I can’t believe that I’ve been in England for over three weeks now! The weather has been quite warm (80’s) the last week but now it has turned into the typical English weather: gloomy, cloudy, chilly, and wet. The past week has been nough week (Week 0— which apparently many non-English people hear as “North” week, and get completely confused). So our Fresher’s Week (Week 0) has been full of activities and events to get us to meet all the other Freshers (that is, new graduates) in our college. I’ve attended most of them and tried to find friends, but I think it’s hard to find friendships and “kindred spirits” just.. normally, and also because the preferred method of friendship-building here seems to be going to bars/pubs and dancing at clubs (of which Oxford has a entire TWO, compared to Cambridge’s one. This is actually a point of pride for many Oxonians, and comes up often when comparing Oxford to that other school.)
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.
But going to all these events and meeting new people has been fun and educational. I think I’ve been learning Very Important Life Skills.
For instance, I think by the end of this year, I will become an expert at small talk. The British seem to have mastered this annoying but very useful social skill. One basic small talk topic is the weather. You can actually extend this small talk topic much longer if the weather has been dreadful/bizarre/unpredictable. And it’s nice that the weather is often unpredictable. However, according to one English guy I talked to, resorting to talking about the weather for small talk is pretty much fail.
I also learned a new strategy for moving on from one group to another when one is at an event that requires much mingling and small talking. That is, to escape one’s present group/conversation partner, one can often say “I’m going to get another drink,” or variations thereof. The circumstances in which I learned this strategy is actually quite embarrassing. I was at a drinks and nibbles fresher’s event and someone I was talking to said, “I’ll go get another drink,” and I thought she was going to come back.
But she never did.
So, there I was, staring at the back of the girl who I thought was enjoying my conversation and company, and saw myself sadly lacking anyone to speak with. And then I realized that this was actually a great technique to increase one’s mingling and to end conversations before they got awkwardly silent. So there’s a freebie for you guys. 😛
Another VILS (Very Important Life Skill) that I learned was about alcohol. I used to think that girls who mistook vodka for water were really stupid. I mean, obviously it’s going to taste/smell/burn like alcohol, right? WRONG. You can barely tell, until you drink it so fast that the world starts moving around and you realize that yes, it was alcohol.
One essential element present in every single social event in England is booze. One has a glass of port/wine/beer with one’s supervisors/professors as casually and normally as one would have a cup of tea/coffee. Everyone goes to the pub to hangout (there are nonalcoholic options in pubs; also, one never tips in pubs!). One Brit I met said that the entire country is lubricated by alcohol, not tea— unless it’s tea laced with brandy. And it’s true.
Until next time,
P.S. I miss home— especially spicy food. 😦 I am tempted to buy a bottle of sriracha sauce and just down it.
P.P.S. Have a look at the gallery below. It was the most efficient way to upload all the photos.
can you spot the harold look-alike?!