Differences, Thoughts & Rants

The Struggles: A Collection of American Complaints and First World Problems

The other day I thought to myself “Aw, Menards. What a nice place.” Then I continued to reminisce about the aisles upon aisles of light fixtures, tools, carpets, windows, doors, old people. The hunting gear section and the large selection of knock-off candy and jolly ranchers. The harsh fluorescent lighting and the ever-present smell of wood and dirt. And then I took a step back. The daydream ended and I just realised that I got nostalgic for Menards. What even is that? You know you’re at a weird point in your life abroad when you start to miss Menards or even the hell on earth that is Joann Fabrics.

A few nights ago my friends and I walked to McDonalds. It was 8:30pm and raining, but we were hungry and hadn’t really left our rooms in about four days. On the forty minute walk to McDonalds I had to decide between choosing a burger or chicken nuggets. Once we arrived and after much thought, we walked up to the register and I ordered chicken nuggets. She asked what sauce I wanted and I said ‘honey’, completely and totally ready to dip back into my childhood when I used to eat chicken nuggets and honey all the time, the perfect savoury and sweet combination, and not have to worry about it going to my thighs. Tonight was the night to not worry about it going to my thighs. I had just walked two miles and I was going to walk another two miles back. That dream however was crushed. ‘Honey? What? We don’t do that here…’ my friend intervened. The thought of chicken nuggets with honey repelled everyone around me and yet again I was alone, honey-less, with only the taste of the heavenly meal in my memories. I ended up getting barbecue sauce. I love you barbecue sauce, but you’ll never be the honey to my chicken nuggets. Europe doesn’t know what they’re missing.

Also, McDonalds is trying this thing where they are doing a ‘great tastes around America’ and this week it was the Miami Burger which is described as ‘ beef patty with Sunblush tomato sauce, bacon, two slices of cheese, shredded lettuce, onions and cool mayo, in an oval sesame seed bun.’ How is that in any way Miami? I have yet to find out. Next week is the Texas BBQ burger. Now thats just stereotypical.

Seriously, just watch this video. They hate us. Or they love us. I can’t tell.

After I ordered my chicken nuggets, the woman at the till asked what kind of mcflurry I wanted. The options were smarties, galaxy, dairy milk, and crunchie. This is when I realised that smarties are something totally different here. Smarties here are small chocolate circle things. I haven’t tried them but they look like m&ms so lets just say that they’re basically m&ms.

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Smarties in the United States are different. Have you ever tried to describe what smarties are to someone who has no idea? It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to describe.

‘It’s small circle candy and it comes in different colours.’

‘Oh, so like m&ms?’

‘No its not chocolate. It’s powdery.’

‘So it’s just powder then?’

‘No it’s like powder but in circles that melts in your mouth…It comes in a small roll in plastic.. It doesn’t really taste like anything. It just tastes like…smarties.’

For all of you European readers, here is what I’m talking about. They aren’t even good, but somehow I still get excited when I get them. You don’t buy smarties, you get smarties. Either from your teacher, at a parade, or on halloween. Or if you buy one of the big packs that comes with dum dums, nerds, and laffy taffys. That’s it.

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On another sweet note, when I visited my dad he gave me a care package that my mom put together (thanks guys!) that came with hershey’s kisses. They don’t have those here, unless you go to an American candy store and buy it 50% above market price. But you’d think out of all of the candy and chocolate in America, hershey’s kisses would have made it across the pond by now. I mean if a crunch bar made it, why wouldn’t this? Somehow though, it’s not a thing here. But that gave me an exciting opportunity to force it down my friends throats! Just kidding, it wasn’t like that. Ha ha ha. Their reactions were priceless. Upon first inspection one of my friends goes ‘so I can eat this?’ and another one simply just stares at it in their hands, peering at it from every angle. A few other friends were amazed at the way you open it. “That’s some engineering, that is!” exclaiming about the little strip of paper that you open it with. I’m bad at describing things. Here’s a picture.

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They all enjoyed it though. Most of them said it tasted like Christmas chocolate. But does that imply cheap chocolate? Huh.

