Finding the Feeling of Home

Changing locations is never easy. Most of us have done it, and perhaps sometimes wonder how we managed the shock of it all. Time flies and life deepens and then you wonder again how it all happened.

to be a sea turtle_Nov 2017
Before coming to the United Kingdom, I always dreamed of the beautiful British scenes, opened pluralist culture, and elegant, ancient architecture. However, idealism and reality vary widely. Now, I’ve been in Britain for almost a month and there are a lot of things that are different from what I expected.

Coventry, the place where I live, is a very, very small city, probably the same as a small town in China. There are no high-rise buildings and no crowded traffic. The natural scenery here is also not particularly attractive; you only can see trees or birds. In simple terms, Coventry is a place where people do not have a desire to take pictures.

It’s also an industrial city, so it seems the special features of history are rare. Cultural attractions are limited. With a church and a statue of the monuments in downtown, there is nothing else.

More ironically, these monuments are obviously precious and valuable, but they have not been well protected. There is a bumper car playground just under the important statue. Excuse me? How can British people tolerate it? Even I, a foreigner, feel angry and believe it’s inappropriate. It could never happen in China. Could you imagine an amusement park built near the Great Wall?

How do the British make money? Do they make money? Do they know how to make money? That shopping center had so many people there and if the malls stay open longer, they could earn more money.

My school is located in the suburbs of Coventry. It’s a desolate area with almost nothing around. There is only a small shopping plaza next to the school with supermarkets, cafes and other stores.

Unfortunately, you can only buy food and basic necessities at the shopping plaza. You cannot even find a pair of slippers in the so-called “supermarket.” Here is so far from modern civilization that all the students call Coventry, “Covillage.” Interesting, huh?

Moreover, the shops close far too early. On weekdays, British shops generally close before 6 pm. And on weekends, all are closed at 4 pm. This is the first cultural shock I experienced. In China, people generally go out shopping or look for entertainment in the afternoon or evening.

The day I arrived in UK was a Sunday. That was about 5 pm and the supermarket nearby were already closed. After dark, there is never anyone on the road. It’s really frightening when I go out walking on the road alone, especially after I just arrived to this foreign country. I continued walking, following Google Maps, for more than half an hour. Finally, I found a pizza shop to eat my first dinner in the UK.

The next day, I still did not figure out the opening hours for the shopping plaza and I foolishly decided to go out and buy something at 4 pm. I even specifically prepared a solid shopping plan: half an hour to walk, an hour to shop, maybe finding something special to eat and then casually wandering home. Sounds perfect, right?

I never imagined that nearly all the shops on the way would be closed. I used my all strength and ran to the supermarket, as I realized it was also preparing to close. In the end, I only had a few minutes to buy my things. According to my first month’s observations, I found that people always buy a lot of food for the week. If they didn’t, they’d likely be hungry on a late weekend night.

One weekend, already bored of “Covillage” and missing “real” shopping centers with large windows, marble floors and LED lighting, I decided to go to Birmingham. I didn’t yet know that big cities like Birmingham also have shops closing early.

The shopping in Birmingham was indeed great and big, with plenty of guests. However, shops still closed at 5 pm. I was really surprised.

How do the British make money? Do they make money? Do they know how to make money? That shopping center had so many people there and if the malls stay open longer, they could earn more money.

In China, many shopping centers will even extend their business hours on weekends. Maybe it’s because Chinese and British have different lifestyles.

At the end of my first month, I seemed to have not started to like this place yet. Perhaps that’s because I did not find the feeling of home in this city. Each day after class, I walk a long way home through painful cold alone. When I’m back to my room, only a table, bed, chair, and solitary lamp are waiting for me. Only these and nobody else.

Besides missing my relatives and friends in China, I also need time to accept the cruel contrast between the reality and all my beautiful fantasies (Especially, the shopping mall part. I am a “city person.” It’s hard to adapt to this kind of quiet village life).

But I believe that my anxiety will soon be dissipated. Perhaps, I will gradually make new friends, will be familiar with everything here, get into the local people’s lives, and eventually find the feeling of home. I may encounter surprises, pain, tears, tenderness and meet all kinds of people. That is, probably, the so-called life.