I’m on a new continent, in a new country, with supposedly the same language and very different weather. Now that I’ve been here for one whole week, and much of the crazed rushing around has passed, I’ve begun to think about how I can create a routine for myself that is healthy and fulfilling.
The challenges before me are more plentiful than I could have forseen…I have to try to rebuild for myself the healthy lifestyle I had in New York, but with a whole different set of resources.. Suddenly eating vegetarian means getting by on fish and beans in terms of protein, because tofu, satay, and all those other wonderful fake meat products don’t really exist here. Lots of restaurants seems to have vegetarian options, which is lovely, but they’re usually not too nutritious. Like falafel- there’s lots of that- buts its really just fried stuff that has minimal amounts of protein. Also, if you buy egg or tuna salad one has to be prepared for heaping quantities of mayonnaise. Scots simply adore this disgustingly fatty condiment, and advertise everything with mayo in the title: mayo chicken, tuna with mayo, egg and mayo, etc. In my opinion this is a gross reminder of what I would prefer to put a mere teaspoon of into my can of tuna, but the Scottish apparently find it appealing.
On the topic of unhealthy food, Scottish food seems to center around frying. Practically every fast food store has vegetable pakora, which look like unidentifiable balls of friend stuff. What a waste of a vegetable. They even fry pizza and chocolate here. It’s a slightly disturbing thought. I did try some of the traditional Scottish food though- haggis, which is sheep lungs/brains/heart (I’ve heard all three) with oatmeal, often comes in a vegetarian version, as does Yorkshire Pudding (sausage over mashed potatoes and gravy in a sort of bread bowl). Traditional Scottish food was hearty and more delicious than I expected, but i was left in want of some vegetables. I suppose my biggest challenge will be eating protein that isn’t fish caked in fried batter. We’ll see how that goes…
Another obvious health issue here is alcohol consumption. The legal age is 18, and the first-years in my flat all seem to drink A LOT. This may have something to do with the fact that they are all 18, but it’s definitely also just part of the culture here to get smashed far more often than in New York. Because it’s “Refresher’s Week” here, like a second orientation week with parties and events, my flatmates have been going out every single night, and staying out until 3 or 4, getting so drunk they forget the whole evening. I like drinking socially, but on weekends! Not generally when I have class the next morning. And I don’t like the idea of getting drunk enough to forget the night or get sick – not too smart. So far I’ve missed some chances to bond with my flat mates because of this difference in drinking preferences. Oh well hopefully it won’t be too much of a problem.
Then, of course, there’s also emotional wellness… I feel really lucky that I know a few people already from home, and that I made a bunch of friends through my orientation program with Butler. But I’m far from settled- I have yet to join clubs (called societies here) and I’m still in the process of truly becoming friends with my flatmates, who are all so close and hang out with such a giant social circle. I’ll feel much more settled when my social life settles too. It’s exciting but scary to rebuild myself so entirely- from clubs, to people, to grocery shopping- everything is new. Remembering to take some time for myself to just be alone and relax, explore or think is a big help amidst all the hustle and bustle of meeting people and settling in. Surprisingly, wandering the city really does take time- apparently in total Edinburgh is actually bigger than Manhattan! Who knew?