I may have mentioned this before, but I used to write about travelling. Like most people, I abandoned my travel blog once I got back home, but I still love travelling, so I figured I would just turn it into a category on my blog. So from now on, every once in a while, I’ll write about the places I’ve been and the things I experienced there.
As many of you know, I moved to England for my postgrad degree last September. I’ve now lived here for ten months, so I decided it was about time to write a post about all the little things I noticed since moving here. I always love reading about how someone experiences a different country, and all the small things that give a place its character, so I hope you’ll feel the same!
Speaking English and Dialects
I would consider myself a fairly competent English speaker. Out of all the things I worried about when I moved to England, the language was probably the least of my concerns. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and realised I couldn’t even understand everything the taxi driver said, or comprehend when a cashier asked me if I needed a bag at the supermarket. Oh, the lectures at university and communicating with my fellow international students were no issues – it was the locals I had trouble understanding. After talking to a guy from the U.S. who said he showed the people at Subway a picture of a tomato to illustrate what he wanted to order, I felt slightly less bad about my struggle to understand the Geordie accent!
Word Mix Ups
In a similar vein, I sometimes struggle to figure out which words belong to ‘which’ English. I laughed about the tomato episode mentioned above for about twenty minutes, because it always seems funny to me when people who all speak English can’t communicate, but to be honest I kind of get it. I didn’t really learn a specific form of English, which on the one hand is good because I understand both the words courgette and zucchini, but it also means that the clerk gave me a funny look when I asked for a zucchini at the store, because they’re called courgettes in England. Even trickier is when the same word has different meanings, such as flapjack. I ordered a flapjack at a restaurant and expected a pancake, but got a muesli bar kind of thing. And then of course there’s the infamous rubber/condom/eraser situation everyone gets told about at some point or another.
Public Transportation Etiquette
This could be an entire post itself. I used to think public transportation is more or less the same in every country (bad), but there’s a plethora of unspoken rules you need to be familiar with. For example, in Germany, you don’t have to wave down the bus (if someone’s at the bus stop, the driver stops), but in England the driver will just keep going if you don’t wave. Similarly, (at least where I live in England) the bus stops aren’t usually announced on the bus, so I spent the first few days frantically trying to figure out when I have to get off while tracking the bus on Google Maps.
If you don’t have a long term ticket, you also usually need to have small change to pay for your ticket (one bus driver got very angry and rude when I only had a ten pound note to pay for a two pound ticket on a Sunday morning). There’s not always a formal line at the bus stop, but it does seems to be a social faux pas on par with insulting someone’s mother if you enter the bus before someone who was waiting for it for longer than you were. People also often get up to exit far before they actually have to get off. Finally, you say thank you to the bus driver when you exit the bus.
I’m fine with most of those things (except for not announcing the stops, because what the hell), but one thing is still extremely frustrating to me: where I’m from there’s one company you pay for all busses, the subway, and the short distance trains. Here, there are about ten different bus companies, as well as different companies for the metro and the trains. If you buy a ticket for one company, it’s not valid on any of the others. Sometimes even the same bus will be operated by different companies at different times of day, so e.g. your ticket is only valid on that bus before 6 pm, because then another company takes over.
I knew that the summer in England would be slightly colder than in Germany, but I was not prepared for no summer at all. I know the English weather is a stereotype in and of itself, but I guess I didn’t quite belive it? To be honest, I was thrilled to spend the summer here, because I lived in an attic room the last few years, and despite its reputation, Germany does get quite hot in summer – it’s often above 30 degrees during the summer, so you can imagine how that felt in an attic with no A/C. So when I heard it stays a few degrees cooler in summer in England, I figured that’s exactly perfect. I was imagining 20-25 degrees and sunny weather. Yeah… no. I had to turn on the heating in June.
I figured it would be even colder in winter, but was again surprised when the temperature never really dropped much below the freezing point, which was nice after getting -10 degrees in Germany during the winter holidays. I also understood the thing about ‘felt’ temperature for the first time in my life. Where I’m from, the felt temperature is pretty much the same as the normal temperature, so it always seemed superfluous to me. Here, there’s a massive difference between 19 degrees and 19 degrees and wind.
Obviously, England is famous for its pubs, and I do love them. There’s one other thing I noticed though. To me, it always seems like there are a lot of small, individual stores. Obviously, you have them in every country, but I feel like there’s a lot more individuality in the design here sometimes. Even chain stores and bars often seem completely different in different cities. A small speciality store that solely caters to cat lovers? Sure, no problem. A second hand book store in an abandoned train station with a little train running through it? Check. A café painted all in pink and Alice in Wonderland themed? Right along this way. I absolutely love discovering gems like that, and it certainly makes a walk through the city more exciting.
I’ve been annoying my friends with my complaints about the lack of decent bread pretty much since I got here. It’s not that you can’t find any good bread in England, but the bread I’m used to is basically impossible to get a hold of. What’s especially baffling to me is all the soft, white bread. We do have this in Germany, but it’s called toast, because we pretty much only eat it toasted, whereas here it’s just called bread. I’m not a fan, but I did find some better alternatives in the freshly baked sections of supermarkets, so I can’t complain too much
mostly because someone will eventually murder me if I mention it again.I did try to make my own bread rolls yesterday. Let’s say it made me appreciate the ones I can buy here more.
Geordies (people from Newcastle) have a reputation for being nice, and I can confirm that this is true. Obviously there are exceptions, but generally people are extremely polite and decent. Obviously, I don’t know how deep this goes, but even just interactions at the store, or with university staff are often quite pleasant just because people go out of their way to be nice. It definitely makes life easier! I’ve also met a lot of genuinely and effortlessly funny people, and I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or if my sense of humour is especially suited to English humour, but I’m not complaining.
There’s a lot more, but I’ll stop here. What kinds of things did you notice while travelling/living in another country?