TOLD you I’d be doing travel posts!
Thursdays will be dedicated to all things travel-related, including expat highs and lows, vacay plans, dream destinations, and everything in between. Today is all about:
THINGS I DIDN’T REALIZE BEFORE MOVING ABROAD
I’ve technically lived abroad before, but that was as an undergraduate and part of a semester-long study abroad program. There’s also the fact that I’ve got a flat to myself in the city (as opposed to sharing one with 5 other peeps on campus), which brings its own set of revelations with it. Anyway, here we go!
Foods are tailored to the tastes of a country’s residents. This is why back home, Chicken Tikka Masala is more on the salty side, but here in the UK, it’s sweet. This is also why Kit-Kats taste nothing like how I remember them: Different country = different ingredients. One good thing about living in the UK when it comes to food (and there are many good things) is that certain preservatives and harmful ingredients you’ll find alllll up in American foods aren’t allowed here. So my confusion after biting into a Twix bar from my local grocery store is easily explained. Still makes me kinda sad, though.
With all the political craziness the US has come to be known for, I’ve gotten used to reading articles and hearing talk of how ridiculous we are as a nation (especially during my first time studying abroad, while George W. Bush was in office). So when I arrived in England, ready to be pointed and laughed at like in a naked back-to-school dream and it didn’t happen, I was pleasantly surprised. I was even more surprised to learn there are people in the world who actually love American accents!
…and movies, and music, and clothes, and celebrities, and food, and cities, and EVERYTHING Amurrica has to offer. I’ve actually met English people who can’t understand why I’d ever leave the good ole US of A. Needless to say, I feel less like we’re the weird kids sitting alone at the lunch table, and have come to appreciate more about my own country since moving to the UK.
I’ve touched on this a few times already, but the biggest example that comes to mind for me are attitudes toward Creative Writing as a field of study and career. In America, people I’ve talked to have been like
Not every single person in the US has reacted the first way, but quite a few. It’s all to do with what a particular culture values. In a country with such a large population, and such a huge gap between the haves and the have nots, it makes sense that people would prioritize the ability to make money over most other things (and unless your last name is Rowling, King, or Grisham, you can’t really expect a lot of moolah from writing right off the bat). Interestingly, most of the major Creative Writing programs, conferences, and publications are in the US, so there are definitely people there who care about it. It’s just that those people tend to be…writers.
Sometimes you get so used to something, you think it MUST be everywhere, right? Wrong. The things available in a country (again) depend on demand and other place-specific factors. In a place where it’s not known to be super hot, will your apartment come with air conditioning? Probably not. In a place less commerce-driven or with a smaller population, will there be 24-hour shops and eateries on every corner? Not likely. It’s all down to where you are.
In the UK, when you order Chicken Tikka Masala, make sure you don’t forget to order rice; if you see a cute pillow, don’t assume the price you see is for both the cover and the cushion inside, because it’s probably not; and if you’re looking to buy beer, make sure you look closely at the price sticker — the number in bold might just be the price for one beer, not the entire pack. The UK is not the US. Presume nothing. In other words, don’t be me.
These are just some of the things that have switched the light bulb on in my head.
What are some of your travel epiphanies?