I have actually been here a while now, but I am still being hit by ‘Culture Shock’. Yesterday one of my English tutors asked me what I thought the DIM of Heart of Darkness was. All I could do was cough, awkwardly. FYI, DIM is an acronym for ‘Deep Inner Meaning’. I’m on such a learning curve here.
It is a slow process, assimilating oneself into the American population. At the beginning, the Brits joined forces and clumped together with the Australians. We prowled around campus in a Commonwealth pack, revelling in the delights of sarcasm and reminiscing about the non-processed cheese we used to eat. We welcomed the odd token yank into our midst to act as our translator in this new confusing world but, generally, I lived in apprehension.
Now, however, Harold* is learning to embrace the American Experience. I have done lots of things that were previously foreign to me.
We went to Made in America for one – the first festival in the history of my worldly experience where I wasn’t rained on. I wasn’t cool enough to have a ticket for the Saturday to see Beyoncé but Harold’s still in mourning about that so I shouldn’t talk about it. The Sunday was exciting though. It wasn’t quite as beer-soaked and refugee-camp-esque as some of our home-grown shows, but a wee bit of GTA and Calvin Harris was enough to keep me thoroughly content.
Geraldine** is also becoming really rather charmed by the fraternity system. They arrange things like date nights, where each boy brings a girl to a dinner and then to bars where all of the alcohol has been pre-paid for. By nature, I am terribly averse to the principles of organized fun, but here I have learnt that there are times when it can be a wonderful thing. Saturday morning began with a lineage brunch***, followed by ‘A Day at the Races’ – champagne ran free and wild and Geraldine got a bit tipsy.
Now, here the debate about whether or not Americans can do irony begins: I think they can, a bit. The theme of the party meant that red trousers and bow ties abounded and a large television screen was carted outside playing Ascot on a loop. There were loud lamentations that they had not hired a real horse too. This was a joke but it was partly sincere, so I will call it meta-irony – credit should be awarded nonetheless.
The Commonwealth pack still has much to bond over, however. We are all sharing the experience of being considered social exotics. I’m from Surrey – the place J.K. Rowling chose to be the home of the Dursleys: it is the epitome of muggledom. Never before in my life has my accent been celebrated like this. I’ve started saying things like ‘jolly good’ and ‘blimey’ with increasing frequency for added effect.
So, fear not, although I do quite like it here, and when I order tap water at our local pizza place I have to put on the local twang to be understood, I will always remain loyal to my British roots.
*My inner grumpy old man, if you’re new on the block here
**Inner decorous grandmother, married to Harold
*** A sophomore, his ‘big’ (Junior) and his ‘big big’ (Senior) ‘brothers’ take 3 girls for pre-darty mimosas