I’m going to try to write this list in order, as I feel surprise is a concept that grows as it evolves. I also would like to point out how I was (stupidly) continually surprised at the same things, over and over again. You’d think I would learn. But alas, I did not.
I was surprised by how…
1. hectic Victoria station was.
2. difficult it was to find our way from Victoria station to easyHotel Victoria. It was less than six blocks away, but we could not even figure out which direction to walk.
3. much I enjoyed Westminster Abbey, even though I’d not slept in over 30 hours.
4. improved my attitude was after taking a cab to a nicer, bigger hotel on our second day in London.
5. big London really is. Those guide book maps make everything seem really close. It is not.
6. many people could not answer us when we asked them for directions–it seems no one knows where they are in London, or how to get anywhere else. We were actually asked by someone else how to get somewhere, and of course we couldn’t answer him, either!
7. inefficient the London tube system is. How can whole lines close on weekends? What do people DO?
8. expensive cabs are in London. I guess that’s what ‘people do’–but holy crap, we spent more on transport than we did on food!
9. annoyed I was to always have to have change for the restrooms. I was prepared for this, as in ‘I knew I’d have to do it’, but not prepared for how difficult it would be to make sure I’d always have the proper change.
10. awful it was stepping off of the Eurostar into a country where I didn’t speak the language.
11. people just stood in line for a metro ticket machine, even though the line stretched up the stairs, which were far beyond the actual machine.
12. the machine could just be broken, and no one fixed it or stepped in to help.
13. long the line was for the taxi, and that this, too, was somehow ‘ok’. ‘Ok’ to me is implied, again, by the fact that no one tried to remedy the situation.
14. much I liked our apartment in Paris. I thought it would be small and dirty–it was large and clean.
15. many people–er, tourists–were in Paris, particularly at places like Notre Dame.
16. again, things can just be broken. Like restrooms. At crowded tourist attractions. Like Notre Dame. And Sacre Coeur. Imagine going to Disney World and the Disney people saying ‘sorry–toilets are out of order. Enjoy your day!’ Right.
17. how bad Paris smelled. See above surprise about toilets. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise.
18. very true the statement ‘wherever you go, there you are’ is. I thought planning this and looking forward to it for months would mean that I’d have a fresh, accepting attitude towards everything. I did not.
19. bad the food was in France. I have never been so hungry for so long.
20. very much my husband must love me. Because at no point did he learn the French word for ‘divorce lawyer’.
Looking over those items, it seems I was experiencing ‘culture shock’. But here’s another surprise for me–I didn’t think I’d be culturally shocked. I honestly did not. I assumed people who experience culture shock are shocked by things that others do, but that do not affect the shock-ee, like how I felt about dogs in grocery stores (read: ‘oh, isn’t that quaint and different!’). I was annoyed by things that AFFECTED ME–like broken machines, nauseating stench, and mind-blowingly long lines. I didn’t think the ‘culture’ would affect me. Well…surprise, surprise!