Cultural Observations and My First Legal Beer
I had my first legal beer, an event that was filled equally with exuberance, sadness and nostalgia. The circumstances in which it occurred were pretty unique though. Let's recap — I flew 4,000 miles to study abroad in a different culture and country. And by most Brits’ standards, drinking beer is a massive part of culture. With all this being said, I ended up having my first legal beer in a "Blues Bar" in Soho. Alongside some new friends from orientation, I was surrounded by Brits singing harmoniously to a British American-blues cover band. I found it increasingly difficult to cope with the sound of British accents attempting to recreate the sounds of Muddy Waters and B.B. King. It was kind of a great cultural experience, but it also sounded very wrong to my American, Southern ears.
I mean, of course British culture is different than American. But here are just a few things I noticed in the last couple days.
I walk by Waterloo Station each day, and each day there is the same (assumed) homeless woman outside. She is always outside sitting on her sleeping bag, holding a cup for pounds. Every time I have gone by, someone has either been talking to her or giving her money. It's pretty simple but means a lot. One night, it was some guy just stopping and asking, "You doing all right, love? Anything I can get ya?" Another time, I walked by and a man in a suit was sitting next to her carrying on a lively conversation. I'm not saying that this kind of humanity is unique to London or England. It's just nice to witness it so frequently.
I also went to a hospital walk-in clinic. I walked in, filled out a piece of paper for my information, waited for 30 minutes, and was then seen by a nurse. Following my examination with the nurse, I was able to speak with a doctor for another 15 minutes. Then I left. No paying, no insurance, no anything. It was incredible. I had this guilty feeling that I was beating the system or something. But nope, they just have a form of universal health care. How nice.
Also, all Brits are thieves. All of them, every single one. OK, well, this takes some explaining. During orientation, IFSA Butler (the program that organized my stay at King's College) brought in a bobby (police officer) to talk to us about personal safety. He was a loud, very smart, charismatic man named David Castle. He told us how England, and London specifically, is the most thieving nation in all of Europe. "Stealing stuff is our national pastime. We love it." So with that being said, I have been on high alert — it's kind of like a game of cat and mouse. How long can I last without being robbed — I have no idea.
Anyhow, I am here now, stuck in the middle of London. I'm sure more will happen, and I can't wait.
Thanks for checking in y’all!
Right off Leicester Square. Bennett and I were watching a street performer. The performer asked the packed crowd to raise our hands above our heads to clap. ... Classic way to make it easier to pickpocket us. We weren't fooled ... or maybe we're just paranoid.
Here are my mates and me with candy cigarettes, in hopes of appearing more European. James (far right) and Riley (far left) are from Butler University and are studying at Westminster. Bennett (second from right) is at King's College and is originally from Colgate University. Cheers!