One of the obstacles I have found in acquiring any true sense of British culture or day-to-day norms is the size of the group with which I am traveling, though this is by no means the only inhibitor. At times I attempt to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned since arriving in London and the experiences I’ve had; I ask myself what stories I’m going to share with my friends and family back home to give them a glimpse of life in London. I wonder if so far I haven’t just transplanted an American existence – granted, a more urban existence – into a prettier, less familiar scenery.
I wonder what I can do to get to know the “natives” around me better. What enhances familiarity? Should I talk to the nice man at the café each morning? Should I simply sit and observe others in restaurants? Should I spend time studying in the park rather than in my flat? I’d imagine, not surprisingly, the answer rests in the mix of these (and other) behaviors.
Cultural submersion does not simply entail changing locale. We must make conscious decisions throughout each day to go out into the culture. Make no mistake, this requires a bit of courage. My curiosity about various random facets of British life won’t be assuaged by remaining in my flat and/or around other American college students.
Finding differences alone will not broaden my cliché “horizons;” similarities are also essential.
We’ve already spent some time making observations, and from those observations we’ve constructed questions, mostly for class but not entirely. The longer we are here, the more excuses for not seeking out those answers diminish. I, for one, am excited (though nervous, of course) to begin interacting with the international community around us in research.