Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

What I’ve Learned From 1.5 Years in the UK

77

Kate in London

In less than a week, Mario and I start our yearlong trip around the world.  It’s time to wind down 1.5 years of living in the UK: one year in Chester and eight months in London.

This was never my plan.  I had always imagined the UK as a place that was nice, but cold and a bit boring.  If I moved to Europe, wouldn’t it be somewhere warmer and exciting, somewhere I could learn a new language?  Like Italy or Spain?

Well, I didn’t move here for love of the country.  I moved here for a guy.  We broke up.  I met another guy. And stayed.

It’s been interesting, it’s been strange at times, and it’s overall been different from what I expected.  Here are the things I’ve learned about British culture in the past year and a half.

English National Opera

Emails signed with kisses are not flirtatious.

This actually comes from a few years ago — a male English friend of mine emailed me and signed it with an X at the end.  I stared at that X for about an hour and wondered whether he was hitting on me.

Nope.  That’s just what Brits do — sign things with X’s, even if it’s just to a friend or family member.  Mario will gently remind me if I forget to put an X on a card for someone!

“You all right?” isn’t a cause for alarm.

For the longest time, I thought something was wrong with me when people kept asking me if I was all right.  Turns out it’s the British equivalent of “How are you?”

Hare Krishna Parade, London

“Asian” does not mean what you think it means.

In the UK, “Asian” means “southern Asian” — from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka.  Asians are the dominant ethnic minority here.  People from China, Japan, Korea, or Southeast Asia are referred to as “Oriental.”  Which makes me uneasy, as “Oriental” is a vaguely offensive term in the US.

(Of course, I didn’t learn this until I left Chester, as Chester has approximately zero people of color in town at any given time.)

And by the way, you’re NOT Italian.

Even if you’re part of a big Italian family that has Sunday dinner together every week and everyone yells at each other and hairbrushes are thrown in anger and the men live at home until they’re 40, even if you all speak Italian at home, even if both your parents immigrated from Italy, the Brits will only consider you Italian if you were actually born in Italy.

Most Americans raised in big ethnic families consider themselves their ethnicity, whether it’s Italian, Greek or Taiwanese.  Even those with questionable Irish ancestry bring out the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” merchandise on St. Patrick’s Day.  Not the Brits.

Borough Market

The accents are incredibly varied and amazing.

I know I’ll never use the words “British accent” ever again.  One of the joys of living here has been getting to know the various accents of different regions — the jumbled Liverpool accent, the singsong Geordie accent, the oft-mocked accents of Birmingham and Essex, the fun and musical Scottish accents from Edinburgh to Glasgow to the Highlands to Shetland (the latter completely incomprehensible).

You think that the US has a variety of accents, from the drawls of the deep South to the Valley girls of California, the Italian-Americans of New Jersey, the odd north midwestern accent parodied in Fargo?  Not to mention my hometown accent, Boston, the one accent that no non-native can do passably, excluding Jeremy Renner and occasionally Alec Baldwin?

We have nothing on the UK in terms of diversity and variety.  Trust that.

Football never ends.

I mean, it’s not the only sport in the UK, but it might as well be.

I always joke that in Boston, you can’t talk to a guy in a bar for half the year because there is always a Red Sox game on.  Well, football in the UK is more extreme: it starts in August and ends in May.  And that doesn’t include other leagues who play during the summer!

St. Paul's Cathedral

Brits don’t know who John Mayer is.

“John Mayer.  Your Body is a Wonderland?  Dated Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift?” Some Brits know him, but he’s a bit of a niche artist.  A Brit who listens to John Mayer is like an American who listens to Robbie Williams.

It’s strange that considering how nearly every major American artist crosses over to Britain, it just didn’t happen with John Mayer.

Pop Music is Different

I remember being at my senior prom and noting at one point that every single song they played that night was hip-hop: Ludacris, Nelly, Petey Pablo with the guys taking off their shirts and twisting them around their heads, spinning them like a helicopter.  (Amusing considering that this was a ballroom of freak-dancing 17-year-olds from one of the whitest towns in Massachusetts.)  Even Dan Savage once said hip-hop culture is the one and only niche in the United States where gay men are not the tastemakers.

