I don't remember my first trip to the UK with many points of cultural difference. I was 10, it was a sabbatical year, and we lived in central London. Goodenough House was full of international academic families. I was placed in a school more laidback than most. Perhaps uniforms didn't seem odd to me because of the grembule from preschool. I remember some of the process of learning English vs. American words, but that's still a sporadically ongoing process. I don't remember anything striking about going to the grocery story or commuting to school (although I'd never used the Underground on my own before).
Surely, at some point, I found excitement in exploring all the new kinds of candy. The only kind I remember were unbranded loose sour lemon candies from the sweets truck that parks at my school each noontime. The only excitement I remember about bonfire night was fear of effigy burning; then again, I've always been prone to suggestion.
Have I missed out on a sense of wonder? Did I miss the mystery of exploring the world? I like going places, seeing new things, eating unfamiliar foods (well, with some limits). I like to believe I see beauty and wonder in the world, that I notice the unfamiliarities.
Perhaps the real difference is that I've never gone to another place with an agenda of finding a new life. Canada is as close as I've come, since I knew I would be here a while when I came back the second time. My first trip to Canada was in the summer of '97. I came up to Toronto, to the University of Toronto, to study Latin for the summer. I had six weeks in which to see the city, be a tourist, learn Latin, and probably never return. The biggest point of difference for me wasn't candy, unknown celebrations, or currency; it was the black-furred squirrels running around in Queen's Park. I hadn't expected them, at all. They weren't the red or grey squirrels I'd grown up with. When I consider the places I've been, the sights, the unexpected... I think the black squirrels of Toronto are still my most memorable experience of culture shock.