I have returned from my petite tour of the United Kingdom. I have to say it was lovely! This was my first attempt to travel abroad on my own. A traveling tour was just the introduction to solo traveling, I needed. I relaxed for twelve days, a feat I thought surely impossible before.
Currently, residing in the American Southwest, the lush rolling hills of the English countryside took my breath away. Green! Quite possibly in every tint and shade, danced before my eyes. And sheep! They are everywhere! I cannot quite understand why England still retains the Falkland Islands “for strategic sheep purposes,” when the wooly little animals dot the entire countryside.
History was the other mesmerizing aspect of the journey. Each hamlet, village, town, and city is steeped in the beautiful mess of the past. The architecture reflected much of this, much to my delight. However, there are pockets in cities were built during the dark ages of architecture, namely those edifices constructed during the 1960s and 1970s. I adored the ruins, the castles, the palaces, and the town squares. Every place I visited was quaint and charming. It is enough to make me want me to move abroad, or at the very least move out of the American Southwest.
The beauty of a traveling tour is meeting other fellow travelers. It appeared our group was a fair showing of the Commonwealth; Americans, Australians, British, Canadians, Chinese from Hong Kong, Indians, Scottish, and even South Africans. About 40 persons made up our little assembly. Most everyone thought I was from continental Europe. An Australian told me in congratulatory tones “Hey, at least you don’t look American! Yeah?” Surely, this is a compliment? I think it is misleading to others, in addition to my looks, I was picking up accents and phrases from those around me. I made an effort to speak deliberately, trying to avoid contractions and American slang. When asked where I was from, I could not mention the state. It has no meaning to these travelers. So I would answer “United States”; not even “USA”.
The differences between the United Kingdom and the United States seem negligible; at least to me. Driving on the opposite side of the road was not much of an issue. Of course, I was not the one leading the party. The money was not too difficult. The language was by far the most entertaining difference. Lift versus elevator, bill versus check, holiday versus vacation, diary versus calendar, moto versus highway, and so on and so forth. Saying “toilet” as opposed to restroom seemed the most difficult for me to use as I feel “toilet” sounds incredibly gauche.
The cultural difference came into play during meal time. Europeans, in general eat later than most Americans. Dinner routinely begins at 7:30 and lasts two hours. Prior to dinner, my tour-mates were allowed an hour or so to “freshen up.” I quickly realized this was a more elaborate affair then my original interpretation. The ladies of our group would not just wash up but change their entire outfits, include jewelry, redo their hair and make-up before coming down to dine. Only to go back up stairs two hours later to wash it all off and go to bed. I found it a bit silly, but equally in awe. I did not pack formal wear nor jewelry. I did the best I could to mingle with the Europeans.