New City, New Experiences

In my first week here, in London, England, I have begun to fall in love with this amazing city. From the amazing views to all of the rich history, it is hard not to feel like you’re in a dream. I live in an area known as Kensington, which is a very exclusive area of London. Within walking distance, we are able to reach some of the most beautiful and historic places here in Europe: places like the Kensington Palace and Buckingham palace. We are also very close to the tube stations and a large shopping district. While exploring all of these wonderful areas of London, I have come to notice quite a few differences in the way they live. Whether it Is accommodations or just the way they speak, there are many small differences in culture.

One of the biggest things I have been getting used to is going to multiple stores when running errands. Unlike America, there are many different stores for many different things. If you want to get things like kitchen supplies, towels, or blankets you have to go to hardware store where they will carry those specific items. The same goes for things like groceries and cosmetics. It is not like the United States, where you can just run to Target for all of your necessities at once. You have to individually go to each store you need, and pick out the items you want. This has become a bit normal already, since I needed quite a few things upon my arrival. But, it is definitely something I will be getting used to, since it takes up a bit more of your time.

London Eye at night

Another thing I have come to notice are things like not getting ice in your water, or the way they serve food in restaurants. When you are eating out, you have to be a bit more assertive. The waiters here are paid a livable minimum wage, so they do not try to please you as much for tips. While they still help you with the things you need, they do not mind as much to check in and be super friendly. You also have to be sure to let them know when you are ready to order, and when you are ready to leave as well. It is also very different that they serve lukewarm water, instead of iced water. Iced water has definitely become something I miss so much.

People here are also very timid and quiet when it comes to their opinions. When you are in their way or, as I like to say, acting like a tourist, they usually just glance at you. They keep their words to themselves, and for the most part remain very calm and polite. I have also noticed that they will give you a dirty look or laugh at you if they do not like what you are doing, whereas in D.C. they usually yell at you. On the bright side people are generally not as rude here, and are much friendlier.

The last thing I noticed was how different things are when it comes to space and accommodations. When I say this, I mean how they accommodate for those who are disabled, and how tight the spaces are in rooms and restaurants. This was an extreme shock to me, as I have always thought it is common courtesy and correct to have accessibility for those who are disabled and those who are not. In this case, it seems as though they have not updated many buildings over the years. Many of the building here, even the one we are living in, only have stairs. They do not have elevators. The closest thing I have been on to and elevator was the escalators, and even those are not accessible to everyone. The one place I have seen an elevator, was in the Tube system. These are for the Tubes that are extremely underground, so you do not need to take so many escalators and stairs. But, even when you go to enter the Tube, it still seems to be inaccessible. There is usually quite a gap between the landing and the train. So, you sometimes need to take a large step in order to make you way on to the train. In America I have always know things to be extremely accessible for anyone. There always were ramps where there are stairs, and there are always elevators. Here it seems as though the buildings have been around so long, that they have not been updated. It is also interesting how small the rooms are. The doorways are smaller as well. For instance, just the other day I was at a restaurant for brunch. There were three floors for seating, but each floor only had about 5 tables. The tables were also very close together, so you were very close to the people next to you. This is something that is also very different, as in most restaurants in America, they are very spread out and have a lot of space for people.

Streets of Kensington

Overall these are just a few things I have picked up on during my first week here, not to mention how different the British lingo is (although that is something I hope to begin to pick up on). These differences are things I had expected, and I hope to get used to very soon. So far I have really enjoyed embracing the new culture and area around me, as it has been extremely interesting to see how different things can be. I have loved experiencing all of these new things around me, and I cannot wait to explore more. I hope to do as much as I can while I am here, and learn as much about the culture here as possible. It has been extremely eye-opening, and I cannot wait to see what is to come over my next few months here abroad.

Sydney Helphenstine

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