I have learned a great many things through my experiences in London. I've written posts about the differences in culture, in dating, in products (especially food), regarding the weather.
But I realized today that one of the most fundamental things that London has taught me, that has had an impact on me, as a person, is...
...how to blow my nose in public.
I know this may seem like a trivial matter, but I assure you, it is not.
Before moving abroad, I had no concept of how to blow my nose in public. There was constant fear of the embarrassment associated with whether the "discharge" would always end up in the tissue, if I would have some telltale trace (such as bats in the cave). In general I avoided blowing my nose at all in public and would only do so when I had direct access to a private bathroom or toilet stall. It is safe to say that, truthfully, I never blew my nose in public for fear.
I simply did not know how to do it without feeling like I was doing it wrong, making too much noise, being gross about it, making a big error and finding the evidence later (ew).
And honestly, I don't think there was as much reason for me to do so in California or Helsinki. My nose simply behaved itself and I would need to blow it perhaps once a week in the privacy of my own home before going out.
London, however, does not let people get away with once-a-week blowings. Oh no. You'll be lucky if you can honestly go 24 hours without needing to blow your nose.
I blame the pollution, dust, and weather for this. It is simply imperative that you blow your nose.
What I noticed, as I started needing to blow my nose in places where I had no access to a private toilet, was that people were actually okay with blowing their noses around others. You'll be on a packed tube during your daily commute and someone will, inevitably, and quite subtly, blow their nose.
I do, however, have a theory that most people who do blow their noses in public, don't actually need to. The quietness and softness of their blowings, suggests to me, that they are doing it merely out of habit or gesture...not because their nose actually needs clearing. Unless the person is visibly sick and congested, the most you might get is a very soft honk puff from someone in public.
But they all do it nonetheless! Such a society of noseblowers! No shame about it whatsoever!
So over the years I have perfected my craft. It took a long time to be completely comfortable, but there was a time where I was too sick to keep sniffling to myself (and sniffling seems to be more offensive to people in public than making the sounds of a ripe zucchini being squeezed out of a small tube at a slow velocity...which I found strange). I had to charge ahead, be brave. And I was.
I of course immediately took out my pocket mirror and studied my nose, making sure there was no evidence of such an action, other than the telltale redness that seems to follow anything that relates to my nose.
I have even started to get to a level of mastery where I don't need the pocket mirror after I blow. I feel confident enough not even to check!
Who would have thought someone scared of public nose blowing could be so confident in such a thing over a span of just a few short years?
I will say I am impressed with myself. And heartily thank London for forcing me to master such a skill. I feel like such an adult now.
(This post is only partly in jest. I am actually quite proud that I feel confident blowing my nose in public and sometimes not needing to check. It's surprisingly relieving.)