Joshua’s Tips on Coping with Culture Shock

A Canuck and Culture Shock: 3 Things That Caught Me Off-Guard

Joshua Mak 1

When I tell people that I spent three years planning to come to the University of Leeds for an academic exchange ever since I graduated from high school, it is typically followed by one of two questions: (1) Why? and (2) What in the world were you thinking?! Yet my answer to both of them are the same – I wanted to try something new. To see new things. To live.

The moment I arrived at Manchester Airport and exited the doors I already felt that something was different. It was as if I landed in the 1960s and walked straight into the 1860s. But architecture aside, there were three things that really caught me off-guard since my time here.

  1. British English: ‘Tis but a scratch!

As a Canadian being part of the commonwealth you would think that our English would have something in common? Nope. The biggest realization for me was during a class activity worksheet. The question asked: “If the price of materials used to make trainers rises sharply, what happens to the price and the quantity sold of trainers?”. So, naturally, I wondered how in the world can materials affect personal gym trainers. Like does it matter what their clothes are made out of? And then it hit me. Sitting up, I looked at my group members, opened my mouth and asked “Wait…trainers mean shoes, right?”. Their answer was obvious.


  1. Alcohol: Even the Nights are Better

Being a canuck that was born and raised in the frozen tundra of a country that is Canada, we can only buy booze from specific stores which are regulated by the government. In England it’s quite the opposite. In fact, I am convinced it’s actually harder to find a grocery store that doesn’t sell alcohol in this country. But when the sun goes down, that’s when the Brits come out. Casually sitting in a McDonald’s enjoying a McFlurry, all I saw rather, was a flurry of drunk individuals whose ages ranged from 18 to people as old as (if not older) than my mom. It was all an interesting sight and night to say the least.

  1. Driving: Too Fast. Too Furious.

Aside from driving on the wrong side of the road (I’m kidding), the amount of close encounters I’ve had are too many to count. Cars here stop for no one. No. One. In the Great White North, pedestrians legally have the right of way in which drivers must stop and allow people to cross the street before proceeding. The crossing should have been a simple one. A small road that connected to a major road; all I wanted to do was to cross and continue my journey in peace. The car coming to merge into the major road thought otherwise and had a different idea. As I stepped forward thinking they would stop, the driver instead stepped on the gas. Luckily my friend pulled me back and one loud honk later I was back on the sidewalk. Ugh.

Though there is still much for me to learn while I’m in England, such as why individual hot and cold water taps still exist, my time here has been an amazing one. As I continue my studies at the University of Leeds, I look forward to what else is still in store for my adventure that’s called life.

by Joshua Mak – University of Waterloo – Canada


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