England and Stereotypes

I should be asleep.

Or I should be working ahead so that tomorrow night I can sleep.

Or I should be going over the lesson that I need to teach tomorrow morning.

Or I should be going over the paper that I need to turn in tomorrow afternoon.

Lucky you, what I want to do is blog about London.

An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.
[George Mikes]

OK. Leave this to me. I’m British. I know how to queue.
[Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)]

England is everything I expected it to be and more, and I absolutely love it. A week before I arrived, I asked a friend who had gone to Cambridge to give me a little insight into British culture. “All I know,” I told her, “is really based on BBC shows and Oscar-winning films and Victorian novels.”

Her response? “Well, the stereotypes are all true, so I think you’ll be okay.”

Here are some things that I have observed in my ten days here:

    London is a diverse city.

    I hear more foreign languages in London than English. In fact, when I actually hear an English accent while I’m out and about, it surprises me. However, German, French, Russian, Korean, and American do not.

    It does not rain every day.

    In fact, today was the only day that I actually used my umbrella, and then I only had it opened for a few minutes.

    I really need to learn the monetary system here.

    I have a ton of coins – I’ve probably got a decent amount of money in pence, but I still can’t make heads or tails of what’s what without picking up each individual coin and studying it carefully to make sure I’m spending the right ones.

    And it really is expensive.

    The people are really friendly.

    I know the British are all about social class, but I’ve yet to meet a really snobby person.

    The British drink, but not as much as I thought.

    In fact, I’ve yet to go to a pub, although I have been asked.

    As a non-drinker, this makes me feel more comfortable.

    They like their football and their Doctor Who.

    But not everyone.

    The food is actually not that bad.

    Especially breakfast.

    They read.

    Everyone on the Tube has either a newspaper or a book.

    There are SO MANY queues (and I’m very proud of myself for learning how to spell that word.)

    For those of you who are Americans, “to form a queue” means to form an orderly line.

    I feel like I spend most of my time in queues, and half the time I’m in the wrong one.

I’m seriously, madly in love with this country. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit some of my friends from Virginia, one of whom I’ve known since I was about fourteen. They live in Cheltenham, so I took a train from Paddington station on Saturday and stayed the night.

It was fantastic. I was a little worried because I had a lot of work I needed to do for my classes, and I just didn’t think that it was responsible of me to go, but I’m so glad I did. It was nice to see what life is like outside of London, and – to be honest – it was nice to hear American accents.

(One thing happened that I found really funny. I was discussing with Anna and Rebecca – the Americans – what I was going to do my last and free week in London. I mentioned that there was a holiday on the weekend after my course ends, but I called it a “bank holiday.” I didn’t even think about it – it just slipped out. I wasn’t the only one: all three of us American girls would often catch ourselves saying something very British. We’re being assimilated.

Resistance is futile.

I doubt that when I return to America I’ll have anything that the born-and-raised English would call a British accent, but my vocabulary is definitely going to be different.)

What I loved most about Cheltenham was getting to go to church with my friends. Last Sunday, I went to Hillsong London, and that was really great, but today’s service was an experience I didn’t expect.

Are you ready for this? It was a Pentecostal Anglican church.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of a stereotype being utterly destroyed.

I don’t know if any of my friends noticed, but I was so excited to be there. I found the whole experience fascinating. I’m still very much a part of the Assemblies of God – don’t worry, dad – but I really enjoyed the service.

They mentioned speaking in tongues – and it was kids and teenagers talking about it! I was floored.

Tomorrow morning, I will get up and walk to my station. I’ll get on a train and change a few lines, and I’ll go to my course. I’ll teach a lesson. I’ll have lunch with my classmates and new friends – if it’s sunny, we’ll sit in Bloomsbury Square gardens. And at the end of the day, I’ll pack myself into the Tube again and go home.

It’s sounds mundane, but it’s not.

I am so happy. Thank you, Jesus.


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