Stuff that is different in America, by an Englishman who knows.
Julian Froment and I are always joking about the differences one finds in translation when dealing with British Vs. American Terms. Sometimes they can be maddening, sometimes they can be funny but they are always entertaining.
Hello, Julian. I wanted to ask a few questions about the transition from the UK to the US. I realise that I usually do bookish posts, but I thought this had the potential to be too much fun to pass up. So, let’s talk a little about the differences between the US and the UK. I’m going to give you some cue words and you tell me what you think of, or what experience it reminds you of. This really isn’t as easy as it looks people, bouncing from one country to another. Of course, this is in no way a comprehensive list, but just a few of the things we have experienced.
Hello, Ionia. Thank you for having me here. You are right that it really is not easy bouncing between countries. I have found though that I have begun to find it more difficult to transition back to life in the UK, than in the US though. I have to confess that at first, and that still hasn’t changed in some areas, I found the differences daunting. Fortunately I had a very good guide to lead me through the maze.
All I can really say is that I am glad that there is not a shopping cart driving test you need to pass. I would be hopeless and fail abysmally. I cannot reverse for anything. I am probably much more dangerous with a cart than a car. I am used to the back wheels steering, and appear to have absolutely no ability if they do not.
I have never been a fan of the queue, or the line. I am generally impatient and don’t enjoy waiting. I would however stand forever in a line, were I with you.
Driving on the “right” side of the road
This has to be the biggy. You spend all of your life driving on what you think is the “right” side of the road, only to find that everyone else drives on the right hand side of the road. This took some getting used to, and I am grateful I had some instruction. I am sorry for all the danger that I put you in, Ionia, during those early days. Hopefully I am better now, despite the occasional lapse. I can probably even find my way to Walmart without prompting now.
Strangely though, the biggest transition with driving has to be returning to the UK. Driving in the UK just feels odd now. I cannot describe it better than odd, although weird works pretty well too. I feel myself drawn to the right side of the road far more than I should do. I have even driven on the right/wrong side of the road a few times. Proof positive that I need to be in the US for the safety of UK drivers.
Biscuits and gravy sounded so strange when I first saw it. I made more sense when I realised that biscuits weren’t biscuits and gravy wasn’t gravy as I knew them from the UK. Imagine dunking a cookie in brown gravy to understand my confusion.
The bacon. Well, what a revelation that was. Not the limp, greasy, pink stuff that we have in the UK, but a crispy, delicious, taste sensation. I love the bacon.
I will admit to a couple of minor mishaps in restaurants, such as ordering chips with a meal, when what I actually meant were fries. I am still working on that one.
You hear the names of the coins in films and so on, and kind of figure you know all about the currency system, but then you get to the US and realise, ‘Shit! I don’t actually know what each one is worth, or which one is which’. Also the dime being smaller than the nickel, but worth more, threw me. I think I have grasped it now, but I still make mistakes. I am but a child still.
I just cannot stop myself saying ‘cheers’ whenever I buy something or am given something. I can see that people are looking at me with these weird expressions, like I am speaking some alien language. I am trying. I shall conquer this. I shall.
parking lots/car parks
Parking lot seems to be one of those phrases that I just cannot get my head around. I always start saying car park and then try to autocorrect and come out with car parking lot. Other than this, and wanting to go in the exit and out of the entrance, not too many problems. It always amazes me the size of the marked bays though, since in general, cars are so much larger than in the UK.
I seem to be commonly mistaken for an Australian. I am not entirely sure why this should be. In fact almost as many people have asked if I am from Australia, as have asked if I am from Britain. I guess I can understand that in some ways. I am particularly useless at identifying accents.
I believe that you were also asked if you were Swiss, or Swedish, at one point too.
Generally I do not think that I have an accent. I am sure everyone thinks that anyone that talks differently is the one with the accent. I have to say that so many people have commented on my ‘accent’. I am always being told that we have such a cool accent. I believe that it has been responsible for many a free coffee for us too.
Fast food experiences
The whole fast food thing has just passed me by. Fast food to me has always meant a sandwich or something, in the car on the way to work, obviously not faster than the speed limit, of course, not that fast. I get caught out every time by the drive-thru, even though they are appearing in the UK much more now. I still find myself looking around for somewhere to park, to go inside and get a coffee or food, even if I can see that the building is tiny. I have to say I like it, when I can manage to use it effectively. Coffee on the run is awesome.
Thanks again, Ionia, for allowing me to talk a little about the differences that I have encountered moving back and forth across the Atlantic. Obviously the solution is that I be allowed to stay in the US, then there will not be so much confusion, or danger on the UK roads.