Joshua had the sniffles and a cough so we kept him home from school yesterday. The school was oddly questioning when Jieun called in to let them know. I lated talked to a coworker (a fellow expat) and he had a curious experience – one of his kids was sick with a fever, but his wife brought both kids to school just to drop the other one off. The school insisted that the other one stay as well, despite the fever. They said they’d monitor the child every hour and administer fever reducer as necessary. Based on talking to them, it sounded as if they only wanted kids to stay home if they had a condition that involved the involuntary expulsion of bodily fluids (vomit, diarrhea).
As Americans, we thought that was nuts. That just makes everybody sick, possibly seriously so. How does that make sense? Our theory (and it’s pure speculation) is that the Ofsted reports (this is one interesting thing about the UK – every single school, public or private, gets rated by what’s called an Ofsted report, so you have some sense of how good schools are) include attendance data, so schools are incentivized to minimize absences, even when kids are sick. It’s just a guess. But regardless, a policy of insisting fevered kids go to school seems insane to me.
In general, other cultures seem crazy to me when I don’t understand the rationale behind things they do. I think in Korea, the garbage collection happens every single night (at least in the neighborhood of Seoul where we stayed, 역삼동). That sounds great but in practice, it means there’s garbage out every single day, which seems suboptimal. Here, the towel racks are all towel warmers, hung snug against the wall.
Actually, let me explain heating – most houses have a water boiler that serves as central heating. Additionally, each room has a radiator connected to it. You heat the house by turning on the central heater, and each room’s radiator has a control that lets you control the heat level. The towel racks are hooked up to that heating system. The problem is, if it’s not cold and you don’t turn on the heater (and we haven’t – so far, the whole time we’ve been here the weather’s been quite nice), the towels don’t dry on the towel racks, because they’re too small to hang towels on unfolded, and too close to the walls to get sufficient airflow. To me, makes no sense.
As in Korea, the traffic lights here turn yellow *before* turning green. Also makes no sense to me. Won’t that incentivize early starts? Isn’t that less safe? But given that this happens in two pretty different cultures, I’m thinking it’s me that’s missing something.
I also get the impression that the U.K. is pretty behind the U.S. technologically. Broadband is slower (DSL speed – you have to pay a significant premium to get the equivalent of a cable modem. The flip side is that standard broadband is pretty cheap, like £10 – £15 a month). There are far fewer HD TV channels (unless you get the most premium TV package, most cable packages include 5 HD channels) and the explanations of HD in the TV stores suggest most people aren’t super familiar with it. Also, they still play cricket and soccer here. How primitive.
Things I like better here: people always respect queues (“don’t jump the queue”), chip-and-pin credit cards, the abundance of parks and random public squares, the concept of public houses (pubs), public transport, that prices here include tax, £1 and £2 are coins, not bills, everywhere delivers (restaurants, groceries), no commercials on BBC, beans for breakfast, free museums, history.