I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lived in the San Fernando Valley for 18 years until going up to the Bay Area for college. I’m Californian to the core. While most of my growth abroad was personal and specific to myself, here are some more general things I learned as a Californian during my semester in the UK:
1) Non-Californians think I live in a paradise.
Whenever I said I was from California or Los Angeles, people would look at me in shock and ask, “Why did you come here?” I think the concept of a dreary city in England seeming foreign and exciting to a Californian was difficult for them to grasp.
2) My racial/ethnic identity is complex.
Los Angeles has the largest Korean American population in the United States, so I’ve never felt too different (relatively) while growing up. From a young age, I had friends who, like me, had to balance keeping Korean traditions with fitting into American culture. When I got to England, I realized that there aren’t many second generation Koreans, or second generation people of color, for that matter. It was frustrating at first, but then I realized that I could be the one to show them that Americans really are diverse. I not only learned about British culture, but also taught my new friends about my own.
3) British accents change every 10 miles.
Not everybody sounds like the Queen or David Beckham. I lived with students from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Cardiff who all had distinct accents. I also (sadly) learned that I would never fulfill my goal of getting a British accent by the end of the semester.
4) I go up at the end of my sentences?
I know I say “like,” like, a lot, but I didn’t think my Valley upbringing affected my entire inflection. However, I also learned that the way I speak is affected by the people around me, because by the end of the semester, I was going down at the end of my sentences. Could you pass the hoummus please. Shall we have some more cider. OMG, you’ve never had SMORES BEFORE??? (It had to come out sometimes.)
5) British sweets are better.
I’m a savory-over-sweets gal, so I don’t normally eat too much candy. That all changed in England. I think it’s because their dairy is better (lots of grass-fed cows, you know?), but I honestly don’t care what the reason is – I just care that they’re good. Some of my favorites are: Crunchie, Flake, Maltesers, Mint Aero, and Lion Bars. And chocolate-covered digestives. Digestives are life.
6) Fashion can actually be functional.
In California, a typical hipster uniform consists of a beanie, flannel, and desert boots/booties. In the UK, where the weather is almost always gloomy and cold, this is a standard uniform because it actually serves a purpose! It’s a “practical hipster” look. This goes for all countries with cold weather, but those layers and accessories are not just there to make a fashion statement. They’re there to protect you from the elements.
7) The weather dictates my mood.
I may have figured out how to dress for colder weather, but that didn’t mean I always enjoyed it. There were days when I would wake up and not want to get ready and start my day. And then there were those rare days when the sun would come out and an inescapable euphoria came over me as I put on my sunglasses and pranced around outside. Sunshine withdrawals are real.
8) You can take the girl out of California…
But you can’t take the California out of the girl.