10 British Phrases that Confused Me

So I’ve been in the UK for almost 3 months now. It has been a wild ride full of castles, new friends, and lots of cultural confusion. One of the  funniest things to deal with has been the difference in vocabulary. In case you are planning to book it across the pond anytime soon, here are some British phrases that really had me confused at the beginning:

All the Food


Do you know that bunches of vegetables have new (or should I say old) names across the pond? You betcha. Zucchini becomes corgette. Bell pepper becomes capsicum. Eggplant becomes aubergine. Cilantro becomes coriander. The list goes on and on. Even three months after arriving I sometimes run into food names and am like “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TREACLE?”, and then realise that they really just mean molasses. Or I can’t believe they eat something called a gherkin, until I realise that is just a fancy word for pickle. It is an ongoing process.

What did you get up to?

When my friends asked me  “what did you get up to over the weekend”, for some reason I thought they were implying that I had been rather mischievous. I mean, doesn’t “get up to” sound like trouble to you? Apparently it is just an informal way of asking “what did you do”. And of course my friends found it unbelievably hilarious that I was unaware of that.

I couldn’t be bothered.

This has got to be my favourite British expression of all time. To be honest, when I first heard it I thought it sounded a bit snobby. Now I realise it is basically just a British equivalent of “ain’t nobody got time for dat.” I am officially converted.

You Alright? 

If I were to walk up to someone and ask them if they are “alright?”, it would be because they look pale or sad or otherwise unwell. Here however, asking “you alright?” or just “alright?” is a basic greeting, equivalent to the American “how are you”. Figuring that out was a bit of a relief, because when I first got here I thought I must have looked absolutely miserable and sick all the time.

All the Sarcasm

Yeah, so I thought I was sarcastic until I moved to England and realised I have got nothing, nothing on British levels of sarcasm. It is like the official second language here or something. It doesn’t bother me anymore, but it does take some getting used to.


In the interest of blending in and not holding dogmatically to my Americanisms, I’ve tried to switch to using common British phrases. Still, it took me over two months to be able to comfortably say “I need to go to the toilet”. Blame my American obsession with euphemism, but telling people that I need to go to a toilet felt like a major case of TMI. I’d rather use the less direct “restroom” or “bathroom”. I know it is silly. I’m getting over it.



Yeah, when I first heard X, Y, Zed I was like… WHA? So Z is Zed here and they also pronounce H quite differently.

And that’s it… a few phrases I’ve been coping with. Tune in next time for my all-time favourite Britishisms : )





Author: Susanna

I'm Susanna, a 20-year-old Christian girl incorrigibly addicted spontaneous adventures. My first dream was to become a pioneer. Unfortunately, I was born a couple centuries late, so I've decided to read, cook, run, and travel the world until my time machine is finished. You'll mostly likely find me getting into trouble and/or eating licorice. I am currently blogging the misadventures of a middle-school teacher in training. Come join me on my quest to become the next Ms. Frizzle!

4 thoughts on “10 British Phrases that Confused Me”

  1. British for “ain’t nobody got time fo dat” ahahahahahah 😀
    I had a Canadian camp counselor once, and she said Zed instead of Zee too!
    I loved this guide! I love reading about your British adventures!


  2. This made my day! I love all of this. I didn’t understand why the British say courgette instead of zucchini, etc.. until I started taking French, and I realized that they get it from the French. Now I wonder why we say zucchini instead of courgette. XD I lol’ed when you compared ‘I can’t be bothered’ with ‘ain’t nobody got time for dat’ It sounds like you’re having a fun time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah, yeah. For Courgette, the British have opted to use the French root while Americans use the Italian. I’m not sure why. It would be interesting to do a word origin study sometime! I am soooo glad you enjoyed this post and hope you are doing well.


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