After one tube line transfer, I arrived at Gloucester Road Station, right in time for class. As classes came to a close, I made my way up to the corner to wait for the double-decker bus. This line would take me up the road to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum for a course field study. As the end of the field study approached, I made my way back to the tube station in South Kensington to the Victoria Line, taking me straight to my internship at Platform Creative. With days filled with various forms of transportation, I quickly learned how to get around London, (with the help of the CityMapper app). Navigating my way around town was essential and allowed me to explore the ins and outs of London’s boroughs all the more. By learning the ropes in such a large city, traveling to destinations outside of London became less intimidating. This was my first big takeaway from my experience abroad.
Secondly, I learned just how wonderful and important diversity is. Living in a city that celebrates all individuals and their cultures has always been the type of environment I have wanted to be a part of. London continues to extend welcoming arms to people from around the world. With over 300 languages spoken in London, walking along the streets was always an interesting, learning experience. It amazed me just how many different languages I could hear on a daily basis and shocked me that I often did not recognize the languages I was hearing! I expected London to be mostly populated by UK residents. However, I was happily surprised to learn that over 36% of the population is born outside of the UK! All in all, the city is THE perfect melting pot.
Lastly, I learned that the United Kingdom and the United States have very different cultures. Before living abroad, I imagined living in London would not be extremely challenging, since ‘the two cultures were alike.’ While there are many similarities between American and British culture, differences are definitely apparent as well. Initially, I noticed this contrast through the lexical differences within each country’s dialect. For example, if I wanted to order arugula, I would need to ask for rocket in London. However, the differences quickly began to pop up within communication styles as well, or business practices. I learned British culture highly values a work-life balance. As a result, taking holiday is far more common than it is in the states. Additionally, taking breaks throughout the work day to communicate with colleagues is supported and expected. The US seems to place more importance on a stricter work schedule to meet daily objectives, rather than one that prioritizes flexibility highly.
My three biggest takeaways contrasted greatly; yet, they each positively impacted my mindset and allowed me to best understand my new home.