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The Journey to and Impressions of Durham, UK

Good news! We’re not only alive, but we’re also thriving!

After a very stressful trip over to the UK that required using the travel contingency plan, the entire group made it over the pond. In the first few hours of being in Durham, UK, everything seemed to be a dream, and it wasn’t just because I was severely jet lagged. I was in absolute awe of everything I saw: cobblestone streets, adorable little shops, the looming Durham Castle and the Cathedral, and of course, our rooms that have their own sink (and now full bathroom because we moved dorms!). The streets of Durham bear a striking resemblance to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me because some scenes of the Harry Potter series was, in fact, filmed here. But it did.) After taking it all in for a few days, I am pretty sure I would love to live in the UK for a few years during some point in my lifetime. I am seriously considering to study abroad somewhere in the UK.

my friend
My friend Rebecca in Durham

Interesting Comparisons 

Comparing different things and aspects about our culture in the US that we don’t necessarily think would be different in other parts of the world is such a fascinating process and now we do it all the time. For example, seeing cars drive on the left side of the road and seeing the driver’s side of the vehicle on the right instead of the left threw some of us for a loop when we first got to the UK. The streets and sidewalks are both cobblestone in some areas and the sidewalks are not clearly raised surfaces relative to the road so the cars are sometimes driving a mere few inches away from you. The drivers also do not stop or slow down for pedestrians here (at least the ones we have encountered) and we’ve had some close calls in learning that. The stoplights are also not dangled above the streets like they are in America. They’re located to the left and right sides of the road so sometimes when we don’t see that there’s a stoplight nearby, we get confused as to why a car has seemingly just stopped in the middle of the road for no reason.

Street at night
town square
The town square

We’ve also been surprised by the fact that every shop in the UK will check your credit/debit card for a signature if you use it to make a purchase. Many of us were taken aback because in the US, shops don’t ask to see your signature, and many of us didn’t have our card(s) signed. Additionally, at the bottom of receipts when we eat out, they don’t include a space for adding a tip when you go to sign the receipt. We also weren’t sure if leaving a tip was rude because we knew that in some countries, leaving a tip is uncommon and a rude gesture. Though we knew that we could always leave cash as a tip, we asked a waiter how to include a tip through our card because many of us didn’t have pounds on us and felt strange not leaving a tip.

a menu
A menu from a restaurant in Durham

These are just a few comparisons that we’ve made so far about local Durham culture in the UK vs Durham, NC. We are eager to keep exploring the city and discover more ways in which the cultures differ!