I CAN’T LEAVE, I’VE STARTED A LIFE HERE
Last Thursday, I went to small pub nearby the University of Glasgow with some buddies after our classes. My pal, Jake, mentioned how he wished he could stay for the spring semester because life in Europe presents more of a thrill than his life back in Minnesota. I admit I fall in love with Scotland more and more each day, but you couldn’t convince me to stay an entire year here. I’ve got a life back home that I’m proud of and I have spent 20 years creating.
On the other hand, I see where Jake is coming from. I really have started a life in Glasgow, although it’s only temporary. I have new friends, a new daily routine and new interests. I’ve made so many small adjustments living here that I never thought I would have to make before I came. Because of these adjustments, I’m a wee bit afraid for when I return because it may take some time for me to revert back to the American ways. Let’s provide some examples.
During my very first class, I sneezed. Without hesitation, I said, “Thank you,” acknowledging the standard “God bless you” from someone sitting near me. Quickly realizing no one said anything, I scanned the room and found a few students looking at me like I had three heads. They don’t say “God bless you”? Ever since then, I haven’t made a sound when someone sneezes. I apologize in advance for being the a**hole without proper manners when I return to the United States.
And of course whenever you travel to an unfamiliar place, you pick up on the slang terms. Similar to Americans, the Scots like to shorten phrases to one or two words. The most common example is in the greeting, “Hi, how are you?”. Instead of that, the Scots simply combine the words in to “Hiya?”, which I will inevitably say to the hostess who seats me when I make a long-awaited visit to my beloved IHOP in my hometown.
Another phrase widely used across Britain that I intend to bring back to the U.S. is “Cheers”. It’s an informal way of thanking somebody for a small favor or wishing someone a nice day, at least from what I’ve gathered. If someone holds the door open for you, you might give a smile and say, “Cheers!” I’m a big fan.
The metric system?
Good luck with that one, Troy.
The currency is in pounds rather than dollars, while the majority of Europe uses euros. Beverages are measured in pints and liters, just like gasoline. Temperature is in degrees Celsius. Weight is in kilograms. I’m still having trouble figuring out what dumbbells I should use to match what I would lift in pounds, so I just guess and hope for the best. I swear the second I go to the YMCA gym I will think in kilograms and I’ll end up lifting something I think I can handle but actually can’t.
Oh yeah, and my failures to make small adjustments almost killed me on a few occasions in the first month.
My brain is all messed up from watching drivers here. People drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the right side of the car. I don’t have a vehicle to drive obviously, but I’ve sat in several taxis. After just a month and-a-half in the U.K., it’s a strange concept to me that Americans sit on the left but drive on the right. What’s even worse is that this messes me up as a pedestrian too. Before I cross the street I have to look to the right first. I can’t tell you how many times a car almost hit me because I looked to the left and thought I was safe. Furthermore, pedestrians don’t have the right-of-way here. Cars won’t stop for you. If you’re crossing when you shouldn’t, drivers don’t slow down. At all. It’s safe to say I learned my lesson.
Unfortunately, a pain that comes with studying abroad is you are very limited in what you can bring. I was only allowed a 50 lb. suitcase and two small carry-ons. I own quite the extensive wardrobe back home, but I could only bring about 20 percent of it with me. It’s no fun rotating between the same shirt, shoes and pair of pants every week.
Speaking of wearing the same clothes, laundry is painfully expensive. It costed me £8.00 to wash and dry my clothes the last (and only) time I did laundry. That’s $9.75 with the conversion rate. I don’t have that kind of money to spend! So how do I beat the system? I wear the same pair of socks a few days in a row, or work out in the same outfit on consecutive days. I have to use the same towel for two weeks or wear the same clothes to bed every night for a week. It’s not a life I’m proud of I’ll tell ‘ya. The good news? All of the other exchange students have the same problem. So at least we’re dirty together.
And the adjustment I’ve had to make that bothers me the most is the time difference. The United Kingdom is five hours ahead of N.Y.’s. I wake up every morning to a flurry of unanswered Snapchats and group messages because I was already asleep when they were sent. And if I want to have a conversation via text message/phone call, I have to do it around 11:00 p.m. my time because that’s when people usually wrap up their school/work days back home. And then the conversations don’t last that long because I’m a grandpa and need a good night of sleep so I can wake up and read the newspaper while eating a bowl of oatmeal.
Except I usually can’t do that in the manner I would like. I love to read the online edition of the New York Times when I don’t have a physical newspaper in front of me. But when I pull up the website it’s around 3:00 a.m. in N.Y., so the good articles aren’t posted yet. Man, life is tough.
Nonetheless, it’s the life that I will continue to live for the next two months. As annoying as it can be sometimes, I don’t regret doing this for a second. I’m having a blast and enjoying a new experience every day. I’m learning a lot, although most of it is outside of the classroom.
And yes, that was a direct shot at my boring classes. But who cares? I just have to pass!