Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ongoing Observations in the UK

Now that we have been here almost 7 months, I thought I would keep a "running record" about quirky and random things I notice about the British (my Brit friends should find humour in this, I think? If not, I really am just being cheeky).

The American Woman's group I joined has a document that outlines the "4 stages of relocation". According to the document, it says I am in the "I Hate Britain" phase of relocation, which I really am not. I love Britain! There are just things that are "different" between the two and I am sure Brits come could up with loads of things about Americans!

  • While dining in the UK, I have noticed that napkins and all utensils are placed on the right of the place mat. Is it because the Brits want to be different (drive on the left, steering wheel on the right, table settings on the right?) It works for Pete and Henry as they both could never remember how to set the table the American way!

  • They love their pets here. There is a pet store on every corner. Every single neighbor has a cat and they are always in our yard. They LOVE dogs which is excellent (makes me miss Stella and want to start a dog walking business). But then I remembered something about my time spent living in Italy (1988-89): when I walked I always looked down at the ground so I wouldn't step in dog shit! Same here...dog shit everywhere. There really is no "dog poo" fairy in the UK.

  • Speaking of dogs, of course there are boxy-headed labs everywhere. Love them! But the most common dog I see are those skinny Greyhound things. Pete says they are all retired "track racing" dogs...

  • Most of the kids I have met (H & M's friends) are all VERY polite. I like that. And their voices are just so stinkin' cute. See below for an updated commentary on the kids take on what is different about British kids.

  • When you need to "go poddie" (thinking of you Wendy R. when I say that), you can ask where the loo is, which is cute and quaint. But most people ask where the "toilet" is...cute and quaint? Not so much.

  • We have a cool BMW to drive which is really fun! It is diesel so it gets great gas mileage! Score. But everyone has them...they are the Toyota Corolla of Europe. On my runs, usually towards the posh Henley on the Thames, I see much better cars: Bentley's, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini's, Ferrari's, etc...you get the picture.

  • So far, almost everyone I have met, has apologized for the horrid weather we had this past summer. Although the first two weeks we were here were SUNNY, since then it really has been rainy and dreadful. Flooding, rivers breaching their banks, and constant down pour. But do I mind? Not really...I am from Seattle. I just keep reminding them that we are use to it! When it is sunny here, it really is beautiful...just like Seattle.

  • Top Gear is a National Treasure...it is on 24/7. Which is great because I love that show.

  • Speaking of TV (that will be an entire other post), they also rerun Friends here 24/7. Which is great because I love that show, too. In fact, I just watched the one when Ross was going to marry Emily in London, but he said Rachel's name, and Monica and Chandler hooked up for the first time, and Joey was homesick for the US (but he did meet Fergie (Princess not the Pea) and Phoebe had to stay home because she was pregnant with her brother's babies (best line ever in a  TV show). So that is fun to watch.

  • They say poo here, not poop.They say wee instead of pee.

  • When you see someone you know you say "How are you?" in the US. Here they ask you "You alright?" (with a high pitched ending on the alright part) which always makes me feel like something is or should be wrong with me? It really implies the same question but asked in a different way.

  • The jury is still out on British fashion trends...high fashion is good...common fashion, not so much...lots of colored hair on ALL ages, especially older women with pink/purple/red hair. The horrid underwear (knickers) jean shorts with thin black tights underneath. But I love the skinny bright colored khakis the boys wear here! Even Pete got some! And I love the hats and floral trend going on!

  • Now that I am working, I have had to adjust my American lingo to British lingo. It's like I am in BESL (British English as a Second Language). I can't tell a child in my class to go hang his sweatshirt on a hook and to put on his pants. I must recreate it to "Go hang your jumper on your peg and put on your trousers". "Put your rubbish in the bin. "Would you like a baNAna or a toMATo?" In the long run, I guess it is good for my brain...

  • The main diff Henry and May say about British kids is that they sure use CURSE words a lot! May came home one day from school asking what a C U Next Tuesday was? Uh hello? And I heard a 4 year old tell his Mummy to "Go F*&^ herself!" Uh hello? The way he said it, in the right context and fluidity, tells me it was NOT the first time he had said that colorful phrase.

  • Pork products are prevalent here. I have never cooked so much bacon and sausage in my life!

  • The Brits are obsessed with backing in to all parking spaces. They are experts at it and I better get on it because apparently you have to pass your driving test while driving backwards practically!

  • At least once a week, while chauffeuring the kids to different activities, Marvin Gaye's song "Sexual Healing" comes on. I swear to god, ONCE A WEEK. I mentioned it to Pete and the next time he drove, he heard it too!

  • Speaking of music...we all know Britain has some produced some great music over the years - tons of classics (the Stones, the Beatles, the Who, etc...) to current hits (Adele, Florence, The Spice Girls, One Direction)...etc...BUT, why do the radio stations insist on playing Lionel Ritchie, the Bee Gees (I get it... they are Brits) and Marvin Gaye ALL THE TIME? I have taken to playing my music player in the car since I can't find a decent radio station.

  •  British TV...ahh good old British TV. I have found some great shows here but the biggest difference is the quirky humour they use...so funny! I know there are some classics I need to watch from Masterpiece Theatre but some of the current shows are so silly. I love the English versions of shows like Jersey Shore and The Hills too...all those reality celebs are in the trashy mags here but I don't know who any of them are yet! Luckily I get my People and US at Costco.

  • Back to British slang...telling my 4 year old students to get out their rubbers is very distressing to me...it really means get your erasers out but still, I feel weird saying it. Even weirder to hear H and M's friends say it to one another.
Don't worry, I am sure we will come up with some more funny Britishisms! I need Pete to have a think and contribute some workplace quirks! Cake on Thursdays maybe?

We really are having a great time-the Autumn has been lovely and we had 6 weeks of sunny week-end weather. I spent a great weekend in the Cotswolds with 4 other American women doing the 21 mile Five Valleys of Stroud  Walk for the Meningitis Trust.  We are looking forward to "half term" break next week...we are having a Halloween party this week-end, our good friends the Bices come early next week, Halloween and then off to Rome for a long weekend! When we get back we will have the whirlwind of the holidays (hosting Thanksgiving here for some American friends!) in London!