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.
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 : )