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All About Exeter - Student Ambassador Blog

We're delighted to share with you a blog from Cindy, our Exeter Student Ambassador, who's been living and working in Exeter for the last thirteen weeks. I'm sure you'll agree it's a hilarious account of British culture...

A humorous take on my thirteen weeks in Exeter with all its quirks, highlights, and mishaps. Excuse any overt straightforwardness and repressed anger – I am German and still traumatised by the World Cup loss. Anyway. I will compensate for the lack of British politeness and proper grammar by being hysterical (not the Freudian way). Grab an unhealthy snack, your cup of scalding tea, and laugh along.

Public Transport

The buses are almost always crowded… except when you take the Pennsylvania aka P line which seems to lead right into the Devonian outback. The drivers are either polite or stern and nothing in between, really. Oh, the things they’ve seen. I know most of them by first name now. As a rule of thumb, at least three people on the bus have a cold. Everybody sneezes into their palms. In my country, that is considered a capital offence punishable by law. Just kidding, but I did start wearing medical gloves in public.

Stops are not announced – one might get lost for one hour straight in Pinhoe waiting for the bus to come anywhere near High Street. ‘One’ being me. I’m hopeless. And the trains. Of course. Lo and behold, GWR, beloved Great Western Railway. Take a train to the nearby town with 10,000 souls and you will feel like being in a vintage carriage that’s falling apart any moment. Go to London and the sound-proof, glossy setup is sure to stun at an immense speed. I swear I saw some people’s wigs flying off when we passed Torquay. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, what can I say.

Shopping

Princesshay or Guildhall, that is indeed the question. Why not both says the smart Exonian or tourist, and tries to keep his or her wallet in check. Antiques are hard to find but worth the search, while charity shops are rampant. My too-short trousers are in good hands by now, donating is quite a feat for us towering Germans. The strangest item that I have purchased in Exeter was a box of edible flowers from an organic store. As you can tell by the fact that this was published: I did not poison myself eating them. Going past Boots, Debenhams, Lush, and John Lewis on the other hand meant suffocating in expensive Designer fumes so I got myself a face mask on top of the medical gloves. Handy!

Politics

Opening Pandora’s box there, am I? Well, I simply document what I see. The Brexonians are all up in arms on the High Street, so are the Anti-Trump demonstration attendees who sadly did not have a blimp like the people in London had. Exeter feels so political sometimes, I confused a gargantuan queue in front of Build-A-Bear (summoned by a “Pay Your Age” Day gone wrong) for a protest of parents demanding rights. It was the only logical conclusion, they were blocking the road looking all mad! “We claim a high-quality bear for 50p, our son is 6 months old!” I for myself would stick to celebrating and marching at Exeter Pride in May with what seemed to be the entirety of Devon’s population, had a fabulous time, even saw some jolly Roman soldiers clad in rainbow flags. The police – I repeat, the police – was jamming out to “I Will Survive” and Cher blasting from a Drag Queen’s jukebox. Stop queuing for 50p bears, Exeter. You get love and fun for free at Pride. And a cute sticker. I still have mine.

Food and Drink

I’ve been food-shamed for siding with the Queen on the cream tea issue. Yes, the jam on top looks very pretty, but clearly it tastes better the other way around especially when Her Majesty (!) says so. So here I am confessing the sin of eating scones… buns… splits… whatever, the Cornish way – in Devon. The cream just has to go on top. This is my holy law. I’m very sorry. The real question is, why hasn’t anybody started a bogus Civil War on such a pressing matter? Would be fun to watch. Especially because of the mantra slash holy trinity as I call it: “Please, could you kindly put the bloody cream below the jam like we do, thank you and sorry darling!”

Pub culture is slowly dying because of the recession – restaurants are on the rise. Or cafés, depending on what one tends to fancy. The ubiquitous cream tea has yet to falter and continues to prevail at every corner. Beware of smokers though. After the Cholera and Black Death, this is the modern epidemic in Exeter. Fiercely protect your cream tea simply by taking it inside where it’s safe. With the added bonus of not having to fight the vicious Exonian breeze that can disturb even the sunniest day if you don’t wear three layers of clothing.

Sightseeing

The Red Coat Tours are free and informative but you have to find the Tourist Information Centre/TIC first. You’re almost always dealing with an enthusiastic volunteer who will explain to you why the Tudors hated colour on religious statues or the Royal Clarence Hotel looks like the Blitz just ended yesterday. Well, it was just an accidental fire, they’re rebuilding, it’s all fine. I have also seen the narrowest street in the world (almost got stuck in there), the Underground Passages (almost got stuck in there), the tiger in the museum (almost got eaten), and the beautiful Quay (no hazards worth mentioning).

As a general history lesson, it appears to me that religious people have been ironically murderous and naughty in Exeter’s past to say the least, while the city was unexpectedly smelly and once swamped with corpses. Well, ew. The more you know. Apparently, the Roman thermal baths were quite nice. We still need funding to dig them up but that would ruin Cathedral Green more than it already is. Cruel July has been tough on the soft and dewy English lawn. I can’t believe I’m saying this: Britain, where’s the rain?

The People… and Football

The happiest: Toddlers exe-ploring the city, falling over again and again, and still thinking they are just having a good time out there. An enviable mindset. The loveliest: A homeless woman who kissed me three times in a row after I gave her money to spend the night. The weirdest: Notorious me, sitting in an English pub wrapped into a flag to watch Germany play against South Korea and losing two nil. To be perfectly honest with you, I did have a great time observing England advance to the semi-finals instead. Not that I’m a traitor (by all means!) but it was interesting to see the cup-deprived nation and Three Lions enjoying themselves for the first time since 1966. All while roasting in the endless heat! Truly an unusual football summer. My colleagues at the museum, Exeter City Council, and fellow TTPL students, were cheery all day. Bless them.

The Language

From the unintelligible slang and slurs at the bar to the ‘lovely-brilliant-amazing-fantastic-posh-sensible’ type of praises, I’ve probably heard it all. As a cherry on top, it seems to me that the only verb English people ever use is pop. Pop it here, pop it there, pop it everywhere. Pop down, pop up, pop off, pop in, pop on, pop into, pop out, pop over, pop across, pop, pop, pop your entire life. It’s impressive. It’s not even an irregular verb. I still don’t know what it really means.

Either way – it’s been a blast, really. A lot of experience. And another heartbreak departing at Heathrow. Hope you enjoyed your tea and reading this, everyone. Don’t forget to take care of your lawn until I return to gorgeous, glorious Devon. Thank you TTPL, RAMM, GWR, ECC, TIC, BBC, and bus line P!