny as well. I have ridden in a friend's Volkswagen with 4 other people and we were packed in like sardines! Most portion sizes at restaurants are fairly small. While my plates are usually just the right amount for me, I imagine people with bigger appetites would need seconds. The refrigerators and freezers are also very small. My flat has 2 of each appliance because there are seven of us, but my Welsh friend says her home only has one tiny fridge. Grocery shopping is typically done every week because there is not enough space and the idea of buying in bulk is basically nonexistent. I have found the size of doors to be the most shocking. I find that doors are significantly smaller, to the point where it is difficult to walk through them comfortably when carrying multiple bags. I would have to say I prefer things U.S. size, go big or go home, right?
One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make is with transportation. In the U.S. it is very common to drive everywhere, unfortunately, I do not have a car here and students who do have cars do not use them very often. It is much easier to take the bus around town, but that comes with its limitations. There are two times in my life I remember taking a bus. Once was when I was a child and I rode it with my grandmother, the other time was last year with my friend and we took the bus from Humboldt State University to the Eureka mall. I have been lucky enough to always have a car to drive or someone to drive me places, so adjusting to taking the bus everywhere has been a challenge. While there is a bus schedule, they are not always on time and there is no guarantee you will get on if there are other students. I missed a class one time because there were too many students on the first bus and the next bus was late. Grocery shopping is also tricky when taking the bus because you can only carry so much and then have to lug it on the bus. As I mentioned before, buying in bulk is not common, so learning how to shop in small amounts has been tough. After three months, I definitely miss my car!
Humor seems to be a struggle most people have when traveling. The British tend to have a dry and sarcastic sense of humor with a bit of darkness. Of course not every person is the same, but it is quite common to hear sarcastic remarks. Luckily, I already enjoy sarcasm and often make sassy statements, but I know many Americans have had a difficult time adjusting to it. The important thing to remember is that if someone is sarcastic it means they enjoy your company and to not take what they say personally.
While I have found most people to be generally nice, when it comes to customer service it is very different from the U.S. Every now and then there are nice cashiers, but a lot of times I find that they just ring you up and move on. Most of the workers on campus are not very friendly, especially when it comes to ordering coffee. I have also had quite a few disappointing experiences with campus security and receptionist, almost every question I have is met with annoyance. I always find that Americans take great pride in customer service, but I do not think my bad experiences should label all people who work in customer service here.
Even though everyone speaks English here, I knew I would have to adjust to different accents and different words. I have noticed that Americans speak loudly, while the British tend to speak a little softer. Their lowered voices in combination with some very strong accents make it difficult for me to understand some people. I have also had to adjust to the different words they use, such as "pants" referring to underwear, or "hob" referring to the stove. Every now and then I have to ask someone what they mean by a certain word or correct myself when I know my word means something different to them.
The availability of food has not been too drastic for me. I find most things that I can find in the U.S., aside from certain junk foods. The hardest adjustment with food has been the lack of flavored liquid coffee creamer. The only creamer I have found is powdered and when I asked a friend, they said they had never seen liquid creamer. I also tried looking for shortening, which is commonly referred to as Crisco in the U.S. For one, they do not call it shortening and the brand they have is Trex. My English friend had to google what the equivalent of shortening is! Biscuits as we know them also do not exist here (our cookies are called biscuits) and the idea of biscuits and gravy is hard for them to grasp. I always recommend they try it if they ever have the chance!
Living in a new country has been an adjustment and I finally feel like I am getting the hang of things. While there are a lot of differences between the U.K. and the U.S., I love both places equally and appreciate the differences.