As I’ve been living here in the UK, occasionally little things will pop out and remind me of Harry Potter. Like the candy store called Honeydukes (which is no longer in business. 😦 ) Or the names of regular, every day foods that British people eat, like pasties and pastilles and puddings.
But since I’ve become the leader of a group for teenage girls in my church, I’ve begun to realize just how plausible Harry Potter is. Let me illustrate:
1. Muck-Up Day. Have you ever read one of those memes which talks about what a dangerous school Hogwarts is and how if that was ever real, it would be shut down instantly?
Well, maybe true in lawsuit-happy America. But over here in Britain, they have an annual tradition where the oldest class at school (equivalent of high school seniors) have a “Muck-Up Day,” where they are not encouraged but permitted to muck up the school. For example, one of my girls told us how she and her classmates took all the toilet paper from the bathroom, got it wet and threw it so it stuck to the ceiling. Others spoke of eggs and silly string being thrown about, or writing with ketchup on all the teachers’ cars. THIS REALLY HAPPENED. And if this happening in a muggle school, where a poor janitorial staff has to use their hands and elbow grease to clean it all up, imagine what could be permitted in a wizarding school where a wave of a wand or a potion can restore not only messes in the halls, but broken bones, missing body parts, and pretty much anything besides death (and even then, there are ways). No wonder it took a kidnapping and potential murder to get the school to shut down in The Chamber of Secrets.
2. Look at this school.
This is your average private school in Scotland (okay, so maybe it’s quite nice. I actually haven’t been around a lot of private schools, but this seemed fairly reasonable, for a private school). This is where we had a girls’ camp over the past weekend, and behind the school are miles of wooded area. So yeah, lake and a forbidden forest on school grounds? Not a problem, especially when muggles can’t map or detect the area at all. That could def be hiding anywhere in the Scottish highlands.
One thing I noticed about Harry Potter was this dangerous obsession with candy/pastries. Like seriously, how is every wizard not diabetic? At least that’s what I thought as I prepared licorice wands and chocolate frogs and Weasley Wizard Wheezes for many Harry Potter parties over the past several years. But then I came to live here, and lo and behold, even the tiny corner grocery stores have at least three aisles dedicated to sweets and junk food. Hello!!! How are not all British people diabetic? (Answer: they have something called self-control, something that was abolished a long time ago in American culture.) Also, the chocolate here is almost equal to Switzerland (yeah, I said it!). So…no wonder it cures dementor attacks.
4. The Education system in general
As I’ve talked with my girls about school and their schoolwork, I’ve noticed some huge differences between the UK and the US, and now suddenly all those “quirky” things about Hogwarts I realize are completely normal. For example, many schools have common rooms for certain age groups, or areas of the school that are restricted and only members of certain clubs/distinctions are allowed in some places (this continues up through university). There is no standardized testing, but end of the year exams which are outrageously stressful because your success on them determines the future of your schoolwork and potential career availability (kind of like finals at university). Every school has a uniform (which definitely contributes to how Europeans dress so well). Which looks exactly like the Hogwarts uniform. Basically, Hogwarts is a totally normal British school, just with magic.
So there’s some observations from an American about things I’d never thought as normal and commonplace in Harry Potter. Turns out it’s totally normal.