The US is big. It’s huge. Both in size and population. I realize now that I didn’t know what I thought of the UK before. It’s not small. But it’s not big either. At times I’m struck by both.

For example, its population is just 1/5 that of the US. It’s closer in population size to California or Korea. And although I always knew that its significantly smaller, it’s still striking to me in weird ways. Like, the news covers way more “small” and “human interest” stories, I’m guessing because there’s simply not as much national news to cover as in the US. In the States, the local papers cover national news, then local news, with just a smattering of stuff from elsewhere. Here, I frequently see stories that feel like local news that aren’t actually local. It feels weird.

Also, the numbers are smaller. UK is currently going through a double-dip recession and there are frequently articles about job losses. The thing is, these numbers don’t feel bad to me because I’ve apparently subconsciously internalized the scale of the US, and these numbers are just 1/5 of that. This week I was reading an article that was breathlessly discussing the breadth of job losses and when it got to the actual number (that I can’t remember) I literally laughed out loud. And then I wondered why I was laughing. It’s weird – when you read a lot, I guess you just internalize things like that, like what values of certain numbers are significant, without even thinking about it. But yeah, in a smaller country, smaller numbers are a big deal.

But it’s not a small country either. What I realized most is that my only real frame of reference for a foreign country is Korea. And there, virtually everyone comes from Seoul, or at least it feels that way. I realize now that I subconsciously thought of the UK in the same way, that since it’s like Korea in that it has a single dominant city, that everyone here would be from London. But that’s not true at all. Hardly anyone at the office was actually raised in London, they’re from all over. I was surprised by that.

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