While living here this fall, I have come to realize that there’s really no place like home. As much as I try to blend into the British culture over here, there will always be a part of me that wants to sing the “Team America: World Police” theme song (America! F*** yeah!) while riding the Tube on a Friday night.
The vast Americanization and consumer culture that has made its way over to this country strikes me as odd, yet it is rather comforting at the same time. Case in point, I ate a cheeseburger from a Chili’s restaurant this week, and it tasted like America – greasy, delicious and full of saturated fat.
Despite the numerous Starbucks Coffees, McDonald’s restaurants and Kentucky Fried Chickens, London has a cultural feel that is unlike any other. I’ve realized this through many small, everyday experiences, like almost getting hit by a bus a few times after not looking the right way when crossing the street, or forgetting to “mind the gap” when getting off a train on London’s underground.
Aside from avoiding personal injury from cultural ignorance, I’ve picked up several British sayings that I sporadically use, like “cheers,” “no worries,” “bullocks” and “yea, yea, yea, right, right.” I’ve also learned to make a kick-ass cup of tea.
And as proof that alcohol is the bonding agent that unites all human beings in peace and merriment, I’ve come to make friends with the British people through their drinking culture. I spent one Thursday night at a pub with a couple of Brits practicing my best British accent while they exchanged their best American one. We both sucked.
“Cheery-o! I think I’ve consumed too much cider, I must use the loo. Oh dear. Would anyone fancy another pint, yeah?”
“Dude, that’s so sweeeeeet! Like, oh my God, man.”
Meanwhile, the closet-sized dorm I live in is in a very posh neighborhood called Chelsea, which is very similar to Georgetown. The main street here, Kings Road, looks exactly like the main strip on M Street, lined with expensive restaurants and designer shops. Middle-aged men drive top-down Ferraris while blasting techno. There’s a Lamborghini dealership around the corner. A pint costs ?4 – for those who are good at foreign exchange rates, that equals approximately $8.
Money is a bitch here. I peer into my empty wallet at the end of the day, not knowing what I even bought with the sterling notes with Queen Elizabeth II’s smiling face on them. Living in London is like living in New York City, except you decide to pay twice as much for everything, which is just crazy.
There is a group of Jewish people in north London that wants me to pay them ?78 ($150) for having attended their Rosh Hashanah services a few weeks ago. There’s no way I can pay them, so I live in constant fear of some big mobster-looking guy showing up at my door wanting to break my fingers unless I pony up the cash.
And yeah, I do miss America. I read the news on the Internet about the Foley scandal and the war in Iraq, and I shed a tear – I love my country. I see pictures on Facebook mini-feeds of my friends acting the fool on the streets of D.C., and I wish I could get on a plane and fly back for a weekend, if only it didn’t cost a hundred million dollars.
But alas, I am still an American in London, and the wise words of Jim Morrison have never been more true: people are strange when you’re a stranger. It’s been fun, but it’ll be nice to return in December to the land of terrorism threats, war protestors, political scandals and mass consumerism. Wait, I forgot – those things are in London, too!
-The writer, a junior majoring in journalism and music, is the Hatchet humor columnist. He currently charges ?4 to let people hear his American accent.