The Baker Orange

Harlaxton provides lessons in British culture

Story by Sarah Baker, Editor

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NOTE: Baker Orange staff member Sarah Baker is spending the spring semester at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England.

Studying abroad at Harlaxton Manor in the lush English countryside is an amazing opportunity. Getting to live on a vast 19th century estate complete with manor, carriage house, wrought-iron gates and gorgeous gardens is a fairytale come to life.

For many American students, study abroad programs give them the cultural awareness needed to understand different cultures, customs and ways of living. While England is similar to the United States in many ways, it is very distinct in its own way. Here are some defining differences between English and American life.

1. Terminology: First and foremost, the term “British” does not ONLY refer to people from England. When referring to the people of England, it is correct to say either “English” or “British,” but it is also technically correct to call people from some other countries “British” as well.

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England make up the United Kingdom, Great Britain is the geographical term for the island consisting of Scotland, England and Wales (excluding Northern Ireland). Thus, you can be British without being English, even though residents outside of England often prefer not to be called “British.” This YouTube video may help clarify the distinctions.

2. Driving: The English drive on the left side of the road. As Americans, we would say they are driving on the wrong side of the road, but actually, we are the ones driving on the wrong side. Drivers in most countries use the left side of the road. Also in England, it is the law to wear a seatbelt when you are riding in a bus.

3. Language: The British people tend to speak more politely than Americans do. English people say “Sorry” a lot as part of typical English manners and do not like to come off as rude. They also do not hold eye contact for as long as Americans do. It is either seen as aggressive or giving the wrong impression.

4. Dress: In England, it is likely that you see more people dressed up while walking around; it is common to see people in business casual most of the time. Rarely do you see a person walking around in sweats, even at the store. To enter some clubs, you will not be allowed to wear sneakers or jeans.

5. History: Both Ireland and Great Britain have a lot of history. For Americans, it is impressive to see remaining relics from years ago still in use. A lot of historical buildings in England date back well before 18th century, with some structures even rooted in the Roman Empire. America is still a fairly new country in comparison to England. To truly understand the English people, one has to learn the history.

Studying abroad for a semester is a great opportunity to broaden your horizons and cultural understanding. Growing up in the United States is a great, but with that often comes cultural isolation. Harlaxton allows Baker students to actually see and experience another part of the world rather than rely only on thoughts facts and ideas from a continent away.

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