10 things I've learned (or is it "learnt"?) living in the UK
Before I moved to the UK, I used to think England was pretty much the same as America, but with more castles, tea, and cool accents. Come to find out, there are a lot more cultural differences than I expected...
10 Things I've Learned (or Is it "Learnt"?) Living in the UK
- "It's raining" is a relative term. You know that urban legend about the Inuit having hundreds of words for "snow"? I'm starting to think that's true about Brits and rain - it's not "raining"; it's "spitting," "drizzling," "misting," "chucking down," etc.
- Brits like to understate things. Related to #1, if it's a torrential downpour outside, they'll say, "It's a bit wet out." Are you bleeding from your eyes and about to pass out? How to say it: "I'm feeling poorly today."
- Apparently, English people are "sorry" for everything. I've really never heard a culture apologise so much in my whole life...except maybe Canadians. You stepped on my foot? I need to apologise immediately!
- American words don't have enough vowels. Why spell it "favorite" when you can make it look more posh with an extra u? "Honour," "colour," "humour," "flavour." And don't even get me started on those pesky z's (read: "zeds"). "Mobilise" is so much prettier than "mobilize."
- Talking to strangers on public transport is almost a sin. I grew up in the southern part of America, known for friendliness, so I'm prone to striking up conversations with strangers just about anywhere - in line at the cinema, at the gym, or sitting beside someone on a train. You try that in England, and locals get a frightened look in their eyes before mumbling a one-word response and priming their mobiles to ring the emergency number as quickly as possible if you hassle them again.
- British drivers are incredibly polite. I've never been in a country where so many drivers give others the right of way or only flash their lights to signal that someone can turn in front of them. Maybe it's all the tea that keeps them from getting road rage the way Americans do.
- There is a right way and a wrong way to add milk to your tea. I have been doing it wrong all these years, and I didn't even know it. As British author George Orwell put it, "By putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way around." But lots of people disagree...
- The English do Thanksgiving better than Americans do Thanksgiving. Stay with me here. Brits don't actually have a Thanksgiving celebration, but they eat similar food, except they do it every Sunday (or at least frequently), rather than once a year. It's called a "Sunday roast" and has pretty much all the same tasty morsels except pumpkin pie. But there's sticky toffee pudding and Yorkshire puddings, and that's better, anyway.
- British churches really are smaller in general. But I've found that, often, they're more community-based than American churches. In America, church-goers are checking their watches by 11:45, and they'll leave the service early if it goes past noon so they can get a good table at the restaurant before the "after-church crowd" arrives. In England, though, services often last longer, and people stick around afterwards to chat. There's also typically coffee and tea provided, because what's a gathering without hot beverages?
- Americans need to slow down sometimes. Americans are known for ingenuity and efficiency. We gave the world Mac computers and iPods, 3D printing, bifocals, baseball, and swivel chairs (!!). Sometimes, though, our schedules get hectic. We want everything done as quickly as possible, and we forget to relax. While the Brits certainly aren't as laid back as many cultures, Americans could learn a thing or two from them about slowing down, enjoying just sitting with friends, and actually using a real mug instead of a to-go cup from Starbucks.