Culture Shock

Who would guess that a first world country that speaks the same language would be so different? It doesn’t really hit you when you walk around town or use the bus. It hits you in the weirdest places at the weirdest times. The first time it really hit me was last Thursday when I had my initial visit to my school placement. At first it wasn’t a big deal, but it got me thinking a little bit. I was the only American there. All the other times I’d been out I’d been near other Americans, either ones I knew or tourists. That was the first time I’d been on my own in the real British world. In the end it wasn’t really a big deal, but I became aware of being the odd one out.

On my way back I stopped and got a candy bar. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe it was just one of those times where he needed subtitles, but I could not understand the clerk. I felt really bad about it. I mean, we spoke the same language…I think. Anyway, moving on. I tried to not let it bother me much. Keeping myself busy, looking forward to Stonehenge and classes. Then I went to Boots, the drug store. I wanted a knee brace, vitamins, and pads…easy list, right?

Well, it might have been, if the store wasn’t two stories. I went to the top to talk to a pharmacist, get my knee brace, which I finally found under first aid (makes sense). Then I found my fish oil vitamins, which are in this really weird bullet kind of bottle which all vitamins seem to come in. Then I could not find pads for the life of me. There were big signs everywhere saying “Please Pay Here” so I wasn’t even sure if I could go look downstairs or not without buying what I had! I eventually just asked a clerk, and she told me with a funny look on my face where to find “sanitary napkins” and I could just pay downstairs if I wanted. So I went downstairs and bought some pads. Turns out, British women apparently favor scented pads. They don’t come in normal, they come in smelly. We’ll see how this goes.

Then my first day of placement happened. It started out slow as my teacher didn’t have class and the other teacher I was meant to follow was away with a school trip. But then I got to follow another teacher for one class, and then lunch, it was pretty normal. No one really seemed to mind I was American. Then we went to my teacher’s year 8 class, basically 6th grade so 11-12 year olds. He introduced me and said I was from America  learning to be a teacher. To which they all gasped and one raised her hand. She asked me, “Are you American?” I thought it was a little silly to ask, but I replied, “Yes, I am.” And they all gasped and chattered excitedly. They were the sweetest bunch of little things. They’ll be the class I teach my lesson to later on. One of them mentioned she’d love to live in America because they’ve got all the gangsters and stuff. Oh dear…

Then we went back to the upper school for my teacher’s year 11, so 15ish years old. They were equally fascinated that I was American. One group even asked for me to help them solely for the purpose of hearing me talk. It was somewhat embarrassing! And I had to choose different phrases to see how they were doing with their work. “How’re you guys holdin’ up?” doesn’t translate well into British… It should continue to be an exciting adventure! I’ll continue to be the one with the “lovely accent,” the one that supposedly understands what “I’ma take out a piece and tap that” means (which doesn’t mean what I think the teacher meant), and the one from the glory land of romance, crime shows, and gangs all because I’m the American.

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