The United States, and in particular, Winona, Minnesota, are wonderful places to live. But as Americans, we take some aspects of our lives in America for granted, forgetting that the rest of the world doesn’t exist the same way.
Traveling has allowed me to realize some of these differences, some of which should have been obvious, and some of which have greatly surprised me. Here are three reasons that living briefly in London has made me feel like Dorothy in Oz, because if one thing’s for sure, it’s that Toto, we’re not in America anymore.
- The Weather
London has been enduring an abnormal heat wave as of late, so one of the most common topics of conversation with Londoners has been what they call “the bloody awful heat.” My favorite rebuttal to their complaints is to tell them about the hot and cold extremes that Minnesota reaches throughout the year. And reader, I wish you could see the horror in their eyes as they lean slightly away as though Minnesota weather is contagious.
However, I encountered a roadblock when discussing the weather with Londoners – I forgot that we use Fahrenheit while they use Celsius. A conversion app has come in quite handy, but thinking about the weather in Celsius is something I didn’t even think to consider before coming to London.
- The Sheer Number of People
While we do have large cities, such as New York City or Los Angeles, we also have numerous small towns, particularly in the Midwest. While talking to some Londoners, one of the Londoners mentioned that he had gone to university in a “small” town of about one hundred thousand people. Those of us Americans within hearing range burst out laughing because Winona is about a quarter of that size, and in the Midwest, towns with populations under a hundred are relatively common. The ‘small town university’ Londoner was shocked by the size of small towns in the States, and I explained to him that we had to fill in the gaps between large cities somehow!
- The Dialectic and Cultural Differences
Despite different slang terms and popular culture being one of the most obvious differences between Americans and Londoners, it was still the difference that surprised me the most. We tried to play a game called Articulate with a group of Londoners, and it was rather difficult. The game involved trying to get the other players to guess a certain word without actually saying the word, and since the game was made for British people, we Americans didn’t know about a third of the people and slang terms.
For example, there were several comedians that the Londoners knew whom we had never heard of (sorry, Sandi Toksvig), and there were also several slang terms we had never heard of (apparently a “nappy” is a diaper). We all had fun and learned quite a bit, and I mentally smacked myself for forgetting about the obvious dialectic and cultural differences between Americans and Londoners.
Traveling to London has greatly opened my eyes to the cultural differences in our world, even between English speakers. Before coming to London, I knew that the lifestyle in London would be different from home, but because I had never experienced the difference, I’d never wholly understood how different it would be. And the difference is refreshing – not only is it a change of pace, but it’s also caused me to be more aware of and even appreciate my Americanness.
There’s no place like home, but London is pretty darn great, too.
-Kristen Carrie ’20