An American’s London

By Brendan Manning

As an American I love the Obamas, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and country western boots. Before arriving in London last week by myself from America, I had never even left the country. 

I couldn’t wait to spend six weeks living in London, taking classes and becoming enmeshed in this cosmopolitan city. I’ve always loved high tea, grey skies, and Harry Styles so I thought I’d fit right in. 

My experience in London has been nothing short of smashing. The most surprising part of my experience so far has been getting to share it with my fellow American classmates.

None of us knew each other before we came here; most of us are the only ones from our universities attending the program. In the states, we probably would not be friends, but given the circumstances everything is hunky-dory. 

We are all so different, yet we work so well together. All of our personalities and interests should have clashed but instead we became a team. 

This is only fitting as London is a multicultural city. One third of the population was born abroad, and over 200 languages are spoken here. Like most immigrant populations within the city, my American classmates and I were all thrown together and forced to cooperate—creating our own community and bonding by virtue of being outsiders. 

On our first days, we could not have stood out more even if we tried, especially those of us from New York who talk very loudly. Boisterous was the defining word when we all clamoured onto the Tube wearing fanny packs. I can understand why nobody would want to talk to us. 

We’re still getting used to entering clubs without needing to show ID, looking the opposite way before crossing a street, and seeing every channel on the television report on the Queen (as opposed to the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial, which is the only thing currently holding our attention in the United States, besides near weekly reports on gun violence and mass shootings). 

One week in, I have mastered the art of underground transportation and dressing like other Londoners. In my mind, I’m fitting in, but everyone still avoids making eye contact with me on the train. It’s not that I expect others to invite me to their barbecues, but for a big city, London can feel very lonely. Maybe that’s why we cling more to those who share our common background.

Like any great city that is always changing, the people change with it. We, my group of American classmates, are evolving too. While some members of my program have done nothing but drink since we arrived Thursday afternoon, the rest of us have seen and done so much already. We’re adjusting to living in this new land. I couldn’t be more excited to spend this summer in London, and the best part is they don’t have guns!