Before we moved to England a few months ago, I had traveled to Europe enough to be prepared for some of the more obvious, expected differences. I knew I wouldn’t get much ice in my drink at a restaurant. I knew I’d sometimes I have to pay a few coins to use a public toilet. I knew air conditioning was rare.
But as we settled into life here, a few differences have come as a surprise to me. Or they simply were not something I had thought much about. So I’m keeping a record of all my unexpected moments of culture shock and plan to share these from time to time.
Taking my two boys to storytime each week at a local children’s centre has been one of my favorite traditions here in England. But on our first day, I was a bit taken aback by the difference in nursery rhymes. Some were knew to me altogether (like Wind the Bobbin Up), others were different variations of those we did know (like Twinkle Twinkle Chocolate Bar instead of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). We have really enjoyed learning new songs and the British twists on old favorites. It reminds me of why we wanted to provide this type of opportunity for our kids to begin with… the chance to see how kids live in other parts of the world.
Writing a check
Check is more than just spelled differently here (cheque). It also looks quite different. So when we received our booklet of cheques, my husband and I both scratched our heads. Luckily I found a helpful tutorial on how to write a cheque here. A cheque basically requires the same information you’d provide on a U.S. check, just in different spots.
I knew American fast food establishments were somewhat plentiful abroad (for better or for worse, that’s a topic for another post!) So I thought I’d just be adjusting to having a drive-thru pickup window on the other side of the car. Instead, I’m learning that drive-thrus are a very rare thing here altogether. I’m not much of a fast food eater, but I do like to indulge in the occasional fountain soda, and when I do, I prefer not to drag my kids out of the car to go inside. But I hardly ever find a drive-thru, even on highway exits. (Which is probably a good thing, as it stands between me and a large Diet Coke.)
No, I’m not referring to topless beaches. But I have found that it seems to be culturally acceptable for men to take their shirts off on hot days here. Since we’ve had a warm summer (by British standards) I’ve seen quite a bit of it. Construction workers, dads at the park, even men just walking down a street in the center of town. All without their shirts. In America, you’d typically only see men without shirts at the beach, pool, or mowing their yard. I just hope they’re all applying lots of sun cream!