Wednesday, August 17, 2016

10 Things that have changed about my life since moving to Scotland

I've been living in Scotland for about two months now, and I've decided (with the encouragement of some friends that said they would actually read it) that I should write down some of my thoughts about life here. Particularly, my thoughts on how the UK and the US (or rather, St Andrews and Fort Myers/Boston) differ and how I view myself differently in the light of this new environment. That way I'll actually remember them after next summer when I leave and re-immerse myself in The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Hence this blog. No promises that I will stay on topic though - I'll probably just write about anything that I think might be entertaining or interesting. Also, chances are a lot of the comparisons I make will end up being about city versus small-town life, or academia in the UK versus academia in the US.

I'll start with a quick list of some obvious things about my life that have changed since moving here.

1. I now time my laundry to coincide with good weather, since people don't really do the dryer thing in this neighborhood (region? country? not sure, although the US definitely uses bigger dryers and more of them than any other country) - honestly, it's been a lovely change so far, there are few things more calming than hanging up your laundry on a sunny day. I'm a bit worried about how it'll be in the winter, when there's more clothes and (much) less sun, but I assume that with the heat on, things will dry indoors just fine. My flatmate has a neat pulley contraption in her kitchen so you can wheel down a rack, hang your clothes on it and crank it back up to the ceiling.
Sunny Day Exhibit A
2. Between the lab and my house, I'm getting a lot better at using keys. A delicate combination of force, habit, jiggling the key and turning the handle simultaneously seems to be the secret. Nothing like older buildings to teach you patience.

3. I've become uncomfortably aware of my rampant usage of the word "awesome", since people here don't seem quite as inclined towards hyperbole. Not uncomfortable enough to stop using it yet, but we'll see.

4. I have challenged myself to determine the number of social situations in which "cheers" is an acceptable response. So far I have:
  • completing a consumer transaction ("Here's your change." "Cheers!")
  • running into a stranger ("Sorry!" "Cheers!")
  • ending a phone call ("Talk to you later then." "Cheers!")
  • Tinking drinks together ("Cheers!")
  • Telling someone you are flaking ("Sorry I won't be able to join you tonight, I [have no good reason, just lazy]." "Cheers!")
 ... I'll report back as I discover new ones ...

5. Everyday activities are infused with history. On any given day, I walk past kiltmakers' shops, the ruins of a medieval cathedral, plaques commemorating centuries-old mathematicians, and small alleys with signs noting that a Scot who fought bravely in a given war used to live there. I love it.

6. Eating hot dogs has become a strangely nostalgic activity.

100% Scottish Hot Dogs
7. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about linguistics. I never took a class in linguistics, even though there were a lot of overlapping courses between the linguistics and cognitive sciences classes at MIT, because I was afraid I would get drawn into a world so fascinating and complicated that all my other cognitive sciences interests would subsumed by it - weird, I know, but that's actually why. Now, with the opportunity to listen to a variety of British accents, hear the difference between international students' English when they learned the American or British standard, or spent a bit of time in both places and picked up different habits in each, and the varying slang and exclamations that get mixed together in such an international community -- I've started wishing maybe I hadn't kept the study of languages and dialects and how they're acquired at an arm's length, since it seems really interesting and definitely applicable to my current existence.

8. My flatmate and I share sauces and spices and things like that, so I've started keeping track of which things I use up dramatically more rapidly than she does, so  I know which things I should be replacing when I get groceries. The list ended up being illuminating:
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • oatmeal
  • paper towels
  • hot chocolate
  • splenda
  • red pepper flakes
  • soy sauce
  • ground ginger
  • potatoes
  • pasta
  • garlic powder
This has confirmed my theory that I have a dull sense of taste and thus only enjoy things that are very salty, very spicy, or very sweet.
...we'll see if this keeping-track-of-what-you-consume thing in any way incentivizes me to flavor my food less dramatically,  or eat fewer carbs (but I doubt it).

9. I see more landscapes on a daily basis - mostly because my form of transportation is now biking or busing through Scottish farmland instead of power walking down a crowded tunnel (yeah MIT I'm talking about your campus) but also because I just have more time for myself, and have been assured many times that this sunny, breezy weather will not last. There's something very soothing about watching a mostly uniform terrain that stretches out into the distance, and is different from the farmland you're more likely to see in Florida (i.e., infinite straight rows of orange trees).
biking home in weather that can't make up its mind if it's raining or not.
And it was all yellow. (Taken on a train up to Inverness)

10. Tea is good. I've started drinking it at work, since (as me and the other intern in lab right now have discovered) you can only drink so many cups of coffee per day, but taking a break to drink something warm is essential since the basement where we work is a bit chilly. At first I was just drinking it black, but at the prompting of the lab manager (Geraldine, from Northern Ireland) I have started adding sugar and milk as well, which makes it much nicer. I may be a convert.

This is just meant to be a sort of introductory post - I'm intending to have more of a unified topic in the next ones :)

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