I have lived in the United States in the great midwest since 2003 and while I have become assimilated in many ways, some departments of my brain remain staunchly British.
You would think that living in a country which speaks the same language (ish) would be a piece of cake to move to. I watched every episode of Friends and hung into Carrie Bradshaw’s every word, so it should be easy, right? Not so much, there are lots of small things which are different, but not different enough to be immediately obvious.
I remember the occasion when I asked someone over the phone if they could put a catalogue in the post for me, after a few minutes of confusing confusion, I learnt that if you want something delivered to your door, it is ‘mail’. If you want it in the local newspaper, ask for it to be in the ‘post’. Lesson learned. I never did get the catalogue.
I am still getting things mixed up and some things I just can’t get the right way round! I need an American phrase book and soon!
Here are some tell tale signs that I am still a Brit.
1. I hang my washing on the line in the garden, held on with pegs. I use my dryer to dry less and less so I am grateful to the weather which is good for drying most of the year. Sadly I think that line drying is frowned upon over here…sorry neighbours.
2. I still call crisps crisps, not chips, because chips should be chunky and hot and covered in salt and vinegar, preferably in newspaper with fish.
3. I put the bins out not the trash, and they wait for the bin men to collect them in the bin lorry.
4. I giggle when someone says ‘I like your pants’ to me.
5. I get all excited when it is sunny, then complain that I am too hot!
6. I miss paper in A3, A4, A5 and A6 sizes.
7. I roll my eyes whenever people describe vaguely ok things as AWESOME (it is always in capitals). The Grand Canyon is AWESOME, my homemade cookies are not. Cute is another one, babies are cute, grown up shoes are not (hopefully).
8. I wash the dishes in a bowl and call the whole process ‘washing up’. When I clean clothes, that is ‘washing’. I would say the American use of ‘laundry’ is to be applauded in this instance, I mean just doing the ‘washing’. Washing what? Unfortunately I think washing up bowls are a big no no, like the washing line.
9. The space outside around my house is my garden not my yard. Here, people expect you to have a Versailles type arrangement or a veggie filled allotment if you say garden, but I think of a yard as a glum concrete area or part of a prison! Garden it is then.
10. I sometimes wish my mailbox was not on the outside of the house and that parcels were not left outside the door. Nothing has ever gone missing though and I don’t have to pick parcels up from the post office when I am not in, so I can’t complain. I wonder why letterboxes in the UK are holes in the front door and mailboxes here in the States are unsecured boxes sitting outside.
Maybe I should get writing that phrase book! Actually I am probably the worst person to take on such a project…
Do you find speaking the same language as other people a problem sometimes?!
Happy Mid Week!
I would love to see that phrasebook plus others for American vs Australian and Australian vs British, it’s fascinating that we speak the same language differently!
I wonder if such a thing exists Lila! It should. I love that we use the same words for different meanings because it makes no sense at all!
I have always wondered why the Brits use a bowl inside the sink to do the washing up?
Ha! I use one because my sink is ceramic and all of my pots would smash in one wash!
my gram used a bowl for washing dishes and so that’s what i did in my own house. same with hanging up the wash, neither of my grands had clothing dryers until the mid-late 70’s. so hanging the wash is what i do to this day. it only made sense to me. plus i do not own a dryer.
AWESOME…. rarely. save it up kids for when something actually is…. like my hair! bhahahaha
cute… i’m a grown ass woman so no, probably not.
here i’m surrounded by brit speak when one does bother to speak to me in english. so i am adapting.
i prefer the word ‘post’ to mail and i like having a slot in the door.
‘flat’ to apartment. ‘pram’ to baby carriage. ‘lift’ to elevator. ‘bin’ to can…. peas and corn comes in a can or i could use a good kick in the can to get me off the sofa… i could go on and on.
We never had a dryer as a kid, my Mum and Dad got one recently. Your hair is awesome and cute! I would prefer a slot in the door and I am still coming across words I am using wrongly! Unfortunately I still call an eraser a rubber which is one I really need to get right….
I love this Clare. Me and a few British friends were discussing this exact thing last night in Nanjing. I love all this stuff, differences in culture and language for English speakers, whether they’re American, British, Australian or otherwise. We also discussed the cultural differences in terms of confidence and self-deprecation. I’ve noticed that Americans are very quick to talk up their achievements and be uber-confident when you first meet them, whereas Brits (and Australians I think) are much more self-deprecating and find it quite unclassy if the person you’ve just met tells you they have an MBA and are amazing at basketball in the first sentence. Do you find that at all? I’ve never been to the US so my observations are only based on Americans I’ve met o/s and things I’ve read/heard. x
That is pretty much how I find it too Isabel, Brits and Australians are more modest.
I am totally guilty of overusing the word AWESOME. I really must stop. But it is such an awesome word. I think it grates more if spoken with an American accent. I must admit I get really infuriated by the use of clothes dryers. Particularly in climates like ours. Maybe the Brits are excused. But really if you get lots of sunshine and even a slight wind there really is no excuse. Clothes lines people! Same applies for dishwashers. We have become so reliant on our appliances. Sorry, rant over. Great post as always Clare. x
Ha! When we first came here, I was astonished at how many people used AWESOME, now I think it is a worldwide over description! It is ironic that the people who line dry the most are in the wettest country. Some areas over here don’t even allow line drying, I assume it is classed as unsightly!! At least I don’t hang out my undies!