Subway Part II: English Lesson 1

Subway in England comforted me. During my first Oxford adventure–studying abroad for a semester in 2006–my friends and I once walked 45 minutes just to eat there and feel like we were at home.

Stolen from Katie Thompson's facebook album, this captures our discovering Subway in London for the first time in fall 2006. Yes, that's me in the back actually kissing my Subway cup.

Oxford has other American chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and Burger King, but since I never go to those fast food places in the States, I didn’t get excited to see them overseas. In fact, it made my heart sink a little. Subway on the other hand was a relief to have in Oxford, or so I thought. It is my go-to fast food place. I can get something healthy, fast, that tastes good. What’s not to love? Apparently a lot.

In Oxford Subway stays open late. I mean like 2am late (or at least midnightish). This is strange since in the States it’s more a lunch place, maybe early dinner. But there, it’s a place you go for your “late night,” when you’ve been out and you’re starving and nothing else is open. That’s the only time I actually saw people at Subway in Oxford anyway. Because no self-respecting person wants to be seen there during daylight hours.

Why not? I asked this question many a time while living there. I should have been individualistic, gone against the grain and visited Subway as much as I pleased, but I was afraid after a native friend explained to me that “no one really goes to Subway. It’s a little, well…” and then I can’t remember what he/she said, but I do remember I got the hint it was slightly socially unacceptable.

The reasoning behind this social taboo illuminates a few characteristics of English culture: choosing quality of quantity, not prioritizing convenience, a distinct and in-depth social class system. These are my own personally drawn conclusions. Feel free to disagree. I’d love to discuss.

I am no expert in English culture. All I can do is share a few observations from my point of view as an American stumbling around the cobblestone streets of Oxford town. And let me tell you, this made for some interesting, and by that I mean embarrassing, cultural experiences.

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9 thoughts on “Subway Part II: English Lesson 1

  1. We completely understand. Subways are a taste that you long for, comfort for a home-sick soul, strength to stay abroad- some may say I am exaggerating. But it’s that little taste of home that lifts the spirit. And that little lift is worth every bite. That bright yellow sign lit up our darkened Aberdeen, and when we heard the one in the Singapore airport closed we mourned, only to rejoice again when it reopened closer to our normal gate!!! Ahhh, you have given me a longing….and now I am hungry.
    Andrea, why aren’t we in Paris???

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  2. So glad you’re blogging again!

    I’ve never been to Subway. Not sure why people don’t go there… I’ll have to try it and report back.

    Still remember our biscuit / scones / cookie conversation. And ‘taking’ / ‘having’ showers etc. Have you asked your US friends if they are ‘alright’ recently?

    Keep up the brilliant blogging!

    Ben

    P.S Hope your fringe is neat and tidy

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  3. I’ve never been that far from the good old USA but when I am on the road I look for Cracker Barrel. 😉

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  4. Andrea, I know exactly how you feel. Recently, I visited Singapore American School and discovered that they have a Subway in their school cafeteria. Whilst I stood there gawking over the amazement of this delicious restaurant being located in the school, I was told no one eats there. I could not fathom why such a why precious opportunity would go to waste. I often find myself craving for Subway, and looking forward to our flights to Singapore so my mouth can be reminded of how delicious that 6″ Tuna Sub on oat bread truly is.

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  5. oh my gosh! i remember one day we were in “downtown” Stirling when I lived in Scotland – had been there for about 4 months and suddenly could not keep myself from walking into the Golden Arches. I didn’t care that it wasn’t healthy (clearly since I gained about um 15 lbs while there) – I just wanted American.

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  6. I spent six months in England when I was 24, so I’m really enjoying your blog. I’d like to point out that Pizza Hut in the UK is pretty darn good. I never eat at the US ones, but the UK restaurants are decent, or at least they were a few years back!

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