So one of the fun parts of living in another country is that you get really really used to
-asking for help
-realising you asked a really stupid question
-embarrassing yourself unknowingly
There are so many little cultural differences that it is impossible to read up on them all beforehand. The result is that you end up doing things a little bit differently than those around you. Sometimes you do things that you don’t realise are inappropriate or just plain strange to the people around you. For example:
The other day I was sitting in lecture hall with a couple classmates. I pulled out my pencil and prepared to take notes. My good friend commented:
“Susanna… why do you always use a pencil? It is kind of awkward.”
“Whaaaat?” I was confused. As per usual. Pencils are my friends, especially mechanical ones. I looked back at my friend and silently urged her to give further explanation.
She went on to explain that in the UK they are given a pen in primary school whenever their handwriting has reached a certain standard, usually around the equivalent of 4th grade. After that, they never use pencils again, they aren’t allowed.
I turned to the classmate on the other side of me.
“So you never use pencils anymore? They are for kids… like crayons?”
“Yeah, I still remember the moment I got my first pen.”She let out a reminiscent smile. Wow. Apparently it is kind of a big deal.
I casually scanned the room and realised that of the 100+ students in the lecture hall, I was literally the only one using a pencil. No wonder my seat mate was uncomfortable.
So it was that I learned that using a pen is an ashamed practice here. Do you want to know another secret? I still use pencils anyway.