October 12, 2012 at 1:36 PM
When traveling to another country, a form of culture shock is expected upon arrival.
Knowing that I would be living in England, where they speak English, I had brushed off the idea that I would fall victim to culture shock.
Boy, was I wrong.
It’s been one month since I first arrived in the United Kingdom and I am still adjusting to the differences in language and culture in Britain.
One of the very first things we were told upon arrival in the UK was that although they speak English here, Brits and Americans DO NOT speak the same language.
For starters, Brits speak at a much faster pace than Americans. Much faster.
Also, Brits and Americans use different words to mean the same thing.
For example, in England, "take away" means "takeout" or "to-go" when buying food. “Rubbish” means garbage. :Biscuits” mean cookies. “Rubber” means eraser. “Flat” means apartment. “Queue” means line. “Lift” means elevator. “Chips” mean fries. “Crisps” mean chips. Confused? So was I.
They say “hiya,” a more casual form of “hi.” They ask “Are you alright?” and mean “How are you?” They say “cheers,” meaning “thanks” or “goodbye.” And, they love using “bloody” and “brilliant” in conversation.
Besides language, I have noticed several cultural differences between England and America.
1. It’s considered very rude to make eye contact with someone while riding the Tube, or subway.
2. Considering the few garbage cans that are around in the city, London is remarkably clean. I recently learned that the lack of garbage cans on the streets and Tube stations stems from several incidents years ago when the Irish Republican Army used them as bomb drop locations. You really have to search high and low for them when you need to throw something away.
3. Brits really enjoy their tea. I’ve been in London for one month now and have still yet to consume a cup of tea. Attribute it to my stubbornness, but I haven’t been able to give up my one cup of coffee-a-day and swap it for the more appropriate British choice.
4. Brits are extremely polite. At work, if someone wants to make a cup of tea, he or she asks everyone in the office if they would like one as well. It's considered rude if you whip up tea for yourself without offering to make a cup for your coworkers.
5. Pubs are EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere. They are not only places to head to during a night out, but they’re also just regular hangout spots during the day for meetings, a quick meal or enjoying a football game.
6. If you run into Starbucks, Pret-a-Manger or any small food place to grab a quick bite to eat, you are often charged more money to sit down and consume your food there than you would be if you asked for it to-go. I still haven’t figured out why that’s the case.
7. Tipping is virtually nonexistent in London. Usually pubs will bill you a small service charge and even if they don’t, you don’t have to feel obligated to leave a tip. This goes for cabs as well.
8. Brits really love their prawns. There is never a lack of prawn sandwiches and prawn chips in supermarkets.
9. Brits don’t refrigerate their eggs or mayonnaise. Call me crazy, but I thought that was rather strange. It took me a good 30 minutes to find eggs in the supermarket during my first week here before someone had to point me to the correct shelf.
But for as many differences there are between these two countries, the dissimilarities are what make living in another country fun and exciting. I may be an American, but I’m starting to learn the London way. And it’s about time.