Goodbye, London <3

My time in England is quickly coming to an end, much to my dismay.  Over the last three months, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned here in London, which I will share with you now:

1.) Learn to appreciate your natural hair. Even if I were to spend all morning straightening my hair, it would no longer be straight by the time I walk outside. The British weather is not conducive to hair styling. I’ve learned to go with more of a wind-swept, somewhat wavy look 😀

2.) Most Brits have excellent manners. I’m impressed, in general, by the politeness and courtesy they all seem to possess.  That is… unless they’re drunk.

3.) That being said, middle-aged British men you pass on the street have an odd way of making you feel both attractive and really uncomfortable at the same time. They’ll beep their car horns, whistle at you, and go out of their way to look you up and down as you’re walking by. They have absolutely no shame in checking you out and remarking, “Lovely…” as you walk down the street.  I have to say that this is not limited to the UK but applies to Europe in general. Kind of an interesting cultural difference to experience as an American.

4.) Afternoon tea. It should be a thing everywhere.

5.) It’s not a line, it’s a queue.  There’s a much simpler word for waiting in line: it’s called queuing.

6.) Americans, do refer to my list of words throughout this blog if you don’t want to sound like a tourist while you’re in the UK.  In general, it seems the British find it endearing when you use an “American” word, but just be prepared for a laugh. They’re not really laughing at you, more just at your “Americanness.”  I don’t think that’s a bad thing!

7.) There is such thing as an American accent.  We don’t think so as Americans, but we apparently have an accent.  However, most non-Americans think that the “American accent” is what we know as the “Southern accent.”  I’ve been told many times that I don’t sound American because I don’t have what they call an “American” accent.  Be prepared to explain that there are MANY American accents, depending on what region of the country you live in.

8.) The British, and Europeans in general, are mesmerized by the size of the United States. Quite frankly, they’re intimidated by the size and by the fact that laws vary by state. People here have actually said that to me, that they wouldn’t be able to handle the different laws state-by-state. I reassure them that the laws are more or less the same, with a few weird ones here and there. Generally, if you’re sticking to one region of the country, the laws will be very similar, and most of them should be common sense.

9.) Tesco is the best supermarket chain… besides the Piggly Wiggly.  As far as price goes, I’m pretty sure Tesco might even be cheaper than ShopRite, which is the cheapest I know in the States. The main thing is that the food is of good quality, so between price and quality, Tesco is the best supermarket I’ve found here.  It’s also the most similar to American supermarkets, as far as the layout.

10.) Smoked salmon and cream cheese should be a much more popular combination in the U.S.  Almost everywhere I’ve eaten, as well as all the supermarket ready-meals sections, have this heavenly combination on a sandwich. I’m sorry, but peanut butter and jelly is far inferior to smoked salmon and cream cheese.

I’m sure there are many other things I can add to this list, but for now, this is what I’ve actually written down.  Also to make a couple of additions to the vocabulary list:

45.) asphalt/blacktop- tarmac

46.) mischievous/naughty-cheeky

47.) Santa- Father Christmas

48.) “Merry Christmas” – “Happy Christmas”

Doesn’t that last one just sound awkward?

Advertisements

Some Additions to The List

Today’s additions to the American-British dictionary that have come up in conversation:

41.) acne- spots

42.) arranged/taken care of- sorted

43.) suspicious/sketchy- dodgy

44.) pharmacist- chemist

And also this:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mackenziekruvant/british-slang-americans-should-start-using

British Keyboards

Today I went to the library to do some work for class.  I was accessing my email address when I noticed that I had typed “”gmail.com” instead of “@gmail.com.”  I retyped it, and again ” showed up in place of @.  I looked down at the keyboard and noticed the most peculiar thing: that the quotation symbol was above the number 2 instead of the symbol for “at.”  For you Americans reading this, here’s a visual:

british keyboard

If you click on the image, you’ll notice the subtle (but bothersome when you’re trying to type quickly) differences between our American keyboards and the keyboards most computers here have.  It seems rather strange that two English-speaking countries have different keyboards.  Who knew?

