26 September, 2008

On Living Elsewhere

"Ohmigod, I HATE how I don't know any of the brands here. Everything is different. It's SO annoying," someone said to me.

And this illustrates why some people will not make the most of this experience studying abroad. If small differences frustrate you, perhaps you shouldn't put yourself in the midst of a different culture for a number of years.

At first glance, living in English culture doesn't seem like that much of a stretch for an American. We speak the "same" language, and live in what appears to be very similar ways. But I have found that our two cultures are unexpectedly different. Being a fashion designer I think of it like shopping for fabric. From a distance, satin is satin is satin. But touch the satin, and you'll find the fibers in the fabrics are completely different.

In the week that I've lived here, I have already found that the differences between our cultures are many, and often subtle. But the words and lifestyle often seem deceptively similar, and it is easy to forget that I am living in an entirely different culture over here.

So I suppose there is a tiny bit of culture shock happening for my room mates and I. But unlike my room mate who likes to complain about it, I am having the best time with it! I am really enjoying this opportunity to observe Brits in their natural habitat and learn from these creatures that are so similar to my own species.

Before I left the states I was terribly nervous that I would appear to be one of those stupid, ignorant American tourists. But luckily I haven't found that to be much of a problem. In fact today I even gave directions to two English women. Go me!

When I woke up this morning it was beautiful and sunny. Inspired by this rare California-style heat, I decided to expand my knowledge of the local-ish neighborhood. I wandered down to Brick Lane and walked all the way up to Commercial Street where I meandered up and down the various streets and alleys in the area until I noticed shops were closing up. My afternoon revealed two local fabric stores (yeay!), a number of restaurants I absolutely must try, two of the most incredible vintage shops I've ever been to (and I have been to many), three contenders for the "Local Comfy Coffee Shop" title, and most importantly that I don't come across as an American who doesn't want to be here.

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