Week 1: Freshers and the “American” issue

My first week in Britain has been surreal, to say the least. I had never really imagined that at the age of 21 I would be moving back into a dorm and surrounded by freshman. “Freshers Week,” as they call it on this side of the pond, is about 100x better and wilder than the one we had at Waterloo, which was basically a week of terrible camp games. It might have something to do with the fact that the legal drinking age is 18 here, meaning all of the freshers wandering around campus are basically sloshed out of their minds. Though I’ve chosen to mainly stay clear of the frosh craziness, it’s been entertaining so far. Probably my least favourite part of freshers week is that my dorm is about 10 feet away from the on campus club, the Lemon Grove, meaning every night this week I get to listen to crappy house music for free until 2:30am!

Drunk freshman aside, I have already fallen in love with Exeter. If you didn’t know, the campus has been declared the most beautiful campus in the UK, and I completely understand why. Once you walk past the main area of campus containing the student centre and some of the bigger buildings, it’s like entering a different world. Stone staircases, carved statues, and trees galore have made me feel like I’m living in a Jane Austen novel. One of my friends pointed out that maybe it isn’t so surprising that novels like that are written in places like this, and I have to say, I completely agree. It’s pretty magical.

Exeter campus

British stereotypes are fairly ingrained in Canadian society, but I’m happy to say that most of them aren’t true! Everyone that I’ve met here has been so nice, welcoming, and all around lovely, especially when they know I’m Canadian. They really like us over here!

Something interesting that I would like to talk about though, is what I’ll refer to as the “American Problem.” I’ll be the first to admit that American and Canadian accents sound very similar a lot of the time. Normally, this isn’t an issue. I was surprised to learn that this similarity has actually become a bit of a problem since moving across the pond.

I’ve noticed a pattern in shops and restaurants: whoever is talking to me or serving me tends to be fairly short, polite and nothing more, but if they find out I’m Canadian their whole demeanor changes. The woman who took our order at Subway barely said anything until my Canadian friend was having trouble with her change. One of the other employees, noting that she wasn’t from around here, asked where we were from. After saying Canada, the woman who had taken our order smiled, asked where we were from, and asked about our stay in England.

It’s an interesting dynamic, to say the least, having people think that I’m American. It wouldn’t be something I normally mind, except when it brings some hostility from the people that think that. I had heard that Europeans don’t really care for Americans, but I assumed it was something that would never affect me. Unless I decide to tattoo the Canadian flag on my forehead, I think this will make my time in Europe interesting, to say the least, but I suppose I’ll get used to it.

Classes start tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m looking forward to having some structure back in my life, and, if I’m being completely honest, I miss writing essays and my inner English nerd is itching to get at some Shakespeare.

Cheers!

Canadians exploring Exeter

Amazing views of Exeter campus

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