Also, British words of the day and today’s addition to The List:

29.) sneakers- trainers

30.) French fries- chips

31.) flashlight-torch

32.) eraser- rubber

Weekend in Lewes

I had the most wonderful weekend in the country town of Lewes with some of my fellow American students studying in the UK.  It was a nice change from the busy city life in London.  That being said, I got far less sleep in Lewes than I have in London!  Since we only had a couple of days, we were determined to pack as much into our time as possible.  We had a walking tour on Friday as soon as we arrived, and our resident director, who lived in Lewes for a while, showed us the town in a nutshell.  We passed by Lewes Castle, through town, past the Priory Ruins, and back around to our hotel.  The weather was really lovely when we got there on Friday, so it was a nice evening for a walk.  We had a great dinner that night, and afterwards a group of us decided to check out the pub scene in Lewes.  We thought we heard salsa music playing down the street, and we followed it to the Lamb of Lewes where, sure enough, they had a salsa band playing.  It was, unfortunately, pretty late when we got there, and we only caught the last few songs.  It was a lot of fun, and we all danced together until the band was finished.  On our way out of the pub, we met a couple guys on the street who suggested we head down to the Lansdown Arms, which was open quite a bit later.  We got a table, and before we even sat down we had already made friends.  One thing about England, really about Europe in general, is the friendliness and openness of people you meet at the pub.  It’s not unusual for a complete stranger to walk right up to you and start talking as if you know each other.  In this case, our new friend bought us all a round of drinks, to, as he put it, “welcome the Americans to England.”  He had already had several rounds himself, and he started dancing on the benches to the music of Beyonce.  Before we knew it, we were all up dancing and singing.  It was such a fun atmosphere.  Our group got back to the hotel around 12:30 and stayed up talking until 2 am.

We got about five hours of sleep that night, since breakfast was at 7:30.  Then we headed out for a full day of exploring.  The first stop was Lewes Castle, pretty much across the street from where we were staying.  The castle is one of the only ones never to have been invaded.  Our resident director explained the multi-step security system of gates, flying arrows, hot sand, and stone walls that successfully kept invaders out.  William de Warenne was granted Lewes by the King of England following the Norman Conquest; the castle was the headquarters of the de Warenne family for nearly 300 years.  The castle was strategically located near the River Ouse, a route used to get from London to the coast.  This gave the de Warenne family great power, since the river was used as a trading route.  The castle is really beautiful, and from the top, one has amazing views of Lewes and the surrounding Downs:

20141018_100348

Next we got on a bus and went to Bodiam Castle, nearby Lewes.  To me, Bodiam Castle gets its beauty from the surrounding moat, which is filled with water, fish, and ducks.  It’s the first castle I’ve seen since I’ve been in England that still has a moat; all the others either had dry moats or did not have a moat at all.  Again, the views from the top of the castle towers was the best part.  It’s absolutely gorgeous to see the land stretching for miles beyond the castle walls.  The land is very hilly in the region, so the rolling hills are obviously a very picturesque location:

20141018_115216 20141018_122219

We had lunch at the castle tea room, then got back on the bus and drove to Beachy Head, home to the iconic white chalk cliffs.  Beachy Head is located along the English Channel, and from the top of the cliffs, the water looks very blue.  Contrasted with the greenery on top of the cliffs and the white of the cliffside, the water looks beautiful.  It’s definitely not a place I’d recommend to people who are afraid of heights, as it’s a steep and long drop off the cliff to the water.  It’s really difficult to describe the beauty of the area; there are really no words for it, and pictures simply don’t do it justice.  The view is just breath-taking:

