So it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and there’s a pretty good reason why that’s so…I promise!
Many months (and forms) after the whole year abroad process started, I finally departed for the U.S.A. Tucson, Arizona, to be precise. I’ve now been living here 3 weeks and boy, has it been interesting. Despite visiting the States a few times before, I’ve learnt so much about American culture since arriving here. As much as we like to think we’re similar in terms of lifestyle, I can assure you we’re not! I thought I’d start my blogging over here by listing some things I’ve already discovered about my new home in Arizona.
- The weather is kind of bipolar.
Apparently this is a norm of Tucson in the ‘summer’ months… every afternoon between 4-7pm we get a crazy thunderstorm, unlike anything we’d ever have in the U.K. In fact I think if we did get a storm of that extremity it would probably make national news. I’m not kidding. It can still be around 35 degrees, but hammering it down so hard the rain actually makes your skin hurt. And then there’s the lightening. Not lovely sheet lightening we’re all used to, but scary, gothic Poe looking fork lightening, coming from all angles. What shocks me the most though is the fact that it can be like this on one side of the city, but not on the other. My second day here, I was caught out in one of these awful episodes (never again). I was standing on one side of the street, where I was nice and dry, and I crossed the street only to be hit with gallons of rainwater, courtesy of the heavens.
- It’s true, Americans love a British accent.
I have to admit I’ve been using this to my advantage quite a lot. I actually feel myself speaking ‘posher’ when greeted with a new intrigued American, curious to learn more about our rainy climate. It makes for a great conversation starter and an easy way into parties – a vital tool for any under 21 out here. However, you do get some odd comments. One guy said to me that I could ‘say the weirdest or most disgusting thing and it would still sound beautiful’…OK then. Another girl found it absolutely hilarious that I thought she had an accent. I tried explaining to her that to me she does have an accent, as in England everyone sounds similar to myself. She genuinely laughed in my face, whilst turning to her friend saying ‘she thinks I have an accent!’ Sometimes America, you do live up to your stereotypes.
- I will never understand American football.
I tried, I really did. I went to watch our team (the Wildcats) do a practice game, with an actual American accompanying me. He explained the rules, but to me it just seemed like a lot of standing around, whistle blowing, and unnecessary chants (DEFENSE!). Maybe it’s just the reserved British coming out in me, but I find all the shouting, gimmicks and various flags somewhat distracting. Give me a quiet game of tennis any day of the week.
- Europeans overdress…or Americans underdress…you decide.
In the U.K., I think I fit in pretty well with my dress sense – not too much, not too little, somewhat stylish and keeping up with latest trends that suit me. Here, I feel completely out of place. Everyone dresses as though they are either coming from, or going to, the gym. I’m talking short shorts, vest tops, bright trainers, and always carrying those sports bottles only athletes back home seem to use. ‘Well they could be doing just that’, I hear you say. No. Well, not in the girls’ case anyway. Hair perfectly straightened/curled, make-up fresh, eyebrows pencilled in, these ladies are not fooling anybody. It’s a stark contrast to myself, sitting there bare-faced and donning ‘straight out of bed’ hair because let’s be honest, make-up in this heat is lasting about 10 minutes. Beside, 9am is way too early for me anyway. I guess this is where we get our ‘ugly English’ stereotype from…and if it is then I’m proud!
- Manners are everything.
Never in my life have I had so many ‘thanks’ and ‘pleases’ and ‘your welcomes’ thrown my way. The Americans are manner obsessed. Doors as well – I could be a good 10 second walk away and someone will wait to hold open the door they are just passing through. It’s charming, but also somewhat exhausting. Where are the disgruntled teens angry to be woken up for their 8am class? Nowhere apparently, replaced instead by perky students joyously carrying a Starbucks smiling at every person they pass. It’s 8.30am. I am not going to smile back.
- College pride is real, and it’s big.
Back at UEA, you’ll see the occasional UEA t-shirt round campus whilst the richer of the students prefer the UEA tracksuit bottoms. However, most opt for the traditional ‘normal clothes’ trend, sold in the majority of high-street stores. Here, the high-street store is the UA bookstore. The ‘normal clothes’ look is a UA tank top, t-shirt, shorts, jacket, baseball cap, sunglasses…the list is endless. College pride is huge here, and it looks like it’s going to stay. I’m unsure yet as to how I feel about it – it looks quite cool seeing everyone in UA clothing, but do you really need to rep your uni 24/7? Although saying that, I’m ironically currently writing this whilst wearing my UEA top…Norwich for life.
Whilst my heart may still be in Norwich, I have to admit that I’m warming to my new university in the sun. Campus is beautiful, my dormitory has a pool, and I am close enough to Los Angeles that I can organise a trip there this weekend (which I’m sure I’ll update you on!). I’m sure there’s many more hidden quirks that this city has to reveal to me – the abundance of Mexican restaurants downtown seem to each have a story surrounding them alone. I’m looking forward to immersing myself into Arizonan life and seeing what the rest of the semester teaches me. But please, dear God, don’t let me go back with an accent!