One more thought on chocolate, I just found out that galaxy chocolate and dove chocolate are the same thing. I just thought the states didn’t have galaxy, and the UK didn’t have dove, but now that I know that they’re the same thing, this changes everything! Dove chocolate became in a thing in the US in 1956, and was introduced to the land of brits in 1960 under the name ‘galaxy’. Not sure why they need a different name, but whatever. You’d think they’d be the ones with the Declaration of Independence because of the number of things that they changed the name of when they came across the pond. TJ Maxx/TK Maxx, Lays/Walkers, Hokey Pokey/Hokey Cokey, Axe/Lynx, even their Doritos flavours (nacho cheese/chili heatwave, cool ranch/cool original, they even have a tangy cheese flavour which I’m not sure if we have an equivalent to.). The struggle continues because our Three Musketeers is their Milky Way and our Milky Way is their Mars Bar. I could go on. For the longest time, I thought dove chocolate was from the same company that makes dove soap. I figured the soap company wanted to tailor to women’s needs even more and make a chocolate company, but I guess I was wrong the whole time. You really learn something new everyday.

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So this is a true American teenage problem. The United Kingdom does not seem to be a fan of Mexican food. They have a few Chipotles in London, and like two Taco Bells somewhere, but otherwise it is non-existent. I was lucky to have Chipotle (chip-ote-lay not chip-ot-el 😀 ) in London but sadly it was watery and I really don’t think a burrito bowl should be watery. I also had to explain to someone what a burrito was and how that was different from a taco. Then again, they know much more about Indian food than I do. At least Tesco sells Old El Paso stuff but like my friend Ceci from El Paso says, it’s not even Mexican food. She also says Chipotle isn’t Mexican food. But I don’t care, it’s still delicious.

Lately I genuinely consider myself to be 20 years old. I feel 20. I’m surrounded by mostly 20 year olds, some 19 and some 21, but either way they’re still all older than me. It’s strange that I’m only 18 right now, but I guess I should cherish it while I can. On the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Mr. Moseby once said “how do you lose a women?” and the great Cody Martin replied “you forget to cherish her.” So I guess I’ll take Cody’s advice and cherish myself before I lose my young age. Ja feel?

To end this post on a light-hearted note something nice happened. It was Leah’s first time ever sending a letter in the mail (she’s 21. crazy, I know) and I was showing her how to do it. We just bought stamps and walked over to the post box and I said to her “before you put the letters in, you need to kiss them, otherwise they won’t get there” and without even blinking or saying anything, the guy next to us kissed his letter and put it in the post box. He knew I was kidding but he went along with it. It was amazing.

That’s all the ranting I have for now. Thanks for putting up with me ya’ll. (I’ve started saying y’all now. I didn’t think coming to the United Kingdom would do that to me. But it happened).

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Differences, Thoughts & Rants

On Traveling: UK vs. US

The thing that I can’t wrap my head around is the fact that Brits travel all over Europe and don’t see the big deal about it. Everyone goes to Spain over holiday with their family, people go to Paris all the time (I’ve heard many times that its “overrated”), Africa is no big deal, and a lot of them have been to Australia. The reason it’s not a big deal is because it’s so close. That’s the beautiful thing about living here, it’s incredibly easy to travel. Europe is so small, but each country is so different from each other. They experience a lot of different cultures and languages, and it doesn’t really phase them. That’s because it’s how they grew up, it’s the way they know the world. Quite possibly, the world may seem more accessible to them. Traveling is a reality and it’s something that can and should be done.

The thing that they think is amazing about America is that we can drive 20+ hours and still be in the same country. We can travel through mountains, deserts, lakes, snow, beach, and never have to leave America. That being said, it is really amazing, but the sad thing is, I feel a lot of Americans are missing the opportunity. It seems some of them don’t really get out much. Whether they can’t afford it, family is holding them back, don’t want to take time off work, or just don’t see it as something possible, a lot of people just don’t leave.

All in all, the grass is greener on the other side, although it doesn’t hurt to check it out for yourself.

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Adventures, Differences

Exams, refreshers, and husky onesies.