beachy head 1 beachy head 2

We took a quick walk along the cliffs, jumped back on the bus and headed to Monk House, a residence formerly belonging to Virginia and Leonard Woolf.  The location is gorgeous, nestled along a picturesque country road in the village of Rodmell.  The house itself is quite small, and visitors are only allowed to see the ground floor, including the living room, dining room, kitchen, and Virginia’s room.  The living room is the largest room, and even that room could be a problem for claustrophobics, but the colors in the house give it a bright and cheerful feel.  Many paintings and artwork done by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister, adorn the walls of the house.  There are loads of books in the house, but the only ones that actually belonged to Virginia are in the bedroom.  They are a collection of Shakespeare’s works, but what makes them truly special is the fact that Virginia hand-covered each of the books, and the titles are written in her handwriting.  You can really feel the sense of pride the volunteers working at the house feel for that collection.  The lady in the bedroom gave us some information about the house itself, and when she talked about Virginia’s Shakespeare collection, her eyes just lit up.  Underneath the shelf containing those books is a silk shawl that belonged to Virginia; it’s black with pale pink flowers, and it is, as we were told, extremely delicate.  The gardens and the land behind the house are really beautiful, simple and peaceful.  Virginia’s writing house is also located in the garden.  It was a lovely end to a busy day of seeing Lewes.

We went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner.  Again, we decided to go out after dinner to celebrate our second and final night in Lewes together.  We went to a pub just around the corner from the hotel, but we didn’t stay too long.  However, on the way out we had the good fortune of meeting some guys from Lewes.  Like our friends the night before, they’d already had a few rounds, but they were more than willing to take us around.  We had no idea what was in store for us.  Those of us who decided to go with them had the most fun, yet absolutely crazy, night.  We went all around Lewes to places, quite frankly, we’d never have discovered without the… “guidance” of our local friends.  Long story short, we ended up staying out til 5 am, but I think every one of us could say we’d do it again and again if we had the chance.  It was quite an adventure for us.

I got about three hours of sleep last night, as I decided to get up and go for a hike to the Battlefield of Lewes with a small group of us and our resident director.  I can say it was definitely worth it.  The views, again, were spectacular.  There were a lot of black-faced sheep out in the fields, and lots of locals were out walking their dogs on this lovely Sunday morning.  It’s just such a beautiful place, and I sincerely wish we could’ve stayed longer.

lewes

Let me make one thing clear: it’s pronounced “loo-is”, as in the name Lewis, not “looz”, as in lose, a mistake many of us made before getting to town and being corrected.

Also, I thought of some words to add to the list this weekend:

26.) band-aid/bandage- plaster

27.) “you guys” – “you lot”

28.) drunk- pissed

Also, you are typically greeted here with “Are you alright?” which, to Americans, seems to imply that there’s something wrong with you.  Here, it’s used in place of “How are you?”  When I was speaking to some of the other American students this weekend, that seemed like one conversational difference they’d had some trouble getting used to.  So when someone greets you with “Are you alright?” it doesn’t mean that they think you look upset; it’s just an alternative greeting.

Some of us are considering going back for the big bonfire night in Lewes on November 5th, a night the town seems to live for.  Many of the locals we ran into this weekend explained to us that it’s a sort of “commemoration” of Guy Fawkes’s unsuccessful attempt to blow up Parliament, hence the massive fire and the large amount of fireworks.  Everyone dresses up in “costume” and stampedes through town in a huge throng of people.  Lewes has the claim to the biggest bonfire night in the UK, certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest, worldwide.  It was also described to us as a good excuse to have a massive party and get “pissed.”  It would definitely be an interesting, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and all the locals highly recommended coming back for it.

More “Britishisms”

In theory, it takes 21 days to form a habit.  If this is the case, then it’s safe to say that I’ve solidly programmed myself to look right before left when crossing the street.  I’ve lived my whole life looking left before right, and now I’ve noticed that I look right before left without giving it a second thought.  Yes, the famous “Brits drive on the wrong side of the road” issue has become the new normal for me.  I only hope that when I get back to the States that I remember to drive on the “right” side of the road… see what I did there?

