Missing the Love of Home

In one of my favourite romantic comedies, What a Girl Wants, the heroine Daphne tries at one point to hug her new British grandmother, Lady Jocelyn Dashwood. Lady Dashwood is startled and pushes Daphne away, saying, “I’m British. We only show affection to dogs and horses.”
I know that is far true in practice, having lived in England for almost four months now. But there are times when I feel like there’s some truth in the idea. English culture seems to have a different concept of personal space than I’m used to at home in the States. I didn’t realize this until I met my mother in France for a week during my Easter Break from Lancaster. I’d missed her so much, and I couldn’t stop giving her hugs. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been hugged while at Lancaster, because I had. My “Lancaster mom,” Jan, who’s one of the leaders of the student group at the church I joined, hugs me whenever she sees me. My flatmate Aaron gives me hugs when I seem down or when he’s in a particularly happy mood. But overall, there has been a significant decrease in the number of hugs I have both received and witnessed while abroad. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just different. It’s very respectful of one’s personal space, in a way, and I guess that’s actually a good thing.
When I see two friends meet up for coffee or lunch on campus, they don’t hug hello. When I left for break, I hugged only two out of my seven flatmates goodbye—one was Aaron, and the other was Katherine, with whom I’d had a discussion about hugs the night before, so I knew it was okay. When my flatmate Ashley moved out and he came into the flat for the final time, I wanted to give him a hug goodbye, but a little voice in the back of my head told me that it might not be culturally appropriate, so I held back. I may be reading too much into this, but it’s just a little thing I’ve noticed. I’m so used to being affectionate with all my American friends, and honestly, I’m one of the least affectionate people in my group at home. When I get back, I guarantee I’ll be tackled by all of them. So while I love Lancaster and the people here, I do miss some of the little things, like hugs. A lot.