Last semester, I was discontent. Bored. Frustrated. While everyone around me seemed to be finding fulfillment academically and socially (thanks, FourLoko!), I sat in my room watching “Little House on the Prairie” reruns, with only the debut of Belgian waffles at Froyoworld to look forward to. It was high time, I thought, to have The Best Experience of My Life. So this spring I moved to London.
However, having done very little international travel before, I had some concerns before I said “CHEERS!!!!” to the U.S. of A. Luckily, my friends, family and random people I met in line at Taco Bell — whose friends who went on “totally amazing” Eurotrips in college — were nice enough to offer me advice for my long and perilous journey. After a month spent trying to replicate a British accent and eating countless packages of Digestive Biscuits, I am now able to evaluate this advice with confidence. And shockingly, there are some Stereotypes About London That Are True:
“OMG CLUBBING IN LONDON IS SOOOOO CRAZY!!! LIKE, ACTUALLY INSANE!!!!!!” It’s a common belief that study abroad students don’t do any work, choosing instead to prioritize “cultural education.” That is, spending six nights a week tossing back Jaegerbombs courtesy of that 35-year-old Turkish guy in the white button-down over there. Eager myself to “experience the nightlife,” last week I attended a rave in a covered parking lot. I met a guy in a fur vest and leather pants who snorted coke off the back of his hand while smoking a joint and then proceeded to engage me in a conversation about his duties as a ringtail lemur feeder at the Battersea Park Children’s Zoo. You think I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, but I swear I’m not.
“OMG EUROPEANS DRESS SO MUCH BETTER THAN AMERICANS!” The first time I went to the gym, I walked the block from my flat to the fitness center dressed in a pair of gray sweatpants and a sweatshirt, my game face resolutely on. I enjoy walking the streets of New Haven in my gym clothes because I feel like it impresses passersby (making them think I could probably lift some really heavy things for them if they ever needed me to). Londoners do not succumb to this illusion. In a span of three minutes, I suffered more fiery scorn from students, professors and janitorial staff alike than any walk of shame at 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning past the construction workers on Chapel Street could ever generate.
“London is such a rich, culturally diverse city! You should make friends with people from exotic places so you can travel.” “!!!!!!!!” TRUE — there are tons of international students here! I’ve been meeting so many new people from all kinds of different places — New Jersey, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, even Vermont!
Though many assured me that London is “THE. GREATEST. CITY. IN. THE. WORLD!!!!”, others, probably intent on passive aggressively ruining The Best Experience of My Life, warned me that London isn’t all metrosexual men and chance sightings of the Harry Potter cast. But the random guy I met at Taco Bell wasn’t the cultural authority that I thought he was! There are also several Stereotypes About London That Aren’t True (But Happen To Be True of New Haven):
1 “British weather is soooooo bad!” So far, my school has not felt the need to send an e-mail warning students of the hazardous sheets of ice sliding off rooftops in danger of crushing unsuspecting freshmen on their way to Intro Psych. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your unnecessarily frequent Facebook status updates lately, random Yale student, but it sounds like it’s been snowing a lot there or something.
1b “Make sure you bring an umbrella LOL!” Yeah, it has been raining a lot. RAINING MEN.
2 “You’ll probably lose weight! British food is really gross!” Uh, chicken tikka masala is delicious. So are samosas and naan.
3 “THE EXCHANGE RATE IS SO BAD RIGHT NOW!!!! LONDON IS SOOOOOOOO EXPENSIVE!” Wait, really??!!? I thought studying in another country meant buying authentic leather goods and five-course meals for a fraction of their cost in the U.S.??? No? At least London is full of grocery stores where a single orange doesn’t set you back $3.
Yes, I know “THAT’S ONLY £1.85!!!!!” But guess what, haterz? I got 5 oranges for £1 yesterday.