Culture Shock

By Morgan Halane

Before coming to England, I had in my mind a preconceived idea of what England would be like.  I thought I had a solid understanding of some of the similarities between the United Kingdom and the United States.  I knew that we shared a common language, for instance.  I also had prepared myself for some of the differences I would encounter.  Some of the differences I had in mind were the obvious ones, such as driving on the left side of the road versus driving on the right side of the road and the U.S. dollar versus the British pound.  Perhaps the most jarring differences I’ve come across so far have been the little ones.  Yes, both England and the United States have largely English speaking populations, but the way in which certain phrases are used differs between the two countries.  For example, in the United States when someone asks the question “Are you all right?” they’re usually concerned with the well-being of someone, most likely after noticing something wrong with them.  In England, however, that question seems to be used a lot and it seems to mean something more along the lines of “Can I help you?” or “What do you want?”  Likewise, the word “cheers” is something I very rarely encountered in the United States, whereas here in England it is used quite regularly.  I’ve taken that word to mean a multitude of things, ranging from “thanks” to “goodbye” to “you’re welcome.”

A view of Lancaster from Lancaster Castle

Aside from the cultural differences I’ve noticed, and there are many that I’ve come across so far, there are also pronounced differences in things such as the climate, buildings and wildlife.  Born and raised in Missouri I thought I would be used to rapidly changing weather conditions, but the weather here in Lancaster is much more changeable than I’d ever expected.  It can be sunny one minute, rain the next, and quickly transition back to sunny.  When I say sunny I don’t mean sunny in Missouri terms.  In Missouri, there are times when the sky is so wide open and blue that you can’t see any clouds in the sky.  Here, however, there always seems to be at least some amount of cloudiness.  So, what would be considered a partly cloudy day in Columbia, Mo., would be considered sunny in Lancaster, Lancashire.  An interesting difference between Columbia and Lancaster is, of course, the ages of the cities themselves.  Columbia is just a little over 200 years old, while Lancaster’s history stretches back nearly a millennium.  This really puts into perspective how young Columbia is, and how young the United States in general really is.  Previously, I would consider Jesse Hall to be a very old building.  Now, after having visited Lancaster Castle, a true medieval castle constructed nearly one thousand years ago, I have a very different opinion on what I consider old as far as buildings go.


2 responses to “Culture Shock

  1. Cheers – yes. I’m still trying to pin down the exact meaning of that one.

    And haha about the skies, definitely yes, after a year in Europe I can’t believe it when the sky is totally open here, it seems somehow so wrong, like without any clouds above me I’m at risk of falling straight out into space!

    Good observations, I’m enjoying!

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