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.
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.