One of my favorite things about living in Australia was getting really inside the culture. Living there, even if only for six months, gives you in beyond the tourist view. Many of my blog posts from that time talked more about the subtle differences I noticed than a piecemeal “this is what I did this week” kind of thing. So while this trip hasn’t allowed me to immerse in the same way, I’ve tried to pay attention beyond the tourist attractions, and here’s some quick highlights of things I’ve noticed over the past weeks:
Spain runs on a very specific timetable. Each day, the shops close down about 3 pm and don’t reopen until 5 or 6 – they take their siesta seriously. Most of the restaurants don’t open up again until at least 7 (except McDonald’s or something, and in land of tapas and tinto de verano you know I’m not bothering with that junk). Locals eat dinner around 10-11pm, and none of the nightlife even begins to start until after midnight. My friends who’ve spent time in Spain before had warned me of this, but somehow, I was still unprepared for it.
On a related note, Europe has daylight for about 19 hours of the day. My internal clock has been destroyed by this. It stays light until about 11 at night, so each night it gets dark and then all of a sudden its midnight.I like it staying light later but the flip side is I have no concept of what time it is based on daylight. What gets to me more is that the sun is fully up (in England, at least) by 4:30 in the morning. How do I know, you ask? I went to a ball at the University of Leeds with a friend, and we walked home in the sunrise.
The ball was, as they say, a hoot. Whatever you’re picturing, it wasn’t that. It’s kind of like the state fair meets outdoor concerts (3 tents worth, going on simultaneously) meets prom (the college edition). Now add 6000 college students who just finished 6 weeks of studying for exams (they’re super intense about studying – or in their words, revising – over here) and alcohol, junk food, and energy drinks, and you may have it. So everyone is all dressed up, excited to begin the summer and celebrate being done with exams. We take buses to get out there, and once you enter you’re fenced in an can’t come and go. I had a lot of fun – went with a good friend whom I had met in Sydney, and his friends were great about including me in their group.
Another interesting thing about Great Britain and its inhabitants is their habits about walking on the sidewalk. Now before you laugh at me, hear me out. In nearly every other country I’ve visited, people walk on the right side of the sidewalk when passing people coming in the other direction, just like you would on the road. In Australia & New Zealand, however, its the opposite. Without fail, locals walk on the left side of the sidewalk, just like they drive. So my assumption upon arriving in London was that it would be the same here: drive on the left, walk on the left. But not so much: people just pass on either side. It doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve even asked a couple British friends about it, and all three of them had never noticed one way or the other before I asked. It’s not a big deal, just something funny I picked up on.
Hollywood movies are a little different here too. There are suble differences in the names: our “Fast Five” is “The Fast and the Furious Five.” The marketing campaign has a different focus as well: the three main characters pointing guns in various directions, without any sign of cars in the posters. Both the guns and the cars are bigs parts of the film, but the plot (even more so it’s larger series) is built around cars.
That’s just a few of my observations, I’m sure I’ll have more as I think about it. After a few more days in Ireland, I’m headed to Paris and back into a land of not speaking the language, so I know there will be more comical situations as I explore.