Today I perused through some other Kingston University student blogs to try to get some inspiration for something to write about. What I found was mostly a lot of long drawn out diary entries detailing every moment of the students life. I was not even able to get through the first paragraph before I got bored and gave up. My life is surely not exciting enough to have someone read five paragraphs detailing my day. Hopefully my blogs aren’t that terribly boring although I’m sure they have some moments.
Anyway this week I played in my first polo match, or chukka. Polo is probably the most challenging sport that I have ever played or even spectated. The game is so incredibly intense it combines riding skill, balance, coordination, and gives hockey a run for its money for physical aggression. Like in hockey, if the opponent has the ball you ride up to them and literally check them with your horse. You can also ride up and hook someone else’s mallet when they are trying to hit the ball. However, it is also a game of etiquette and there are strict rules that need to be followed to try to avoid horses colliding. My first game I fouled a lot and I got scolded for riding dangerously. A little embarrassing but I guess I just got carried away in the excitement of it all.
Speaking of embarrassing I was telling my mom the other day how I feel like the poor kid of the polo world. Saturday morning, while everyone else was driving their BMW’s up to the polo arena, I was taking two trains, the London underground, a bus, and a two mile walk to get to the arena. I can’t even describe how intimidating it is walking up the drive to the arena with my backpack on and an old helmet in hand. On the walk home one of the professional players was driving by and stopped to give me a ride. This gave me a chance to further embarrass myself by asking a round of what I thought were seemingly innocent questions. When I asked Henry, one of the ascot professionals, how old he was he responded by saying, “that is a very personal question.” Alright, not too bad, but then after Tarquin, another professional, was talking about his house nearby and I asked him if he lived alone, the outraged look on his face gave me the hint that this was not at all an appropriate question.
This got me thinking about the difference between British and American culture. Is this rigidness a product of the silver-spooned polo type or just a typical British politeness? The more I thought about it I came to the conclusion that it is more of a British politeness. It makes me wonder, why is it not acceptable to ask a person their age or if they live alone, when these same people are kissing complete strangers on the cheek as a greeting. Also as far as bartending and customer service go, some British people seem almost embarrassed for me if I am overly nice and welcoming. A typical British bartender will ask you what you want to drink, give it to you, and that is that. I think I much prefer American standards of service that include some witty banter, good conversation, and the server being a part of the dining or bar experience. Many of the people that I have met complain about Americans being too friendly and say they hate the ‘fake aspect’ of American customer service. I for one would much prefer someone to be friendly and outgoing towards me, and I miss the friendliness of the States.
In other news, this week I have finally gone to see Buckingham palace! It was great fun, one of the best times I have had out in Central London. I spent a lot of time after in St. James’ Park and I have learned that I am officially a squirrel whisperer. I had no less than ten squirrels that day climb up my leg and onto my chest to eat food out of my hand. After the park, my tour guide and I went to a fancy cocktail bar called Cactus Blue which apparently is host to many celebrities including various football players, and Laurence Fishburne who was apparently filming across the street recently.
I would like to also mention that my study abroad experience is amazing and I am having a great time.