I attempted to share what I’ve learned since living in London in March and then again in April and well, here we are on the first day of June and it still feels overwhelming to make a list. Honestly, if I shared all the things I’ve learned about living in another culture, I could possibly have the beginning of a book.
But you don’t want to know ALL the things, like my son’s horrible first hair cut here or that time I bought too many groceries and my hot-out-of-the-oven baguette rolled into the busy street while trying to balance bags and pull a trolley behind me.
Oh, you do? Okay then, let’s get to it.
1) Not having a car isn’t as inconvenient as I assumed because public transportation is plentiful and relatively cheap. Unless you need to go to IKEA, Costco or buy potting soil and plants. Then you need a giant back seat. A car isn’t necessary in the city but handy if you overfill your grocery cart, realize you forgot your phone and can’t call your son to help carry the bags for you. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
2) All that money you save by not having to insure or park a car goes to fund Zip Car.
3) Ordering groceries on-line delivered for less than two dollars to your house. Do I really need to say more about this?
4) I learned to meet people for tea or lunch in strategic places on the path where H walks home. Why you ask? His debit card. I didn’t have one of my own until last week. Two months sharing one bank card makes me realize how much I take the ability to purchase for granted. Yes, it takes like FOREVER to get a bank account here.
5) Phone numbers are long and illogical. I finally have mine memorized but if I need to call someone and my phone dies, I’m in trouble.
6) Tea isn’t just something you drink; it is the cultural common denominator that removes awkwardness in meetings. Tea brings people together in homes and restaurants, a lot.
7) My favorite tea is Yorkshire Gold but I admit to missing Red Rose from Canada.
8) The water pouring out of the tap frightens me just a little if I’m honest. The sediment (commonly referred to as scale) hard water leaves on dishes and the shower makes me feel as if I am somehow corrupting my health. And then there is faith and trust in Jesus. And denial.
9) People in the United States are much more enamored with the Royals than the Brits. That’s just my opinion; you don’t have to agree with it.
10) While we are having things fixed in the house, I learned that what I would call hardware in a handle, lock and mail slot for the door is actually called door furniture in England. And a painter is referred to as a decorator in this culture. When people kept telling us that they would have to hire a decorator for the house, I kept thinking, “No, I can do that myself, I don’t need one.”
11) People actually drive by the house to see the color we painted the door after I wrote about it.
12) Every single time the mail pushes through the slot, the sound frightens me as it hits the floor. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Next year.
13) I learned that the sounds, smells and tastes that I once considered insignificant in my life were actually providing a level of comfort somehow. The Today Show in the morning, the hum of a lawn mower, the smell of Tide on clean sheets, salt – on anything, singing to music turned up when driving by myself (okay that should probably go in #1 but whatevs) and falling asleep to Jimmy Fallon. Miss all those things like a boss.
14) But not as much as I miss my daughter being with us.
15) I’m head-over-heels in love with Voxer, Facebook, email and blogging. Because I’ve learned that no matter where you live in the world, if you can’t pick up a phone and talk, meaningful conversation is possible with the people who love you and you love back.
16) Rain, train delays, and crowded buses at 5pm won’t keep you from getting where you need to go but they are predictable components of life in London. Success in navigating obstacles is determined by your outlook. And an umbrella is always a staple in your purse.
17) God is often a stranger on a bus.
Is there anything that surprises you on my list? What have you learned lately?
Linking with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.