Culture Shock


In the first few weeks in London, I realised I knew so little about this country. I knew that the British Empire had its glory in the 19th century, that it is where Harry Potter is from, that the queen has a series of rainbow-coloured dress. But other than these either outdated or trivial facts, I knew almost nothing about Britain’s culture, geography or history. I didn’t know that “apartment” is called “flat” here, that Northern Ireland and Ireland belong to two different countries, or that Scotland has its own bank notes different from England’s.

To try to get over the sadness that I just left my seemingly perfect life in California, I started watching Netflix in the hotel. If I’m going to stay here for at least a year, I’d better learn a bit about this country, I thought. Netflix has a recommended section called “British TV shows”, and I just picked the first one in the section. The series is called “The Crown”. It’s about the life of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family. I have to admit, a fictional TV show is probably not the best way to learn about a country, but it definitely sparked my interest of Britain, a place that’s so foreign and new to me.

Life of the royal family is distant from day-to-day life after all, but little by little, I started to pick up some culture differences. I didn’t think seriously about how different California and England were before I moved here. (Again, this probably shows how narrow-minded I was, having lived for just a few years in Bay Area’s tech bubbles.) I was really impressed by the abundance of art and culture here. The packages and signs are much more beautifully designed. The restaurant’s decor are more thoughtful. The presentation is more important than sheer volume. Even the checkout page on Amazon says “shopping basket” here, rather than “cart” in the US. And it never feels strange to be the only person who seems to think about what to wear in the morning before going out of the door. It reminds me of what it’s like to be in China sometimes, always in buzz and hurry, completely different from the quiet and breezy Californian lifestyle. It was a bit of a reverse culture shock to me, but it didn’t look too long for me to get used to it.