A Strange Culture Shock; Five Days in England

I landed in England and had a strange feeling that I was going home. It was a familiar, first world, western country and I was on my way to see close friends. Navigating the train system was something I hadn’t needed to do for a long time and I succeeded only by asking the nearest person who could help me. After the red eye flight I couldn’t help but fall asleep on the busy commuter train, probably looking like an idiot but too tired and not healthy enough to care, having unfortunately contracted a stomach bug and cold on my last day in Arusha.

I arrived in Chelmsford to see two of my friends that I had met in Malawi. I had a surreal realisation that I was meeting up with the people I’d started my Africa trip with but who had gone on to lead their normal lives for the past four months while I had continued my adventure.

Another Malawi friend was visiting from Sydney and we met up with him in London where we spent a couple of days playing tourist. For once I was able to follow people around; to not make any decisions about where to go or worry about finding the best route. It was the break that I needed, particularly somewhere busy like London. We traipsed around Piccadilly Circus where the population felt like Africa but the modern buildings and high tense, technical vibe felt new to me. We did the classic Buckingham Palace stop despite my lack of interest in toyalty before walking through Green Park and parts of Hyde Park too. We saw Tower Bridge and Tower of London, had lunch in Camden town at the food markets and I tried to contain myself in MnM world, spending $15 on MnMs way too easily.

I spent the weekend with Emily and her family down in Battle, a beautiful country town near Hastings. This to me was what I felt suburban England was supposed to be like, just how Piccadilly Circus felt like what London was supposed to be like. We packed our bags and went food shopping for our impending trip to Iceland, starting on Monday. Again, the weekend was exactly what I needed for a couple of days, spending time in a family home, not playing tourist and having no pressure to see or do anything but be ‘at home’.

I was in England for five days, unhealthy for half of it but happy enough with where I was to push through and enjoy. My stomach took a while to adjust to the new bacteria, with England being infinitely cleaner than Africa. You’d think this would be a good thing but not when your stomach has adjusted to what it thinks is its new way of life. In England I wasn’t special, I wasn’t the token white tourist and people knew I didn’t want what they were selling. I was unsure how I would react to this but it felt great, as this was something I had grown quite frustrated with in my last month, rudely brushing off those who tried to talk to me because they would inevitably try sell me something I didn’t want or need.

The other difference was the prices. Paying more than three times the price for everything and depending where I was sometimes more, than what I’d been spending for the past five months. I averted my eyes and tried to forget about it, handing over my credit card and relishing in the use of PayPass again. I would count what I’d spent when I finished my stint in Europe and ensure I enjoyed myself at the time. This I certainly did and I loved seeing some familiar faces again, picking up right where we’d left off as though no time had passed, with an abundance of stories to tell.