Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

The British are curious about Thanksgiving. I was asked a lot of questions about a lot of different aspects of the holiday. The funny thing is that no one wants to know about Canadian Thanksgiving (It's in October). That being said last year I only knew of one pub that was doing Thanksgiving stuff. But for some reason this year Whole Foods was pushing Thanksgiving hard. I can't figure out why but I didn't want to complain because it made it easy to find pumpkin filling to make a pie that I have been craving.
Since I didn't have as many guests this year to help me pig out I decided to go with ham instead of Turkey since I'm actually not a huge fan of Turkey. To round it out I made stuffing, mash potatoes, and candied yams. Of course candied yams were the favorite but how can you go wrong with that much butter and sugar for something that isn't dessert?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cultural Differences: Alcohol

I don't know if it is just because I grew up in a pretty sheltered life when it came to alcohol or if all of Europe has drastically different views on alcohol then the U.S. but it is one of the things I have noticed since being here.
Pubs
Pubs really are part of the culture here. Pubs are classified by what breweries they sell their beer from. (Similar to fast food chains selling Coke or Pepsi) The cheap pub chains like Witherspoons are seen similar to Walmart as in they destroy local businesses through price. Another thing that is apparently killing pubs is cheap liquor from grocery stores.
Alcoholism
In the U.S. I would say that you have a problem as soon as alcohol affects your life. Here alcohol is a problem when it is depended on. They are genuinely surprised when I say that if you were to show up for work with a hang-over multiple times a week people would start to worry. Here the sign of a good home-town pub is the pub owner has keys to the regulars houses to get them home when they are to drunk.
Level of drinking
I know I'm with a lot of students so there is heavier drinking but at pubs stag or hen parties come in all the time and are quite annoying because their goal is to get as drunk as possible. As I previously talked about getting drunk and ending up in some anonymous bed is seen as OK. It is seen as something that happens to everyone that drinks and it is up to the friends to take make sure the drunkest person doesn't end up with a psycho.
Drinking in public
Now I am aware this has to do with the public transport system here. Most of the places I have lived in the U.S. you had to drive home so you didn't see people staggering down the street. Well at least non-students. I still remember "drunk alley" in Oregon. I just get caught off guard seeing people in their 50's and 60's red eyed and listing as they walk around on a Friday or Saturday night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cultural Differences: Forwardness

Now that it has been a year here I feel like I understand some of the deeper cultural influences that influence the culture here in the U.K. as opposed to what I'm used to in the U.S.
The first one is the idea of "pushing boundaries" vs "knowing one's place". The American culture really does always try to see how to get more. There is a good side to that: I have the ability to talk to strangers which people still seem mystified about here. However the British culture also has it's benefits. Not everyone gets to be rich; so there is a lot more of the culture exploring enjoying your station in life. This means, well, enjoying life instead of over-working yourself.
When I try to explain the concept that is taught in the U.S. that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard enough, it is seen as naive here. At the same time the fact that I find it impossible to respect someone more just because they have "sir" in their name (the only discernible benefit they really get is free upgrades on British Airlines)
Alcohol and dating go hand in hand here. I've heard the joke that if it wasn't for alcohol then the population would plummet in the U.K. The problem is that it is not really a joke. There is a different idea about drunk sex here. In the U.S. it seems like the prevailing idea is that if the person is drunk they have lost their ability to make an informed choice so it's rape. Here, you made the choice to get that drunk, and it was usually so you had enough courage to talk to the opposite sex anyway so if you end up in bed it is most likely what you wanted.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night

Last year I had been under the impression that Guy Fawkes Day was seen as a national day similar to Independence or Bastille Day. Apparently that is not the case which makes more sense since the musical theme this year was all scary songs. (Last year was all superhero theme songs.) This is defiantly the first time I have seen fireworks choreographed to "Devil went down to Georgia" and "Thriller".
The big part that I found surprising is how polite the culture is here. The student village was partially subsidizing the cost of people attending. Normally everyone gives me their money, I buy the tickets, then pass them out. This was a little different because everyone just gets in huge lines and pays at the turnstile. There was no way to buy the tickets in advance so when I got to the front I explained it the whole predicament to the guy collecting money. Without even skipping a beat he let me collect money as he handed people tickets to 43 people. After everyone was through I added needed extra money and even got a written receipt. All without complaining or saying it couldn't be done.