Yesterday was my first day in England.
I’ve been dying to visit this place since I was somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, and was introduced to my aunt and her nifty English accent. There were already Briticisms that I would have grown up with since my mom’s from the English-speaking Caribbean, but that love of England fostered by my aunt only served to intensify my obsession with British culture. (Okay, honestly, it wasn’t that bad, but imitating the accent was definitely a point of pride for me.) So, after years of tentative talks and failed attempts (when I was hoping to get to England before or after Montenegro in 2016 but my aunt was busy), I made it.
No, I did not find my left eye tearing up when we landed, or my blood pumping in anticipation. I also did not squeeze Zulay multiple times to express the aforementioned excitement. And I certainly did not mentally fawn over each delightfully crisp accent as I heard them, while mentally filtering out anything “other”: Indian accents? I get those at home. (Though, with that said, if it was an English/Indian blend, that’s slightly more interesting to puzzle over.) American/Canadian? Not even registering. UK of any flavor? Here’s a link to the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah in case you’re unfamiliar with it. (I would have accepted other European flavored English too, but they didn’t really come up.)
Okay, so, now that all that’s done with, lets get into the things. This place is weird:
- In the US, the driver is on the left side of the car, here they’re on the right. That also means that the radio speakers are located on the left (almost directly in front of the passenger side). It was kind of trippy knowing that Ken (my cousin), was driving but hearing him from the opposite side of where he should be and having the radio in front of me.
- Units of measure: This was something I experienced on my way to Montenegro, the person in the Serbian airport telling me that something was a few meters (rather than feet) ahead. But here, it came (and is still happening) in the form of temperature. In Montenegro, I always just checked the weather on my phone. Here, I’ve watched some news and listened to the radio and each time they’d say “twenty-one degrees” (or something), and I’d think “that can’t be right, it feels so warm, how can it actually be that cold?” Then I remember… Celsius. Not Fahrenheit.
- The bathroom… My God, I need a whole new line to get into that experience.
The toilet (I’m referring specifically to the bowl, not the room in which its located) has two buttons on top of the tank that serves as the flusher (is that what its called?). That part wasn’t unusual because I’ve encountered flushers like that back home (though according to some articles/blogs this completely trips some people up). It’s really quite easy to use though: just press the buttons, hold for a second or two, then let go. In the articles I found, they made a point of telling you not to use excess toilet paper. In case you are one who just takes the whole roll and wipes, or uses unnecessarily large reams of paper, this may be an important tip to note: while the UK’s pipes can handle toilet paper, it sounds like they can easily be overwhelmed. So take care. And don’t flush things like tampons, that will definitely clog the drains (but do people actually do this intentionally?).
Okay, now, for the real culture shock… the shower. (Not only does it deserve a new line, but a whole new bullet point).
•British showers. Completely blew my mind.
After giving Zu and I the grand tour, my aunt started taking out towels and washcloths for us. That’s normal, right? Even her later saying: “Oh, let me show you how to work the shower” wasn’t too unusual. Sometimes faucets, whether they be the one-knob turners or two-handled, have their quirks. This, was beyond a quirk. This, was a process. This was, as I later learned, an electric shower.
First, you pull a string outside of the tub that activates it or something. Outlets here have on/off switches, and since this is electrical, perhaps its how you “turn it on”, for lack of a better word.
Then you step into the tub (which was like knee height, so pretty high) and go to the box thingy beside the adjustable showerhead. On the box are two dials and a button. The topmost dial adjusts heat, the second water pressure and the button turns it all on.
Sound confusing? Because it was. I took all of the necessary steps but forgot to pull the string. So I had to get my aunt who walked me through it. I’m going to shower once I’m done with the post, so wish me luck that I get it right the next time. Here’s a link on electrical showers if my description was completely confusing, or you just want more information/visual examples.
•Locks. In the articles I mentioned looking up (I wanted to find out why the showers were so weird), I learned that in many home bathrooms don’t have locks. Its just understood that the door will be shut fully if someone is inside, and if you’re uncertain, you knock and ask. My aunt’s bathroom does have a lock (though its like a bolt some inches above the knob, rather than the twist/button locks we usually see on the doorknob). With that said, I don’t know if they (my family) use it as the door’s usually left ajar when no one’s in there.
After the bathroom discoveries, Zu and I hung around our room for a bit before being called down to dinner. We had fish and chips and it. Was. Amazing.
The batter was crunchy, the fish fluffy, and the taste was scrumptious. The chips (cough cough, they’re fries) were very potatoey. As in, they tasted like potato. And were kind of thick. Even the “tomato ketchup” was a grand experience. It was slightly spiced and just… it was delicious!
After dinner, we sat around the table discussing everything from politics (American and English) to Star Wars and fantasy novels. It was all punctuated by my aunt giving us a little square of mint chocolate. Yum.
Zulay was dozing long before the conversation ended (I’m not sure if it was jet lag or just her natural sleeping talents). I fell asleep around midnight (7 pm back home), woke up two or three times in the night, before getting up for good around seven.
The ride from the airport (since they live in Cambridge), took about two hours and while Zu dozed (it was an all day affair), I tried to power through. I was trying to do all of the get over jet lag things: soak in the sunlight (of which there was much) and stay up to try to get to bed at a decent hour. (Fun fact: jet lag is worse when you travel east because you lose hours and sunlight, which makes it harder for your body to adjust.) It all seemed to work until I took my two hour nap today.
But all in all, day one was a good day. I’ll be posting about day 2 shortly) (i.e., as soon as I finish writing that post). So stay tuned.
First day PS (I made sure to jot this down before going to bed last night): Their Netflix has Fresh Prince. I’m never leaving.
PPS, I was hoping to upload this on Aug. 9, but its now after midnight here, so though this is about day 1, its actually day 3.
Kay, see you soon