Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Culture Shock of Traveling Abroad

Next month, I will be spending two weeks in the British Isles - as much of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland as I can fit into that time, without going too crazy. So of course, I'm due for a major culture shock. The main reasons I am traveling to that part of Europe are pretty simple:

  1. English is still the official language. I have a limited working knowledge of Spanish from my high school and college years, but nothing close to fluency. That's what happens when you don't have reason to use the language or expand the knowledge base of said language. So even if the dialects are different, I'll take that as a starting point.
  2. Lindsay and I had talked about the trip since late 2011, but even since her passing I still wanted to take this trip myself. Now I have a second purpose abroad, and that is spreading some of her ashes in the Atlantic Ocean off of the Irish coast. She loved her time in that country.
  3. There's some good frequent flyer miles to rack up, especially with the pending American Airlines merger with US Airways, the only airline I can use to fly between RDU and Philadelphia International anymore since Southwest ended the direct service between the two.
The big problem is going to be understanding the language of the locals. Knowing how I talk, I will likely have some issues with this translation. I'm so focused on things like the cars traveling on the opposite side of the highway versus the United States, and the use of the metric system (which I always preferred but never adopted myself). I know that when I went to Vancouver, Canada two summers ago, I had a moment where I was trying to approach a bus driver about a pass, and used the proper currency names. He looked real confused but was friendly and let me on for free. That's minor, but I think you know what I'm getting at.

I'm overthinking, as usual, about names like fish and chips and what the street signs will say by the time I reach Ireland. I'll be staying with my cousin outside of Birmingham for a good chunk of the trip, but otherwise I'm going the private room route for the majority of the trip (meaning many reservations via airbnb). After my first two days in London, I think I will be used to the travel schedule and will feel better about the whole trip. Maybe it will take me that brief time to understand where I am. It's something that scares me, as aspies are prone to ridiculous moments of being out of the element.

Get ready for the follow up when I make my return.


  1. I think you're over-thinking it! It's not all that different & you'll have a great time!!

  2. You'll have a blast there! Keep your eyes peeled for different interesting cultural opportunities. Definitely eat haggis while in Scotland and also try some Tandoori food out there also. If you come across people burning effigies of Margaret Thatcher join in with the fun! I know you'll have a great time.

  3. Hope you have a great time over here! Speaking as someone on the right-hand side of the pond, there are a few language differences but the people over here are pretty familiar with US English from TV and movies so you'll not have much trouble making yourself understood. Yes, there are cultural differences: you might find that Brits are less inclined than Americans to start conversations with strangers which can be a bit of a problem when you're on the spectrum and you're trying to get to know people.

    I don't know about the Irish Republic, but road signs in the UK use miles and yards. Goods are sold in metric quantities (except for beer which is sold in pints - British ones which are larger than US pints), but I know I still think in pounds and ounces, feet and inches, doing the approximate conversions in my head.