Exam season is officially over and refreshers has begun. Instead of exams being before Christmas break, they were spread throughout a few weeks in January. That being said, it was nice to have more time to revise (study, for all you americans) instead of going through the exam and pre-christmas stress. I had three exams, all were two hours in which I had to write two essays. I didn’t know what the questions were going to be, but I had a general idea.

Side note: In one of my essays, and I’m not ashamed of this, I wrote about The Graduate and how it changed Hollywood, so I ended it with “The Graduate was one small step for film, one giant leap for Hollywood cinema.” I mean hey, The Graduate came out only two years before the moon landing so it was definitely appropriate.

Overall, I think I did pretty good and plus, you only need 40% to pass and your marks this year don’t actually count towards your final degree. 40% seems very low, and it is, but they use a different grading system here. A  52-58 is a lower division Second Class degree (or a 2:2), 62-68 is a higher division Second Class degree (or a 2:1), and a 72-85 is a First Class degree (or a 1st). It’s different and it still confuses me, but it works.

Now on to refreshers, and to explain that, I should probably explain what freshers is first. Freshers is the first two weeks of uni where the uni hosts a different event/party every night. It’s basically like being drunk for two whole weeks. Refreshers is that again, except after exam season and it’s only one week. On my first night out someone came up to me and told me it was my birthday, so I went with it and told everyone, and I mean everyone, that it was my birthday. Someone gave me a fake rose and now it’s on my wall in my room. So it was fun to have my birthday a little early this year. Monday night was Aniball so I wore a siberian husky onesie (and no Charlie, I was not a cat). Despite how hot it was, it was really fun to go out in a onesie, plus unlike all women’s clothes these days, it had pockets! We ending Monday night with cheesy chips and curry from Swansea Kebabs. Ten out of ten recommend. Tuesday was a snapback party at the on-campus club (you read that right, the on-campus club) called Diva’s. Yes, I wore a snapback (thanks James!) and it didn’t suit me, but frankly I don’t really know who looks good in a snapback. Wednesday night everyone wore black Welsh Varsity shirts that came with our refreshers band and hit the town. The shirts are for the Swansea vs. Cardiff rugby game coming up (it’s a pretty big deal). Wednesday night I stayed in and watched a documentary about North Korea and then fell asleep to Bob’s Burgers. I what you’re thinking, I’m an animal. Tonight is the last night for refreshers and it’s at Diva’s, but on Friday’s it takes the name of Tooters (like Hooters, but also £2 for 2 drinks). It’s been a good week! Classes start again next week and then it’s back to reality.

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Differences

Starting Uni: Outlining the Differences

Today marks my fifth day at Swansea, and the second I got here I knew I was in the right place. The campus is beautiful and right across the street from the sea. Everyone that I’ve meet so far seems genuinely happy, even including workers at shops and restaurants, which is really refreshing. Swansea is a very diverse university with people from all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and of course, the United Kingdom. Everyone in their first year is around 19-20 years old because most people took a gap year (something you’d rarely see in the US) after “high school”. I’m taking three classes per semester. This semester I’m doing: Hollywood: A History of American Film, Film Studies, and Intro to Media Communication. My American Film professor said to the class “if you have a good understanding of American history, then this shouldn’t be too hard for you”, so it’s safe to say that I’m set with that class. Unlike the US, we only have 1 paper and 1 exam due at the end of the semester that will make up the entirety of our grade. Basically no homework besides reading the textbook and studying on your own. Another big difference is the fact that uni is only three years (no required generals) and there are no “majors” or “minors”, just one main area of study. Room and board is different here as well. I have my own room in a flat of about 20 people that’s co-ed. The room came with a mini fridge, a sink, and windows that actually open! I live in a part-catered residence which means I get money each week on my card and can spend it at any restaurant on campus. All of the other residences are not catered, which means no meal plans. One of the weirdest things about being the foreign kid is people telling me that they love my accent because to me, they are the ones with the accent. A few people were actually surprised that I don’t say “bloody” or “blimey” or “mate” and I was surprised that they do actually say those words. And to everyone who told me that it would be hard for me to understand them, I can understand everyone (most of the time). 🙂 I’m a little too lazy to write a conclusion to my blog post. Look at me, being such a college kid. Have a lovely day.

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