My expectations for London were that it was going to be a very traditional and conservative city. Although it is a metropolitan that invites people worldwide to explore itself, media always portrayed English culture in a very stiff manner. Perhaps it’s exclusive to the city, but I was surprised to find large adds in subways about menstruation and sex. I don’t really see anything in Boston or in American, for that matter, quite like it. It was also a shock to see that as soon as I leave the station that I can find churches situated on every corner. In my experience, these “taboo” topics and religion were not openly discussed, let alone publicly coexisting. These topics were handled in very separate spaces. London truly humbled me in breaking down these expectations and it made my experience more enlightening. My understanding of “Englishness” has also broadened and allowed me to see the culture and Shakespeare with a new perspective.
During this trip, part of me felt like I was not meant for the experience. To add context, I didn’t know too much about Shakespeare, besides the fact that schools across America love to assign their students these old pages of literature. I never understood how culturally relevant Shakespeare is to today, or why some of the other students gushed as we roamed the streets of Stratford. However, as we continued to explore London and attend the shows, I was able to feel first-hand why Shakespearean plays are so enriching. People take his plays and make multiple variations and it seems to become a whole new story. Theatres and actors question subjects such as social norms and race, adding more and more depth to the experience and storyline. These plays remain relatable and meaningful to all audiences, despite the new themes they take on. Although this trip was not an opportunity for me to indulge in something I’m interested in, it gave me something new I can be interested in.