Friday, September 14, 2012

Matchup: Edinburgh vs. Boston

Granted, 10 days in any country probably isn't enough time to develop a thorough understanding. Yet, with the novelty of British phrases and coinage still fresh in my mind, I find it appropriate, here, to examine a few key differences between life on campus in Boston, Massachusetts and Edinburgh, Scotland. It's time for a good ol' fashioned show-down: Edinburgh vs. Boston.

My new home in Edinburgh
For Americans traveling abroad, foreign exchange rates and bank transaction fees are a wee pain in the arse. Take $100 out of your American bank account, and you can expect to pay roughly 3% in foreign transaction costs. Then, your $97 gets run through the exchange-rate machine, and drops out in the form of £59.71. This is clearly a downside for the Scottish "capital."

This is £8; no small sum for a stack of coins!
On the other hand, you have to appreciate the physical currency you're dealing with in Scotland. Each printed bill is produced by a bank, making the £5 note different depending on whether it came from the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland or Clydesdale Bank. Then you have the system itself, which breaks down the pounds into 2-pound coins, 1-pound coins, 50-pence, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p. It's certainly a lot heavier to carry around (you can easily accumulate £10 in change), but slamming down a handful of gold coins as payment is quite worth the inconvenience.

At the end of the day, the U.S. has to win the currency battle, at least for an American citizen. The heavy fees, and heavy coinage, is simply too much. So, while I'll enjoy the new images and designs while I'm here, I'll be looking forward to good old American dollars in the future.

Winner: Boston

It's certainly difficult not being on the same time zone as everyone back home, but overall, Edinburgh has some impressive features in the communication department. Giving up the U.S. smartphone wasn't an issue for me (as I don't have one), and the millennium-style bricks the Americans are running around with do the job just fine, despite us all having the re-learn T9.

That's not a U.K. keyboard. It's just a keyboard.
The real benefit comes with the phone plan. Finally, I've found a country where you don't get charged for incoming texts and calls. It makes sense, doesn't it? You didn't ask for the text. Why pay for it? Well, in Edinburgh, we don't. That helps cut phone bills in half. Couple that with a £10/month unlimited texting plan from Orange, and I'm more than happy with the cellular services available.

For everything else, there's plenty of university WiFi. I'm willing to overlook the keyboards here, which swap the @ and " symbols (making email addresses near-impossible to type) because they include both the £ and $. And the five-hour time change to the states can even come as an advantage; I can Blog late into the evening and post it long before anyone heads to bed across the pond.

Winner: Edinburgh

Hardly anything can beat the Boston T, and Edinburgh doesn't even attempt the feat. There are no subways here. It's a city, which puts mostly everything within walking distance, and buses take care of the rest. At this point, we're looking at some kind of transportational tie... That is, until we note the street signs.

See that wee text up there? That's the "street" sign.
Or building signs, as the Europeans should be calling them. There are no street signs. No little names on poles. Just plaques attached to buildings near the intersections. It's hard enough remembering where to look as a pedestrian; I cannot imagine what that does to drivers.

Which brings us to driving. On the left side of the road. There's no question here; the American way is infinitely superior. After all, everyone says Americans drive on the "right" side, no?

The only particularly redeeming factor is the incredible crosswalk system throughout Edinburgh. Simply press a button, and you will told to kindly wait... because the lights will change to give pedestrians a green light - complete with a chirping signal indicating it's safe to walk. It's much better than anything I've seen in the states. But it still doesn't make up for the rest.

Winner: Boston

From the heights of Arthur's Seat
Sunrise over Boston from the Tisch library roof is pretty sweet, but that's about the height of Boston's scenic charm. Assuming that fall (autumn) is as colorful here as it is there, Edinburgh has a few extra things going for it.

From the Edinburgh Castle, visible from many points in the city, the the gorgeous Arthur's Seat (climbed yesterday!), to the incredible architecture of buildings "older than your country," (as one of my flatmates pointed out), there isn't much of a contest here.

Winner: Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh campus
Edinburgh's beauty, however, comes at a hefty price. As previously mentioned, it's quite cold here, and the on-and-off rain is something of a bother.

Compared to the warm Septembers of the North East (Summer ends on September 21st, remember), it's a bit too chilly among the British Isles.

Winner: Boston

Each city has its merits. Both are full of history, be it medieval or colonial. Both are full of delicious foods, be it Pizza Days or fish and chips. At the end of the day, it's impossible to pick a winner. I think I'll have to split the year, spending a semester in each.

I suppose I have to get one of these while I'm here?

Learn British: Tea. Yes, it's that British version of coffee with less beans and more water, but did you know that tea is also used to refer to meals? Most commonly, the locals use "tea" to mean "supper" or "dinner." As in, "Have you had tea yet? I'm starving," or, "Shall we head to Tesco and get something for tea tonight?"

1 comment:

  1. The Edinburgh bus system is awesome. It was definitely my best friend travelling the city with a still-sore hip... I got a one-month bus pass when I was there, which was DEFINITELY worth it. AND you can get a student price because you are actually a student there!


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