I think the British have a love affair with the letter S. First, I noticed that instead of saying “math” they say “maths.” I guess that kind of makes sense, since we do say “mathematics” and not “mathematic.” Still, it took me quite a while to get used to saying I was a maths major. Then I started noticing that many words that we spell with the “ize” ending, Brits spell with an “ise” ending; like organize/organise, realize/realise, recognize/recognise. According to good-ole Wikipedia, both spellings are acceptable in the UK, but I don’t think the same goes for the States…”ize” is standard. But the one that really bugs me is on the homework sheets most of my professors hand out. At Butler, they usually title them “Homework 3”, “Exercise Set 4”, or something similar. But no…every single one of my lecturers labels homework either “Examples 3” or “Exercises3”. Ugh…yes, you can’t say “Example 3” because that makes it sound like you have one example, and “3 Exercises” makes it sound like there are only 3. But “Examples/Exercises 3” just doesn’t sound right. Just add the extra word “Set” or call it “Homework” and I will have no complaints.
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I’ve tried to remember as many of the little differences as I can between English and American culture. Here are the main one’s I’ve noticed so far:
American vs. British
Trunk (car) vs. Boot
Elevator vs. Lift
Biscuits vs. Cookies
Cell Phone vs. Telly
Mail vs. Post
Call (a person on the phone) vs. Ring
French Fries vs. Chips
Chips vs. Crisps
“Have a good day!” vs. “Cheers!” or “Cheerio!”
Friend vs. Mate (apparently not just an Australian thing :0)
To Rent (apartment vs. To Let
Grilled Cheese vs. Cheese Toastie
Line vs. Queue
I’ll add others as I think of them. But overall, adjusting to English culture hasn’t been that difficult. Sometimes I forget I’m the foreigner and find it funny when they can’t understand my accent. It takes me a minute for my brain to digest the fact that I’m the one with the accent…not them.
As far as accents go, I can distinguish where people are from, for the most part. People from southern England, especially London, have a more westernized accent that is really easy to understand. The others British people often call them “posh.” Those from northern England can be harder to understand, especially when they are speaking quickly or in a big group. People from Wales and Scotland have distinct accents too…but I think the easiest ones to pick out are the Irish. Their accent, in my opinion, is by far the best! I haven’t purposely tried to pick up on an accent yet, mostly for the fear of failing horribly! :0) But I do notice every now and then a word slips out that has a British sound to it. Secretly, I would love to come home with a full-blown British accent, but I want that to happen naturally. We shall see!
Even though we speak the same language, are born from shared heritage, and from looks appear the same…England has so many things unique to itself.
Like milkmen. I thought they no longer existed. With the rapid growth of supermarkets and decline of hometown grocery stores, I am pretty sure the profession has completely phased out in the US. Not so in England. When I think about getting milk delivered, I imagine glass bottles, wire baskets, and empty ones waiting outside for replacement. To my surprise, that’s exactly the same image as what happens today. Ok, I can’t say for sure what the milkman looks like, but the whole idea is quaint and lovely!
Another thing I didn’t expect was for England to live up to all it’s stereotypes. Yes, people often describe England as rainy and a land overflowing with tea. But I’ve heard many descriptions of the US (cowboys…lazy…rough public schools) that aren’t true. Yet England is living up to it’s name. It rains almost every day. Although when I say rain, I mean more of a constant hard mist. It hasn’t rained once like I’m used to…downpours of soaking drops…but almost everyday the overcast sky lets down some precipitation. As for tea, they literally drink it all the time. And almost everyone seems to enjoy it, with the occasional exception. I absolutely love it, as long as they give some allowance for cream and sugar. The usual saying when you first enter a home or place of conversation is “Would you like a cup of tea?” This is usually followed by an offer of “biscuits” or cookies as we call them in the states. Kitchens come standard with a kettle so that warm water is only a few seconds away.
The last thing I’ve noticed is the difference in use of words. There aren’t many words here that I’ve never heard before, outside of some foods that are new to me. But they often call things differently. Flat instead of apartment. Biscuits never go with gravy. Chips instead of fries…and they eat those with everything. The car has a bonnet and boot, instead of a hood and trunk. Cheers and cheerio are normal salutations. Charity shops instead of thrift stores. And many others that I can think of at the present.
All in all…I’m loving life here in England. I’m sure it’s bound to just get better.