You might think you speak English. You may hold a Harvard degree in English and be familiar with the Cambridge dictionary, Oxford comma, and MLA citing system; but have you brushed up on your British lately? I mean actually rubbed shoulders with one of our eloquently spoken allies from the breezy little island across the pond?
No? Well, you probably don’t speak fluent British then. Until you’ve spent a day driving on the left, dunking your biscuits into a cuppa, and watching a football game on the tele, then you’ll probably always be just a little bit confused when listening to a Brit talking about their knackering day, or inviting you to a knees up. So here’s a few tips for speaking fluent British in one day:
The Brits still like to talk about time in the analog (or rather, analogue) way, so start your day out right by setting your alarm clock to half past seven, or quarter to eight. Once you’ve stumbled out of your miniature bed (everything’s smaller in Europe) and made your way to the bathroom, you might need to rewire your brain before turning anything on.
Apart from being smaller, everything is also older in UK than it is at home and you might be faced with a light switch that is a string hanging out of the ceiling, or a toilet with a chain that needs to be pulled. Also, it’s a good idea to ask for instructions on how to work the shower previously and check that the boiler has enough hot water.
You may be used to a leisurely Sunday brunch of hash browns, bacon, and eggs sunny side-up, but until you’ve ingested a full English breakfast before 9 am, you can’t begin to think like a Brit.
I’m talking fried bread, baked beans, sausages, brown sauce and, for the truly iron stomached among you, black pudding. There’s nothing like a serving of fried pig’s blood in the morning to set you up for the day ahead.
Wash it all down with a nice, strong cup of tea. Don’t even bother ordering a coffee. You’ll regret it if you do.
While you may be tempted to go back to bed and let your food go down, remember you’ve got a long day ahead of exploring the sights and sounds of London, such as Bleeding Heart Yard, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. While you’re out it, why don’t you try pronouncing Leicester in just two syllables? Until you do you don’t speak fluent British.
A Note on Clothing Before You Leave Your Hotel
Take a tube to the center and walk around. Try not to giggle as you hear the words “mind the gap” over and over, or see instructions painted onto the streets as to which way to look before crossing the road.
Many a tourist has been taken out by a double decker bus for not looking before they cross. Also, be careful not to get in the wrong side of the taxi, as the driver might think you’re trying to assault him.
If you’re renting a car, make sure that you know the transmission is the gear box, that their cars are made backwards, and that you should never try to put gas into it. Also, that thing that looks like a golf buggy? That really is a car.
A Note on British Money
Their bills (notes) are all different colors, making US dollars look like Monopoly money. Pound coins feel like gold nuggets and the biggest coin really is worth just 2p. Also, the price you see on the ticket is the price you pay, as the tax here is already included.
Before you get excited about how cheap everything is here, remember that the prices are displayed in pounds and not dollars – same numbers, different signal. And yes, the underground really does cost that much.
A Note on British Measurements
While Brits talk about time the old fashioned way, they display it digitally, so get used to the 24-hour clock. It’s all part of the we’re in Europe except we’re not in Europe thing they’ve got going on over there.
Distances are measured in miles. But temperature is taken in Celsius. Weight is measured in kilograms, but also in pounds and ounces (go figure), and 14 pounds equals one stone – people weigh themselves in stones over there (no, really).
Time for lunch and if you haven’t eaten in a pub yet, then it’s about time you did. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’re entering someone’s living room at first, as pubs don’t look at all like bars, but rather like somebody’s house, with a fluffy rug and panting dog sprawled on the carpet and book cases piled high with historical works.
Order a pint of lager and expect it to be filled to the brim, so that your only option is to slosh it all over you as you walk back to your table. But don’t complain, as that’s a properly served pint; anything less and you’ve been short-changed.
Oh and by the way, you pay for your food and drink first in the UK, not after. You also have to order it and carry it to the table yourself, so it’s just as well that there’s no need to tip. Say what? You heard. Keep your hard earned pennies for later on.
If you don’t like meat and potatoes, you’re going to go hungry in Britland, as there isn’t really a dish served without chips. You can even order a chip butty (French fry sandwich), such is their obsession with the humble spud.
Check out a British classic, like toad in the hole, bangers and mash, or fish and chips with mushy peas. Steak and kidney pie or jellied eel may also tickle your fancy.
A Note on British Food
Glamorous it ain’t, but do keep an open mind, as the Brits are pretty sick of being told how awful their food is. If you can’t stomach any more potatoes, then opt for a curry, the nation’s favorite dish. A large percentage of modern-day Britons are of Indian descent and the UK is probably one of the world’s best places to get good Indian food.
Next up, go and see the Buckingham Palace Guards at the Queen’s residence. You can do all you want to try to make them laugh, but they won’t, it’s part of their duty to stand staunchly in silence for hours on end.
Now marvel at how in this age of progress, advanced technology and democracy, they still have a Queen. They have a Prime Minister as well, and he’s the one who runs the country, so what does the Queen do then? No one has that really clear, except for looking at ceremonies and getting sung about at football matches.
How do I explain this? The British are a funny bunch. Fiercely set in their ways, they loathe change, so while an educated, liberal minded person may be all for freedom of speech and democratically elected leaders, when it comes to the Queen, they sort of go weak at the knees.
Time for tea. Whether you want high tea or cream tea, Brits take tea time seriously. But only on the weekends is a lavish banquet served. Have yours with just a dash of milk and no sugar (unless you want to look like a builder) and delight in scones, crumpets and cucumber sandwiches.
The Brits dine early, so don’t be on the lookout for an open restaurant after 9 or 10 pm. Also, keep in mind that pubs still kick out at around 11pm. If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid any football being on at the pub and therefore not risk starting a fight over cheering for the wrong team, or asking what the off-side rule is all about. Be prepared for more potatoes, unless you decide upon an Italian restaurant or to get to the world famous Brick Lane for a Ruby Murry.
Unless you feel like getting legless or going out on the pull, then it’s back to your hotel and off to Bedfordshire for you. How are you feeling? Pretty fluent? No? Well, don’t worry, if all those Briticisms are making your head spin, maybe it’s time you should use a professional translation service instead. Cheers!
|Autumn, arse||Fall, ass|
|Boot, bum bag||Trunk, fanny pack|
|Car park, cuppa, Corrie||Parking lot, cup of (tea), Coronation Street (the nation’s longest running soap)|
|Estate Agent||Real Estate|
|Gear box, Girls Guide||Transmission, Girl Scout|
|Holiday, handbag||Vacation, purse|
|Jam, jumper||Jelly, sweater|
|Knackering, knees up||Exhausting, party|
|On the pull||Looking to get lucky|
|Pavement, purse, petrol||Sidewalk, wallet, gas|
|Rubber, Ruby Murry||Eraser, curry|
|Sat nav, sweets||GPS, candy|
|Trousers, torch, tube||Pants, flashlight, subway train|
|Waistcoat, windscreen||Vest, windshield|
|Z (Zed)||Z (Zee)|