One month. Thirty days. 720 hours. 43,200 minutes. I have lived in Scotland for a little over four weeks now. I have just finished my third week of lectures. I will turn in my first essay within the next couple weeks. I have attended four churches. I have drank so much tea. What will one month living in the UK do to you?
A quick aside… This is actually my second time to live in the UK for a month. I spent twenty-eight days in June 2019 staying in various places in the UK. However, the experience is quite different this time around, and it has a different feel when you are staying, mostly, in one place with plans for a longer period of time.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to drink tea a lot. I know, I know. I’ve already mentioned the tea, but I don’t think I have yet communicated the amount of tea that you will consume, or at least be offered, throughout the day. To remind my American readers of a story, there was once a group of rebellious (you might even say “revolutionary”) persons who dumped a shipload of tea in Boston Harbor. I can almost imagine the harbor with a tea bag steeping in it as it slowly turns the water black. Well, if you added some cream to that ocean-tea, it may be about the quantity that will be offered or drank by you when you live in the UK.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to hear a lot about Brexit and Boris. Before I move on, this is obviously not a normative experience, but over this first month I’ve my living here, it’s huge. Without going into political details, no one can stop talking about the unexpected roller coaster that has been the last month of UK politics and governance. I’ve overheard world-leading New Testament scholars and theologians, old ladies in cafes, and groups of blokes in pubs discussing these crazy, unprecedented times. I’ll just say that being here right now makes the US political system look rather tame. Perhaps it’s making me optimistic for my home country.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to never know what to do with trash. Once you get around the confusion of talking about “rubbish” instead of “trash” and “bins” instead of “cans”, you still have to navigate what items to throw away and what items to recycle. Personally I really enjoy the option of recycling, but for someone untrained, it can become too difficult when you just want to get rid of a food container.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to always have coins. The first thing to mention is that they have coins for one pound and two pounds instead of notes (like having dollar and two dollar coins instead of paper money). Plus if there is a place where small coins are basically useless, it’s the UK. When you purchase things here, there are no non-advertised sales taxes, so you often have items rounded to nice neat numbers. However, when you don’t have nice round numbers, you get stuck with one cent, two cent, five cent, and ten cent coins which you will rarely use. They will just sit in your backpack, or “rucksack”, and jingle as you walk everywhere. They also sound like toy coins, and that only makes it worse. Jingle, jingle.
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to forget that cars drive on the right side of the street back home. You will probably be riding a bicycle or walking everywhere, so even if you don’t drive a car, you will get use to riding your bike or looking for cars on the left side of the road. Sadly, a part of you will always doubt it. You will constantly be confused and paranoid. Such is the fate of an American (or German, so says my friend).
If you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to constantly not know where to walk on the sidewalk (“pavement”). If there is one thing that annoys me about living here, it’s that no one is consistent on picking a side of the sidewalk to walk on. People from American don’t know where to walk. People from Germany don’t know where to walk. And worse, people from here don’t know where to walk! There is just a constant mass of confusion any time you have to pass someone going the opposite way as you.
This is a joke. This is actually a crowd from an event I attended, not people on a sidewalk…
This post mainly serves as a joke and will, to some extent, misrepresent some things. So I want to end on this note: if you live in the UK for a month, be prepared to love the people, love the place, and be thankful for the opportunity. If you have ever had such an opportunity, you understand the feeling. If you haven’t, do whatever you can to get a similar experience. It can be transforming to engage a diverse world.