You don’t realize how much hip-hop dominates American pop music until you get outside the country. Pop music in Britain has always been more fun and dance-oriented, and they’ve never had a lull in the boy bands!  And while there are British hip-hop artists like Dizzee Rascal, they are, once again, niche artists.  Hip-hop is the exception here, not the rule.

Sunset in Greenford

The Biggest Difference: How We Present Ourselves

When Mario and I put together our media kit for the SOTM Tour, we nearly came to blows.  He thought I was pumping myself up to the point of lying.  I thought he was downplaying himself far more than he needed to.

Of course, this was exacerbated by two factors: 1) I spend all day trying to pitch concepts that are ahead of their time, and therefore a tough sell on many people. 2) Mario is a journalist, where fact-checking is of paramount importance.

As Americans, we make ourselves sound as good as humanly possible on our resumes, whittling down our career to one page of the highest points.  We highlight the best parts and hide the worst parts. Sometimes we exaggerate the good parts.  It doesn’t matter whether the economy is great or awful — that’s what we do and what we have always done.

Brits, by contrast, do a CV listing everything they’ve ever done — no cherry-picking, no exaggeration, just a list.  They don’t believe in tooting their own horns in this situation — they keep their eyes politely downcast, not dreaming of exaggerating anything.

That experience alone taught me more about British and American culture than I ever imagined.

Covent Garden Christmas Decorations

My Overall Takeaway

I’ve had a wonderful time in the UK, I’ve met absolutely fantastic people, and I’ve created some beautiful memories.  At the same time, though, I’m not going to lie and say the UK is my favorite country in the world.  I’m not sure it would even make the top 10.

The truth is that when I moved here, I wanted to move somewhere hot and cheap.  I still want to move somewhere hot and cheap.  Between the fact that this country never warms up and the fact that everything is so bloody expensive, it’s definitely not the ideal place for me.

But — I do really enjoy living in London, and Mario and I plan to move back here after the trip.  It’s the one place in this country where I could live long-term (as much as I love Edinburgh, the endless Scottish winter is just too bone-chillingly cold).  I love how diverse the city is.  I love that I have so many friends here.  And I love, love, LOVE how well-connected London is to the rest of Europe and the world!

That said — living here long-term is different from living here forever.  I already know that London is not my forever destination.  But it’s a nice spot for now.

Thank you, Britain, for a lovely and thoroughly educational year and a half.  What do I take out of this time?  Beautiful photographs, especially of Scotland.  A smattering of British slang and idioms.  A new group of close friends, and an amazing man who challenges me and makes me want to be a better person every day.

That makes it more than worth it!

Comments

77 Responses to “What I’ve Learned From 1.5 Years in the UK”
  1. Always great to see my country through other’s eyes. Glad you have enjoyed your time here (and are coming back). Looking forward to your trip around the world.

    Brian.

  2. DebbZie says:

    First time I moved to London, I was also confused when people asking me daily “You all right?”. I would try to find a mirror to see whether something wrong with my face or else, lol. And yes, they do put xxx on emails, letters, cards, etc and means nothing :D
    Ahhh, I miss London now

  3. Mike says:

    Kate, I’m glad you had such a wonderful experience in the UK. I didn’t know any of the things you mentioned in the post, so next time I visit the UK I’ll be more informed and have to look out for them. I’ll be living in Spain for the next year on the Mediterranean (hot and cheap), and I hope to have just as wonderful of an experience as you have had. Someday you will find a location that is hot and cheap! I look forward to reading about your RTW trip.

