Before I left for Great Britain, I expected a culture full of bad food, worse weather, and smokers with crooked teeth. When I arrived in London I realized that the British also have preconceived notions of what Americans are like. They expect us to be loud, overly outgoing, drunk, Bush loving conservatives who draw out all of our words. We would be given dirty looks on the tube, be rejected from clubs and receive bad service in restaurants.until we realized the beauty of being from California.
Just the other night my friend, Summer, called the Zoo Bar to put us on the guest list. The bouncer immediately said that the list was full and we were going to have to pay the cover charge to get it. He then proceeded to ask where she was from. Instead of saying “America” or “the states,” she said “I’m Californian.” The bouncer’s voice instantly became friendly and we were all put on the guest list, no questions asked.
Being from California also works as an automatic pick-up line, conversation starter and way to get free drinks. The first things you’re asked is if you live in the O.C., can surf and know or are related to any famous actors. British men think all California girls are beautiful because that is how we are portrayed in the movies. Although we are more entertaining to talk to than other people in the club, California girls have a reputation for being teases and hard to get.
To top it all off, a Californian can also get out of any “serious” situation. On the way to the airport at 3 a.m. one morning my friend, Bri, was sitting on the bus next to an Australian guy talking about Oktoberfest (where she was headed). She was very distracted when she got off and realized about three minutes later that she had left her purse on the bus. Without her passport, wallet, and plane ticket there would be no way she could make it to Munich. She threw off her Rainbows, ditched her luggage and started sprinting down the middle of the street to catch the bus. Luckily, the driver saw her in his mirror and stopped.
When she returned to her suitcase, there were five police officers surrounding it. They immediately started asking her questions about why she left her baggage unattended. Out of breath, she was trying to explain what happened and promised that there was nothing explosive in her luggage. As they began unzipping her bag to search it, one of the officers asked, “Where are you from?” Of course, she said “I’m from California.” The search was immediately called off and the officers began talking to her as if nothing had happened. Apparently, Californians are not seen as a terrorist threat either.
Over the past two months my preconceived notions of the British have changed as well. While I still have yet to see a pair of braces on someone, most people have straight teeth and overall good hygiene. Although many of them do smoke, it is not as overwhelming as I had imagined and many restaurants are starting to outlaw it. Yes, we have eaten flavorless chicken and mushy peas, but I have also found some of my favorite Indian and Asian restaurants here.
We have also had thunderstorms that make the whole building shake and torrential downpours that no one dared step outside in, but for the most part the weather has been beautiful. Supposedly, it has been the hottest October since the 1970s. It has been a great experience learning about British culture and getting to know some of the friendly locals.
Every morning I wake up with something new and exciting to look forward to, whether it is a play we are going to see with my musical theater class, listening to a live band in a pub, or walking around a famous food market and getting free samples. This city has so much to offer and see, and I only have seven more weeks to conquer it all.