COLUMN: Taking an Exit off the My Way Highway

Tyler Wailes

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This column is part of a series written by Tyler Wailes. Wailes is on a study abroad trip and each week she shares her experience with Spinnaker readers. This column gets published every Friday.

The English Government introduced a law in 2015 requiring all large supermarkets to charge shoppers 5 pence for every non reusable shopping bag they use to carry their groceries home. While this number may seem small a first, the money adds up quickly, just as the amount plastic bags polluting the environment would. A way for customers to get around this fee is to bring their own reusable bags. Thus, allowing consumer to save money and help the environment. This was the first noticeable difference I saw coming from the U.S to the U.K.

The grocery store wasn’t finished surprising me yet, though. While waiting in line to check out, I stood as I normally would, putting a placeholder on the converter belt as my groceries moved closer and closer to the register. Once it was my turn the cashier greeted me with a kind hello, asked me if I would like to purchase some reusable bags for future shopping trips, and began to push items toward where the bagger would typically stand. The only issue here was, there was no bagger and I wasn’t paying enough attention to realize that. The total price was read aloud to me, I paid, received my change, and placed it back into my wallet. I then looked up to see my groceries remained untouched and quickly made the connection that this was a task I was to do myself. This was not a problem, having worked in customer service before coming the U.K, I have become a proficient bagger. However, in this instance I was holding up a line of seven other customers and the pressure was on. I frantically began to place my groceries into my bags, frequently looking over more shoulder and letting out an, “I’m sorry!” To my relief, not a single person acted inconvenienced toward my learning curve.

It takes roughly twenty minutes to get to the store from campus, providing a scenic walk through the small town of Hatfield. The trip over allows time for fresh air and time to think. The trip back is the kicker. Being the Floridian I am, I rarely experience any incline. Hiking up hills with twenty pounds of groceries has certainly given me a run for my money.  This has reduced my longing for canned Coca Cola because, it weighs too much for me to carry. I stand certain though, that my huffing and puffing will be no more when I make my way home in four months time.

Tyler Wailes
Tyler Wailes in the U.K.

I am discovering new differences in the U.S and U.K culture everyday. So far there has been nothing major but, it is certainly interesting. For example, the plugs are wider in the U.K and have three prongs to place in the outlets. This was something I was aware of before I left the States so I already had an adapter ready for when I landed. The thing I was unaware of though, is one can not simply plug in a device in England and have it charge or gain power. Instead, you must flip a switch located next to the outlet to allow electricity to come through. The same goes for turning on the stove top or the oven. The first time I attempted to make pasta in my kitchen, I could not figure out why my stove top would not heat up. After a good twenty minutes, I spotted a red switch on the wall. I flipped it and immediately the the burner began to heat up. The idea behind this is to conserve energy.

As many of us know from television or, even experience, that traffic works differently in the U.K than it does in other parts of world, including that of America. The driver sits on the right side of the vehicle, opposed to the left. At first, traffic patterns seem backwards and uncomfortable. After taking a moment though, to pay attention to traffic patterns, it stops feeling so foreign. Along with reversed roads, I have also noticed the refrigerators and freezers are also reversed in this country, with the refrigerator on the top and the freezer on the bottom. Again, this is something that is not difficult to adapt to but, fascinating nonetheless.

Items within the refrigerator seem to differ as well. Before my arrival at Hatfield, I had never had carbonated lemonade. This is how it is normally served here and when I proposed the idea of the drink being flat, my new friends were just as surprised by the idea as I was when learned of the bubbly lemonade. Terms for potato products do truly confuse me at points in time. What would be considered a french fry in the U.S would be described as a chip in the U.K and a potato chip would be called a crisp. So, when someone says they are off to a chip shop, they are referring to a restaurant that serves hot food and fries.

For a long time I had been driving on the my way highway, oblivious to the road I was on.

I was unaware of the fact things are done differently all around. In this month I have been living abroad, my perspectives have widened and my knowledge and understanding of others has grown.


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