Three Things I Understand Better About “Harry Potter” After Visiting the UK
When I was younger, I read the Harry Potter series so much that I thought I was practically British. I picked up so many British words, phrases, and spellings from the series that my classmates would give me strange looks every time I opened my mouth. It wasn’t until spending time in the United Kingdom recently, however, that I realized there were some things about the British world of Harry Potter that I just didn’t understand before.
1. The Importance of Weather
At the end of the first book, on the first nice day Hogwarts has had in months, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are standing in the corridor whispering about the Sorcerer’s Stone. Professor McGonagall comes up and asks, “What are you three doing inside?” (SS 267). Less than five minutes later, Snape walks over and says, “You shouldn’t be inside on a day like this. […] You want to be more careful. Hanging around like this, people will think you’re up to something” (SS 268).
I always thought that it was ridiculous that two of Harry’s professors would independently find it suspicious that he was hanging out with his friends indoors. I mean, they’re allowed to be inside the castle whenever they want, right? After spending some time in the UK, however, I now understand why it would be so strange for a bunch of first years to be inside on a nice day. After months of continuous rain and snow, you have to take advantage of any hours of sunshine you can get. Now I can just imagine the entire castle out on the lawns on those first nice days of June, sunbathing and tickling the giant squid. No wonder Snape was suspicious!
2. The Importance of Tea
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the trio is in Hagrid’s hut after Hagrid has just found out that Buckbeak is going on trial. Hagrid is sobbing, and Harry and Hermione are trying to comfort him by promising to help him do research for the trial. They turn to Ron for support:
‘Er–shall I make a cup of tea?’ said Ron.
Harry stared at him.
‘It’s what my mom does whenever someone’s upset,’ Ron muttered, shrugging.” (PoA 219)
It wasn’t until I spent time in the UK that I realized how British Ron’s reaction was. Everywhere I went, no matter what the situation, I was always offered tea. In British detective TV shows, the murder victims’ relatives are immediately given a cup of tea. Tea is the catchall solution to every problem. And despite Harry’s skepticism, it works pretty well!
3. The Importance of the Mountainous Landscape
In the seventh book, Harry, Hermione, and Ron change campsites every day or two for a whole year, and they always seem to be on deserted hills and forests. I was skeptical that the trio would be able to find that many deserted spots to camp, far away from any towns, other wizards, and Death Eaters. How far from civilization could they actually get? After spending time in Ireland, Wales, and the Highlands of Scotland, I realized that there is no shortage of hills and mountains that look untouched by humans, far away from all but the smallest villages. Hill after gorgeous hill would roll by my car window, and I realized that Harry, Hermione, and Ron would have been able to camp in a new spot every night for the rest of their lives and never be caught. That being said, they wouldn’t have had much to eat unless they developed a taste for sheep!
If you’ve ever traveled abroad, is there anything that you understand more about Harry Potter after your visits to the UK? British readers, are these so obvious you didn’t think about them? Please share in the comments section!