Coming to the UK there were many cultural differences I knew I would have to be prepared for and even more differences that caught me completely off guard. One of these cultural differences is time. Not just the telling of time and the time difference, but the times and hours that things are open.
I may not have helped myself with the whole time adjustment thing since my computer was on Indiana time for the first week and my £2 clock has been telling me it’s seven o’clock for the past three weeks. However it was not the jetlag that was the real issue. It was that here, things actually close early on the weekends. Now by “early” I don’t mean they close at 8:30 instead of 10. I mean that many places are closed and locked up by 5 (if they were even open on Sunday to begin with). The shops in town really won’t be an issue as long as you plan ahead. The real issue is the catering. I’m making an assumption here in that if you are studying abroad here at Reading, you have made things simple on yourself and gotten your meals included (A Catered Package, as they call it). That being said, the dining halls at Reading have some odd hours. Of course going from 24 hour service to any sort of set schedule would be odd hours. As such, chances are that you will be consuming most of your meals at Park.
Now no worries, park has breakfast every day of the week. I am now obsessed with beans on toast… but am still a bit hesitant about the mushrooms. Word of warning though: although Park does have breakfast every day, it is only between the hours of 8:00am-11:00am. Between 11:00 and 12:00 they are preparing for lunch. You can get some grab and go stuff, but that can only tide you over for so long. So, if you want a full breakfast get there between 8:00 and 11:00!
Lunch starts at noon and goes until about 2:30 (this is an educated guess I have yet to stalk the staff around this time so I don’t know for sure when they stop serving). Although the times are less strict for lunch, it is only served Monday-Friday. However on Sundays they do provide Sunday Roast from 12:00-3:00 which is delicious! If you miss the lunch hours or it’s a Saturday, don’t fret! You have the grab and go option or you could go into town, take away, or take advantage of your half kitchen.
Dinner is similar to lunch in that the times aren’t that strict. The safest time to grab dinner in order to guarantee real food would be between 5pm-7pm. Dinner is served Sunday-Friday. Although there is no food later in the night or Saturday nights, Park does have a “Burger Bar” open every single night. It’s pretty much a feast of all things deep fried. But, food is food and the onion rings are amazing.
It’s all a bit confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. There will be disappointment the first few times you forget the schedule, maybe a bit of panic, and definitely a lot of shame when you realize just exactly how much deep fried you consumed from the Burger Bar. But, that first time you have mastered the schedule you’ll feel an odd sense of pride and your growling tummy will be satisfied. Definitely a “one small step” kind of moment that only your fellow Study Abroad students will understand.