Being a Vulnerable Consumer
On the day of takeoff, I sat in Virgin Atlantic waiting area of the JFK airport, casually but strategically scrolling through my phone so it looked like I was very preoccupied. Actually I was curiously listening to all the conversations around me. Through the low murmurs I heard quite distinctly, British accents of two brothers ringing through the air. At that moment, it suddenly hit me that I was actually leaving America.
The transition from the US to the UK has been a path to unravel of all the standards, customs, and habits that I’ve built up consciously and unconsciously over the past 20 years of my life. My assumptions have become these hovering suspensions, wavering, and unsure whether they still hold true in a foreign country. Granted, the Scotland is not radically different from the US, but perhaps it is that similarity that makes the subtle differences more deceiving.
I think this is best exemplified in my experience as a consumer during my first few days in Edinburgh for the IFSA-Butler orientation. I weaved through the market streets of touristy Edinburgh with a wallet full of Scottish pounds. The foreign money in my wallet did not hold the same value as US dollars. A $20 bill in my mind is laden with a context of what I could buy and how many hours of labor it equates to. But this unfamiliar currency felt inconsequential, I didn’t know what a £20 note could buy, and how hard I’d have to work for it. It was just a colorful piece of paper that I can exchange for things in the shops of Edinburgh. And with all the colorful shops, and new foods to try, quite a bit of exchanging occurred.
It’s been a few weeks since my first purchases now. And it hasn’t been all bad — I’m finally getting sense of the standards (yes, everything is more expensive) by making mistakes, doing online research, and asking those who know more about the UK than me.