Going to a new place always leads to some changes in habits, and my stint in Scotland–currently at about two and a half months–is no different. I’ve been keeping track of some things that I’ve noticed have changed, and although some aren’t surprising, others are…unexpected.
1-Look both ways when crossing the street. At least three times. Sometimes five.
It’s no secret that the US and the UK drive on opposite sides of the road. I figured after a while I’ll get used to looking right-left-right instead of left-right-left to check if it’s clear to cross.
I was wrong.
It’s more like left-oops I mean right-right-left-right-left-left again-right again for good measure-am I sure?-right-left-right.
This mostly comes from automatically looking left, then realizing I need to look right, and then overcompensating. Even on empty streets, I’ll look more than necessary. I also had a habit of waiting until there was a clear twenty seconds or so during which I could cross the street, giving me a good buffer to not get hit by a car, but I’m getting better as recognizing that cars here don’t move any faster than ones in the US.
They might actually move slower….
2-Use the phrase “American football” pretty naturally.
American football is a lovely American pastime but as an American I need to remember it’s American football because I’m not in America.
If reading that sentence made you a bit uncomfortable and you’re an American, that’s how I felt for the first month or so I was here. There’s almost something redundant about an American saying “American football.” However, the more I hear “football” and “American football” used, the less weird it seems, and I use it 90% of the time without any feeling of awkwardness now. In fact, the only time I’ve used the word “soccer” in the last two months was when people checked with me that it’s still used in the States.
Now it’ll just be awkward if I go back to the States and say “American football” as if that’s a thing in the American lexicon….
3-Wonder why America doesn’t have biscuits.
They’re their own special brand of snack partway between a cookie and a cracker. They’re filling, and you can get them covered in chocolate and with a layer of caramel on them, and you can get a whole pack of yummy deliciousness for 1-2 GBP, depending on the brand and the size.
I entered this country with a firm belief that there are cookies and there are crackers and the UK biscuit must belong in one of those categories.
I was wrong. (If you’ve been paying close attention, that’s twice now).
If you called biscuits cookies and handed them to an American, there would be chaos, like hiding oatmeal raisin in with the chocolate chip. At the same time, if you called them crackers, Americans might try to put cheese on them and be disappointed, thereby rebelling against the entire idea of a UK cracker.
Much better to just accept “biscuit” and be glad.
4-Refer to other Americans as Crazy Americans.
After spending a while outside of America, there is definitely a feeling of vague annoyance/acceptance/exasperation when the Americans that are clearly tourists and a bit clueless appear, and it’s not even peak tourist season.
The same sort of feeling accompanies tourists of other nationality, but as an American, I feel I have more of a right to look at my fellow Americans, shake my head, smile, and say, “Oh, those Crazy Americans.”
Because I’ve been them, and although I now am not them in this country, I would be them if you put me somewhere else, as much as I wish I wouldn’t be, and I am still the loud American in some situations.
Have you ever noticed that Americans often naturally speak louder than people from many other countries on average?
5-Randomly practice my dance steps.
This would have happened if I’d started taking Scottish Country Dance (SCD) in the States, but I think it’s worse because there are so many young, passionate people in the SCD club here, and because I have a routine to learn.
In the kitchen, walking down the street, in class, at my desk, in the library…anywhere I am, basically, I’ll mentally or physically find myself walking through steps. Or watching videos of them.
As far as habits go, it’s not such a bad one.
This is the most unexpected one. I saw a girl biting into a carrot one day, a whole one, and I remember thinking, “That’s so sad.” I don’t know why. It just sort of looked like “oh, she only has a carrot to eat.”
But then I realized that she is a genius. I’m sure there are people in the States that just get whole carrots and chomp away, but I’ve never seen them. Baby carrots are more common, or cut up ones, or at least ones that are peeled and cut to strips.
We’re missing out on unexpected satisfaction, guys.
Seriously. Go chomp on a carrot, close your eyes, and feel the bliss.
(Okay, I might be exaggerating, but carrots have honestly never tasted so good. Bonus: they’re both filling and cheap, so perfect for anyone on a budget!)
So what are some unexpected habits you picked up when you went away from home for a while? Everywhere has its own quirks, and with the US there are so many cultures that can lead to new habits just a state or a few hours’ drive away.
Your Bonnie Celtophile,