It has been completely refreshing getting to mix with the local Northern Irish at the Christian Union activities on campus. No way would I have said a week ago when I arrived that I would come to be this comfortable here; but, alas, here I am, saying exactly that! The people in CU are so "keen" to get to know me - not just to have a listen to my accent, but to understand how the culture here differs from mine at home. In numerous ways this has been a stress-reliever for me, as well as the best way I know I may learn to lead a life that is not hindered from only knowing the American way. By finally having something utterly foreign to compare to my life in Missouri, I'm finding it easier to spot the things that are more efficient and healthy between the two ways. Because I have a few specific topics of conversation in mind from chats with several locals of Northern Ireland in the CU, I will list what I found to be either healthier or more efficiently done here as opposed to America:
- LONG conversations that usually center on (quite generally speaking) the basis of differences in observations. It is very seldom that I hear small talk before a long exchange. (This may be due to the fact that the weather is often windy, freezing, and rainy, being on the northern coast of the island, and so the Northern Irish may have given up at this point on the pretense of setting up good spirits with small talk about the weather).
- Tea/coffee time before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I know how important it is to have a drink before eating a big meal, but often in the U.S. we are accustomed to plunging into our large portions with little or nothing to drink beforehand. I've learned very quickly here that allotting myself to enjoy a "wee" bit of coffee or tea time before eating not only fills me up a bit, but also largely helps regulate my digestion.
- A bit of sweets whenever the hell they feel like it. When they have their wee bit of chocolate whenever they feel like it, they're much less likely to binge and make a whole meal out of it as we would after a "shoddy" diet.
- Carpooling to events is commonplace. Not only is it the thing to do, but students my age here in NI do not mind - nor do they complain or ask for recompense - to pile in anyone in need of a "lift" to wherever they need to go. (And trust me, I know students my age at home, and they would never give in to carpooling every day with friends - much less strangers - without some sort of payback).
- Albeit sometimes inconvenient, this year in April the U.K. mandated that supermarkets not provide patrons with the free plastic bags of which we are so familiar in American shopping. Here, you must pay at cheapest 5p for individual plastic bags, or bring from your home your own reusable bags. (Just thinking of all the eternal waste prevented so far makes me so happy!)
- Drying racks and clothing lines; I've seen both these methods of drying around the campus and what I've seen from the buses and trains since I've arrived here. They both work, they save money, energy, and they make the clothes smell fresher than they would have from a dryer. (Also, clothing lines are adorable.)
Get with the program, America!
Hopefully tomorrow, with more sleep and when it is not 2:40 am, I will be able to give some credit to America for a few things done healthier or more efficiently.