Every time that I’ve been in line waiting to go through customs I will look around and play a game I like to call, “Who Looks Like a Drug Dealer”. It’s actually pretty enjoyable because I get to people watch and decide whether the middle aged woman or the eighty year old man with hearing aids the size of mutant strawberries is more likely to be smuggling something illegal.
I went through customs without a hitch, picked up my luggage and went out to a taxi to be taken to my temporary housing. The first little bit of culture shock is more subjective than objective. I have problems with understanding accents. Thank goodness Jen doesn’t have a drawl or I would just always be nodding at her. This could lead to communication issues.
As a result of this mental deficiency, I can only understand about 85% of English spoken with a British accent. So I do the thing where I say “yes” to things as the response most likely to be deliberately ambiguous and non-committal. The Scale of Indecipherable English When Spoken as Native Language goes like this:
When I went on vacation to the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, my buddy Chase would routinely order for me at restaurants because the only thing I could handle was ordering a drink and an entrée. I stopped ordering steak because it was an extra question for me to answer. Any deviation from the normal routine would cause me to violently flip the table over.
I somehow managed to convey to the cab driver where I was staying. It’s at this point that I encountered my second culture shock. People are driving on the left side of the road. Mother of God. In addition to being on the left side of the road, the speed limit signs are different. So I basically have no idea how fast we’re going plus we’re on the “wrong” side of the road. Someone could have smeared chocolate pudding on a sign on the highway and I would have looked and been like, “Oh ok” and had more of a clue than I did on that cab ride. Considering I hadn’t slept on the flight, I figured we were traveling somewhere between the speed of the sound and the speed at which Solomon leaves the room when people are arguing.
I arrive at the dorm on High Holborn unscathed. Woefully, check-in isn’t until 3pm. I have been up for twenty-one hours straight. But people are starving in Ethiopia… still. So perhaps I should keep things in perspective and man up. I drop my bags off and start walking.
Third bit of culture shock: I stick out as American. I’m not entirely sure why this is surprising. I weigh about 245 pounds, I have a Northface backpack on and I’m wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Also, I’m the only one wearing shorts. The first one means any European could be about 95% certain, but with the Northface apparel it brought the probability to somewhere around 99.99%. I might as well have been playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” on an electric guitar while shooting a pistol off in the back of a pickup truck running over Iraqis.
While walking around I learn something else about London as a city. London doesn’t seem to have any sort of order… per se. Street names change arbitrarily, roads will turn to alleys and lead you opposite of the direction you need to go, and, as a result, it is difficult to tell which is way is North, South, etc. London simply is there. It’s like a scatterplot of buildings with roads built around them. Just the way spaghetti is a bunch of meatballs with noodles built around it.
The employees at the first placed I went to, called “Green Gardens”, were very nice and asked, with some excitement, if I was American. I replied that I was and both employees found this thoroughly interesting. They asked me why I would ever move to London. Charming. Changing the subject, I informed them that I had chosen their establishment as the place where I would have my first meal in London. This is not quite as interesting to them.
After my meal I still have another four hours before I can check in. Hours without sleep: 23.
I use my tourist indicator, a.k.a . my map, to circuitously head over towards LSE. It is beautiful and old. More descriptions will follow at a later time. Very. Sleepy.
After leaving campus I walk around and, after doing so for roughly an hour, I’ve decided I’m officially lost. However I’m not entirely sure that I care. There’s something very enjoyable about taking in all the new scenery and knowing I have the appropriate fiscal fortitude to get back to my room no matter what. I might as well enjoy the unknown.
Hours without sleep: 25.
More aimless wandering and I realize that I’m close to my room. I walk in, covered in sweat (naturally) and finally am allowed to go to my room. A very nice gentleman helps me with my bags. I throw them down and sleep four five hours straight. Victory.
Hours without sleep: 0