Thursday, 20 May 2010

Short introduction

In the early spring of 2010, I moved to the United Kingdom from the United States to live with my new husband, a Brit. I had been to the UK before—once with my family, once on my own, and several times to visit my husband during our long-distance courtship:

(Me in St. Ives)

(My husband and I at the Tregothnan tea plantation)

(Me watching pub cricket somewhere in between Wales and Cornwall)

For the most part, integrating into British culture is not difficult (I say this in the present-tense because it is an ongoing process, and will be, I think, for many years). Brits—in remote, non-ethnically-diverse Cornwall where we live—generally speak the same language, wear recognizable fashions, eat similar food, practice similar religions, and have similar recreational interests as Americans. In other words, because the cultural similarities outweigh the cultural differences, moving to Cornwall is no different than being a Yankee and moving to the Deep South, or relocating from Alaska to Hawaii. Or so I thought. That may have been what it was like to visit the UK, but it is amazing how many new differences become apparent after you have fully immersed yourself in another culture—even one that has many things in common with your own.

Luckily for me, I find these differences fascinating rather than annoying (well, most of the time, anyway). After all, I was one course shy of minoring in anthropology as an undergraduate, so I can’t help but examine and ponder, compare, contrast, laugh (and occasionally grumble) at, and generally enjoy other cultures. In the entries that follow, I will be documenting, both visually and verbally, some of the many culture clashes, both mild and extreme, that I have encountered since my move to the UK. Britain’s location facilitates travels to many other countries, and although short-term trips will not yield the sort of “immersion dynamics” that I mentioned earlier, I can’t pass up the opportunity to make some more cultural observations as I roam, comparing foreign places to both my former and current country of residence. Being in another country makes you think about your own from a different perspective, so occasionally I will also write about American culture, how it varies among regions, and how it’s perceived by the people I encounter abroad. Finally, I will sometimes take a break from my own experiences and opinions to record those of others, discuss practicalities of travel and social navigation, focus on current events related to any of the aforementioned themes, and, sometimes, talk about people and places from a historical or anthropological perspective.

So, in a nutshell, this is a blog about differences and similarities and how it feels to encounter them both far from, and close to, “home.” It is not a blog about feeling superiorly American and pointing out how improperly the rest of the world does things, or a blog in which I will poke fun at anyone’s culture. However much I may laugh at something I can’t wrap my head around, I acknowledge that it only seems strange to me because I am not used to it: I don’t believe in “right” or “wrong” ways to do things, only variety, and through the examination of variety, the opportunity to come to a better understanding of myself and my own ways of doing things.

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