Surprises While Abroad

My first “OK wow, I’m abroad” moment…

It was very early on in the semester. My roommate Steve and I had bought tickets to go see the 2019 Ping Pong World Championship, which was located north of London in an area called Alexandra Park. The bus we took wound up and around a few hills, and by the time we had reached our destination, the view in front of us was spectacular. The entire skyline of London was visible from where we stood. After some time passed and we were able to process what we were seeing, reality sunk in. We had an entire semester to explore this beautiful sprawling city that stretched miles in every direction.

My first instance of culture shock…

I’ve experienced culture shock on several occasions while abroad, but the first instance occurred when I tried to use the washing machine for the first time. If you own a flat and have washing machine in the UK, it’s generally going to be installed in the kitchen (I later learned this is because there are no electrical sockets in the bathrooms here, it’s considered a safety hazard). Our washer happens to be inside a drawer under the sink. With arms full of dirty laundry, I kicked open the cabinet door and filled the compact machine to its capacity. Shoving my socks into a cabinet right next to the dishwasher threw me off a little, but it wasn’t until I tried to use the selection dial that I had to step back and process what was in front of me. There were temperatures in Celsius, wash and dry options on the same knob, and all sorts of strange buttons, compartments and options to choose from. I turned the knob to my best guess, poured in some detergent and let it run. Worked like a charm, haven’t tried any alternative modes since. Though I won’t miss sharing valuable hang dryer real estate with four other guys, I enjoy being able to do laundry and cook eggs simultaneously.

Though surprises are less common now than they were three months ago, it’s not due to a lack of new experiences. Every day I see something unfamiliar, whether it’s a new item on the UK McDonalds menu or a street performer blowing fireballs out of a tuba. The only thing that’s really changed is my ability to process new experiences.