I did a little research into why this is, and I found the following information on http://www.2pass.co.uk/goodluck.htm#.VD6UAPldX9Y:

“Up to the late 1700’s, everybody travelled on the left side of the road because it’s the sensible option for feudal, violent societies of mostly right-handed people. Jousting knights with their lances under their right arm naturally passed on each other’s right, and if you passed a stranger on the road you walked on the left to ensure that your protective sword arm was between yourself and him. Revolutionary France, however, overturned this practice as part of its sweeping social rethink. A change was carried out all over continental Europe by Napoleon.The reason it changed under Napoleon was because he was left handed; his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and any opponent. From then on, any part of the world which was at some time part of the British Empire was thus left hand and any part colonised by the French was right hand… The drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA, which was anxious to cast off all remaining links with its British colonial past. Once America drove on the right, left-side driving was ultimately doomed.  If you wanted a good reliable vehicle, you bought American.”

So there you have it.

Also, the traffic lights here turn yellow not only before a red light but also before a green light.  I actually laughed the first time I saw that.  It gives you the option to accelerate gradually, as opposed to the American method of taking off as fast as you can when the light changes from red to green.

Another “Britishism” I’ve noticed, particularly on trips to the grocery store, is the use of “re” at the end of a word, as opposed to “er.”  “Fiber”, for instance is spelled “fibre” here in the UK.  Or “theater” is spelled “theatre.”  It’s a subtle difference, but it’s something you begin to notice all over the place when you become aware of it.

One of my very first memories of London was made upon arriving at Heathrow and meeting up with my cab driver to go to my house.  As he was loading my suitcase into the trunk, I instinctively went to the left side door to sit in the passenger seat.  “No, no,” the driver said to me, “I’m driving.”  I was puzzled for a few seconds before I looked in the window and saw the steering wheel on what I know as the “passenger side.”  I said, “Oh, right, of course,” and looked back at the cab driver.  He was laughing at me.

“London Weather” Has Arrived At Last

Since arriving in London, I’ve been extremely lucky with the weather.  For the first month I was here, I could only recall maybe two rainy days.  For the most part, it was sunny and rather warm.  I was told time and again that this weather was unusual for Britain and that I should expect to see many cloudy, drizzly days ahead.  I came prepared with my rain jacket and “Wellies” (a.k.a. rainboots), but I haven’t had much use for them… until this week.  It seems fall has finally arrived in London, and we’re having a spell of perpetual clouds this week.  Yesterday, it was quite rainy; today was more just cloudy with a light misty drizzle.  If I had 50p for every time someone said to me, “Welcome to Britain,” this week, I’d have made quite a bit of money.  This is the weather Londoners have been anticipating (and, it seems, dreading), but I have to say I don’t mind it right now.  It is, as my voice teacher said, the “quintessential English weather,” and I really feel like I’m in London now.  Needless to say, I’m getting my money’s worth out of my raincoat and my Wellies, which already took a beating last fall/winter during the seemingly endless wet and snowy winter we experienced in New Jersey.

Today I wore a pink sweater, and one of my classmates said to me, “I like your jumper!”  I was incredibly confused for a good five seconds, until she said, “Do you call it a jumper or a sweater in the U.S.?”  So I’m happy to say I’ve added another British word to my vocabulary today:

25.) sweater- jumper

Funny, because the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the term “jumper” was this scene from That 70’s Show:

jumpsuit

… although technically, these are “jumpsuits,” not “jumpers.”

This Looks Familiar…

Every day for a month, I have walked past the potato chip stand in the student lounge, taking little notice of the brand.  Yellow sun, red ribbon.  They’re Lay’s Potato Chips, right?

lays

WRONG! As I was sitting across from the stand the other day, I discovered that they were, in fact, not Lay’s, but WALKER’S!

temp

I did some research and found out that Lay’s and Walker’s are, as predicted, both owned by the American multinational company PepsiCo, which accounts for the same logo.  I also discovered that the logo is, in fact, derived from the Walker’s brand!  They have, more or less, the same flavors as Lay’s does, but they are not Lay’s… they are “Walker’s.”

Which brings me to another point: Brits do not call thinly-sliced fried potatoes “potato chips”; here, they are called “crisps.”  So today’s addition to my list of British vocabulary is “crisp.”