Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I've just realized that one month from today will be my last full day in the UK - I fly home on the 10th of December. With this in mind, I've been feeling rather conflicted: astonished that this time (this solid block of weeks that started out to me as so unknown) has passed so quickly, sad to leave and a bit panicky as I try to squeeze as much sightseeing and adventuring into the time I have left, but also excited to see home and my friends and family again. (And horses. And dogs.) Perhaps I'll write another time about the reflections my time in the UK has led me to have about home and my "normal" life.

But, that being said, for the moment I'd like to focus on England. There are still several "British-isms" that feel strange and quirky to me, even after a month and a half here, and that keep taking me by surprise. In all likelihood, they'll probably continue to be mystifying until the day I leave. Here are just a few:

- The Brits drive on the wrong side of the road. Obviously. But they also drive on the wrong side of the car. As in, the driver's side is actually the passenger's seat. I keep doing double-takes (even now!) thinking, "Wait - what - there wasn't anyone driving that car!" Last week, when I caught a ride with someone to polo practice, I kept feeling weird and ill-at-ease, sitting on the left side of the car but not driving.

- It's apparently a big thing in England, especially among young people, to sign emails, texts, facebook messages, etc., with the postscript "xxx." As in "xoxoxo," but without the kisses. Depending on the scale of affection, people will type anything from a single "x" to "xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx." By those rules, I'd sign this post off with "Rachel xx."

- British people have no conception of some basic American food staples. When I wanted chocolate chips from the store, I ended up having a long and confused interaction that took me to the specialty baking section to buy teeny tiny overpriced bags of chocolate pieces. ("Wait, you don't even have a normal bag of Hershey's chocolate chips?" "No.") A friend of mine wanted canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie, but that also seemed nonexistent. Not to mention all of the different names they have for ordinary food items.

- My "American" accent (or whatever you call my voice - throughout my life Americans themselves have asked me if I'm foreign) throws the Brits off, to the extent that going to the store usually involves me pulling out a pad of paper and writing down whatever I need. Matters aren't helped by the fact that their British accents also throw me into a tailspin!

- The temperature here is in Celsius, not Farenheit. Hence I keep gaping when I see how cold it really is outside - no, wait, not really.

- I am still terrible with British money. The bills are easy enough, but there are too many coins! I know which ones are one pound, or two pounds, or fifty pence, but beyond that I'm worse than a kindergartener. This inevitably marks me as foreign. Strategy: count my change before I approach the cashier.

- Not to mention common vocabulary differences like soccer/football, metro/tube, dessert/pudding (or whatever the heck pudding actually is), etc...

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