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Lessons from Across the Pond


October 5th marks one month since my arrival in California. This begs the question what, if anything, have I learnt so far? Pre-departure preparation in England and advice from family and friends warned me about the potential of culture shock. However, I had entirely dismissed the notion, thinking “they speak English in Los Angeles, I’ll be FINE!” To my surprise, living in a new country is very different to reading about it in a visitor’s guide, or even going there on holiday. I still have much to encounter in my new surroundings, but for now, with all the wisdom gained from one month of living in California, I present the five things I have learnt about the West Coast and its residents:

1. Firstly, yes—the weather really is the way they make it seem on television. I underestimated the amount of sunshine I would realistically experience on a daily basis, to my very pleasant surprise! This is the longest I’ve gone without rain in my life. As a Londoner this initially panicked me, but now that I am a True Bruin I find myself complaining about the chill of 20°C (that is, 68 in Fahrenheit).

2. I understand that we’re in a global recession at the moment, but the student economy seems to operate slightly differently here… Petrol (gas) is outrageously cheaper here than in the UK, yet the amount I spent on textbooks for just one quarter could pay for a cheap car… How does that make sense?

3. Americans love English accents. Seriously. A word of advice for Brits wanting to spend visit the States: avoid speaking in public places because your accent may cause frenzy in a crowd. Whilst a bit of attention is sometimes fun it can be annoying when you’re in a hurry and keep being stopped by people in Target who want to hear you speak!

4. Exchanging eye contact and a smile with a stranger are not considered a form of aggression here. What would be considered crazy behaviour on a London tube carriage is normal human interaction in California. Weird.

5. Californians are obsessed with working out. It seems as though everywhere, whether I am walking down Bruin walk or just sitting in a lecture, people around me are in their work out gear looking ready to go out on a 10 mile jog! And, to be honest, being surrounded by this makes me want to go out, buy some running shorts and decipher a work out regime asap!Daily I am met with “shocks” of American culture. However, I must say that my first month in California has been nothing short of amazing. I have learnt so much in such a short space of time, and I’m excited to discover what else California has in store the rest of my year!

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