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When I hear people talk about culture shock, I automatically think of traveling to a strange place, far from home, surrounded by people speaking a different language- I associate it with feeling extremely out of my element and often awkward and uncomfortable.

I've traveled- spent a month in Cameroon (which was most definitely a different culture!), 5 months in Italy, trips to France, Germany, loads of visits to the United Kingdom: while all of these trips showed me strange, new things about the world and had elements of culture shock ("You want me to eat WHAT??" "I'm supposed to use the bathroom THERE??") I always knew that these new and different experiences would stop when I got back home. Ah, home. I've never really felt a strong tie to any specific place in the USA (lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and a few different places in Georgia) and never really felt like I was all that strongly tied to the USA- until I lef t. Those unique and often awkward moments that arise from being a stranger in a foreign country are a huge part of what makes traveling so appealing to me, but with all my other travel experiences, I always knew that at a certain point I would be going HOME. No matter how uncomfortable and out of my element I felt at the moment, I knew that I'd soon know exactly how things are done, I'd know how to dress for the weather and for various occasions, and I'd know exactly what I was eating for meals without having to point at something on a menu and pray that it would be edible.

I've spent almost an entire year in the UK now. It's the longest I've ever been out of the USA (previous record was 5 months in Italy)- the United Kingdom is like the States in so many ways: before I moved here I had visited about 10 times, staying for anywhere between a week and a month every time I came over. These Brits have different (and in my opinion, BETTER) accents and drove on the wrong side of the road (they'll argue that they drive on the RIGHT [meaning correct] side of the road, but then it's quite easy to win the argument by pointing out that they drive on the left), but I had come to the conclusion that things really weren't all that different in the UK and that moving here really wouldn't be that much different from living in the States (and if I was lucky, maybe I could pick up the accent!).

Just goes to show you that you can visit a place loads of times without knowing what it's really like to live there. When I first got here, I felt absolutely out of my element: I had a limited knowledge of public tr ansport, only knew the name of two grocery stores (Tesco and Sainsburys), and had never lived in a city with a population over 200,000. I was suddenly living 2 miles outside Birmingham (population over 1 million), having to learn how to get places on a massive network of buses, trams, and trains. Starting a Masters course, where I was expected to find my own materials was difficult too: I didn't know the names of any stores and spent a lot of time asking my new friends "If I wanted to find ______, what shop would I find that at?". I don't know how people moved to different countries before Google: googlemaps got me lost almost as often as it got me where I needed to go, but I learned my way around the city pretty quickly thanks to trial and error (and trying not to look like a frightened foreigner when I ended up hopeless lost in dodgy parts of town). Google search helped me find stores that would sell the materials I needed and  the directions for getting there.

Now that I've been here for a year, I'm coping reasonably well- I still sound pretty much like an American (though Americans sometimes think I sound English), but I'm thinking and speaking more like a Brit every day. There are little things here and there that still have to be explained to me, and I suppose there always will be- usually related to old tv shows (I can tell you all about Danger Mouse, Magic Roundabout, Blue Peter, and East Enders without ever having seen an episode of any of them). I've met so many lovely, helpful people this year who have made the transition to this new c ountry a really fun (and funny!) adventure.

I used to think culture shock was a bad thing. After a year of "shock", I've decided that it's not a bad thing: it's how you learn about new places and different people. I don't suppose I'll ever be entirely amalgamated, but it's the little differences that make life entertaining, right?

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I know exactly how you feel. I lived in Spain for a while, and even though this is a neighboring country to France (where I grew up,) and we share "Latin" roots, it was like a different universe. Someone once said to me that it takes about 2 years to acclimate to a different culture. Within that time, there is ups and downs, ups and downs. You either make it through that time or you don't. If you are over the 2 year hump you made it and chances are high that you started to assimilate.

Now with the English food THAT would be a difficult 2 years for me... hehe.
Haha, growing up in France I'm not surprised that you'd have difficulties getting used to English food- I'll say, though, I haven't had Indian food this good anywhere else and when I'm back in the States i miss it!

Did you have a hard time going from speaking French to Spanish? I don't speak either very well, but so many of those "Latin" words are close that the little bit I do know ends up getting really mixed up!
Actually, the language is not my problem. One of my parents is Spanish, the other French. I grew up in France and heard enough Spanish to get by, it is more the mannerism and the way things function that is the hard part. You think you are close because so much of your culture is closely related but then living there is a diferent matter entirely. I just did not anticipate the differences, that was what was so new. Had I gone to Asia I would have expected things to be different, going to Spain I did not.

But I ended up liking it there :-)
I lived a school year in Scotland,oh, 20 yrs ago, which is where I met my English husband. We travel back to Europe quite a bit. Actually, just spent 3 wks. in France, England and Scotland. We went to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh which was sweet. Amazing jewelry. Oh, sorry, jewellery. I have to say, the Indian and believe it or not, Chinese food in both England and Scotland is amazing. Love it and always make sure we hit it when we go back. I'm following your blog with a bit of jealousy and a lot of smiles. It's reminding me of good times abroad. I was studying psychology at the time (and have since gotten my BFA in metals and jewelry) but for you to be studying jewellery there is especially sweet. Happy for you.
Have fun and enjoy every moment.
That's so lovely- your 3 week trip sounds pretty much ideal to me, especially the Fringe Festival- I'm hoping to get a chance to go next year.
Isn't it funny how the Indian and Chinese food is so good here? When I'm back in the States I really miss the delicious takeaways... and when I'm in the UK I really miss loaded, cheesy pizzas.
Thanks for writing- I'll be doing a new post soon; I've just had to abandon this for the last few weeks while I finished up my Masters show!
Ohhh... reading this makes me miss England... A LOT. I spent six months studying there and loved every second of it. When I'm done with my masters (in two years) I'm heading back. You must take time from making and go clubbing, Fabric was great and Bedrock, although I'm not sure how they are now. I was there ten years ago in Jan, man that is hard to believe. I miss the Underground and good biscuits. : )
What school did you study at when you were here? Doing my masters degree in one year left almost no time for fun things, but it's done now and I'm hoping that things will settle down and I'll have a chance to experience a little bit of nightlife :) I'm in love with the underground.... and as far as good biscuits go, which ones do you like? I have to be honest, the ones I've tried so far all taste the same to me.
I saw you're doing your Masters at Indiana University- I know it's a long shot, but do you know Wes Airgood by chance? He did his undergrad there, but it was a few years ago now.


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