So what changed? Why did I decide to participate in this film studies program? While I point to my love of cinema as a major factor, I think the answer is most accurately, â€œI donâ€™t know.â€ And for once, not knowing is a comforting, even satisfying thing.
One thing I do know: London is the most diverse place Iâ€™ve ever been to. I didnâ€™t quite expect the whole city to stop for tea-and-crumpet time, but I did think Iâ€™d hear â€œcheersâ€ a little more often. This is truly an international city, and most everyone in it is a tourist â€” like myself. The hotel Iâ€™m staying at, the Royal National Hotel, is a prime example of this. Late at night, while taking advantage of the free WiFi in the lobby, I can hear a dozen different languages resonate from the hotel bar. Listening to them collectively creates this dense sound, a new language â€” itâ€™s not English, Spanish, French, German, or Icelandic; itâ€™s human.
Going out to dinner as a group is hard in Londonâ€”â€œseparate checksâ€ is not part of the equation. This has led to many coin fights across the tables of restaurants as all twelve of us pitch our amount into and take change out of the pot.
The â€œdo I tip or not?â€ question has arisen with every meal. Many of the restaurants have a 10% service fee worked in. Luckily, 10% student discounts seem to be all the rave in England, so weâ€™ve managed to break even in that regard.Starbucks has a stranglehold on this city. Caffe Nero, which seems to be the European equivalent, has an interesting way of doing things. Instead of ordering a frappucino, you take a pre-made cup from a cooler and give it to the barista to blend with ice. Nero, which is a British coffee shop chain, is advertised as an â€œItalian coffee bar,â€ so there are mixed signals aplenty.
Mayonnaise, or more specifically, egg mayonnaise, is popular around these parts. The substance, known here as â€œsalad creamâ€â€”not to be confused with sour cream, as we learned one nightâ€” is a default for sandwiches and burgers. Sandwiches are cut in to triangles and sold by supermarkets, making picnics in the park all the more easy. There are vast, deep, beautiful parks planted everywhere. Regentâ€™s, Hyde, St. Jamesâ€”each has its own personality, and Iâ€™m getting to know them very quickly.
I donâ€™t care for the hustle and bustle of the London streets, although Iâ€™m not sure if this is specifically Londonâ€™s fault. I think itâ€™s the big city feel in general that bothers meâ€”maybe thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m spending so much time in the parks. We traveled to Canterbury one morning. After comparing the two settings, I can say that the quaint, crooked alleys of Canterbury appealed to me crumpetloads more than London. Lights dangle on a string in-between fair-trade stores and locally owned arts and crafts shops that close at 5 p.m. It makes East Lansing look rather ugly and easy.
There are two faucets in my hotel. One for freezing cold; one for scolding hot.
Me? I like warm water, so I find myself running both faucets at once. Starting with the cold, I fill my hands up before switching to the hot faucet. I then wait until the hot and cold combine to form a semi-warm temperature. There has to be a more economical way to do this.
Itâ€™s odd to be American. I feel strangely stupid. I think I have this preconceived notion of how Americans are viewed by the rest of the world. It didnâ€™t help that I heard a man mumble in a thick Canterburian accent, â€œThereâ€™s tourists everywhere, speaking different f***ing languages,â€ as we crossed paths. Maybe he wasnâ€™t talking about me, since I speak English?
Either way, Iâ€™ve learned that the â€œAmericanâ€ way â€” slang vocabulary, separate checks, single faucets, late-night restaurantsâ€”to do things isnâ€™t the right way of doing things; nor is it the wrong way. Itâ€™s just one way.
Iâ€™m studying film, but Iâ€™m learning more about people. There are so many of us. This is my last week in London, after which I will be heading to Edinburgh, Scotland. Everyone Iâ€™ve talked to has said something along the lines of, â€œOh, you will love it there. Itâ€™s right up your alley.â€ I hope theyâ€™re right, because I donâ€™t know where my alley is. Maybe Iâ€™ll find it there. If not, maybe Iâ€™ll find it waiting for me at the DTW Airport, July 13.
Michigan State University Journalism Major Carter Moulton writes the well-received Filmgazing blog. We asked him to tell us what he’s learning on his adventures on the continent before attending the Edinburgh Film Festival.