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Country visit results in different view of British

Ruchi Asher

Issue date: 10/17/08 Section: Opinion
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I always thought I would be a city person. The constant action, the fast-paced lifestyle, the days that fly into minutes, and the perpetual feeling of having to be somewhere at a certain time have always seemed alluring. However, after two weeks of spending long hours in the city only to face a long commute on a Worcestershire sauce-stained bus seat, a little escape was most welcome.

In the village of Chertsey, outside the town of Woking, I found refuge from London in the home of an elderly teacher willing to host American students for the weekend. The area was beautiful: full of gnarled trees, rolling hills, and rose bushes at every turn, the landscape appeared to have come to life straight from a J.R.R. Tolkien epic. Located in Surrey, the home county of Ron Weasley of Harry Potter fame, Chertsey was a quintessentially "English" town. We ate toast and marmalade for breakfast and drank breakfast tea. Steak-and-ale pie with brown mystery sauce added a rather bland, but delicious finishing touch to our dinner for the evening. We drove around "roundabouts" and lived in a cottage. We awoke in the mornings to the sound of "those daft birds!" and said goodbye with hearty "cheers!"

It was quite the experience: I never realized what British people really thought about us Americans. In a town that is most famous for inspiring author H.G. Wells to write about an alien invasion in his famous novel War of the Worlds, very few people regularly spend much time with outsiders. In fact, my first evening was marked by the slightly terrifying sight of three little boys standing outside the living room window, waving at the American girls as though we were dolls.

Probably the most bizarre parts of living in a British household were the ordinary things that I take for granted, by which I mean reality television. Apparently, Saturday nights not spent out in London are devoted to watching The X Factor, a show that takes after American Idol (complete with Simon Cowell and his cutting criticism) but has a deeper cult following. Even I was completely on edge at the emotional results show when, to our horror, two groups were set against each other in a sing-off! In the war between Girlband and The Bad Lashes, the United Kingdom decided to put an end to The Bad Lashes' musical career.
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