    • Chris Bellis says:

      This last 3 years I’ve been to many countries in Europe. I’m only referencing here the cost of living as I have found it. I am from Manchester UK. Only Bulgaria is actually considerably cheaper than UK. Spain and Italy are similar – apart from alcohol and cigarettes, certainly not cheaper. Russia (again apart from alcohol and cigarettes) is more expensive. Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, a little bit more expensive. Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland – all vastly more expensive. Estonia and Latvia – a bit cheaper. Poland – outside the tourist areas, pretty cheap. France – outside Paris, comparable. Belgium – similar. Holland – not too bad. Denmark – comparable. Germany- surprisingly reasonable. So don’t expect Spain either to be hot or cheap. I lived in Spain for years, including in the far South, and it even snows from time to time and it certainly isn’t cheap. But have a good time anyway – you’ll enjoy it I’m sure.

  4. I’m glad that you’re still enamoured with London, even if you couldn’t live in England forever! (To be honest, I don’t totally know if I could, either…) It’s always great to see your home country through someone else’s eyes, particularly yours my love! Hope you’ll miss it at least a little bit while you’re off adventuring with Mario. And you need to get some South American cities into your itinerary please!!

  5. Emily says:

    I love how everyone says “byeeeeee” on the phone in a super high pitched voice.

  6. Georgia says:

    Hi Kate,
    It’s always really interesting to hear an account of the UK from a foreigner. I’m glad you didn’t hate it entirely, and I definitely get what you mean about the never ending bad weather!
    It’s really nice to know you actually went to the UK, and properly explored it rather than just heading to London (which as I’m sure you know, is nothing like the rest of the country!)
    Did you go to Brighton at all while you were here? It’s my absolute favourite place in the UK and I highly recommend it if you haven’t been (and it’s only 50 minutes from London on the train)

    x

  7. Pamela says:

    It’s nice to know “X” and “You all right?” terms the Brit use to save myself some embarrassment when I visit the country in 2 months time.
    I remembered another equivalent of ‘How are you?” which is “Are you winning?”

    And thanks for letting me know I am Oriental, not Asian in UK but I will still introduce myself as Asian. :p

    • hoolan says:

      “Are you winning” is something to say in place of ” Are you alright” if you see someone struggling with something or doing a hard task.

      For example, if you see someone trying to repair a bike you could say.
      “You winning mate?”

  8. Lane says:

    OMG — We had such a great laugh over this. My partner is British and I’m American. The whole bragging vs. downplaying debate lives and breathes in our house!

  9. tom says:

    Its great to read about Britain through an American’s eyes especially one who has spent a reasonable amount of time here :)

    I have met so many Americans who stop over, barely leave the major cities and dismiss the UK as a stopping off point to other greater things in Europe.

    Glad you enjoyed your time here and when you return I’ve got plenty of tips for other places for you to see!

    • Stutz says:

      Don’t get too discouraged by tourists. In 2004 I spent a week in London followed by a week in France & Germany, and in 2008 my wife and I spent two weeks in Switzerland & Italy for our honeymoon. London was definitely my favorite European experience, followed by the Swiss Alps, the Rhineland, and Venice.

      I regret that I didn’t have an opportunity to explore the rest of the UK, other than a brief excursion to the Milton Keynes area to visit a relative. However, it’s at the top of our travel wish list to tour the UK. Compare that with my feelings on hotter, cheaper Italy: once was enough!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Beautifully written, Kate! That last bit nearly brought a tear to my eye.

    On the you’re NOT Italian unless you were born in Italy…My grandparents were born in Italy and 100% Italian. So I consider myself half Italian. Well, I did until I moved to Italy. Italians liked to remind me how very NOT Italian I was, so I learned quickly to just say I’m American.

  11. I haven’t been to the UK and can’t wait to visit, but, like you, I know the weather would get to me if we ever stayed long-term. I’ll take the Ibiza sunshine over the Scotland overcast any day!

  12. Arianwen says:

    It’s really interesting to hear how some of the things we see as normal come across to people from other countries. I might be more sparing with my kisses in future! Who knows what impression I’ve given to the wrong people in the past. Might explain a few things actually… :)

  13. Aww! This was a great post, my dear. It was awesome getting to know you in the flesh, hanging out, and cultivating our love for Wagamama lol! Catch you in Asia. :-)

  14. I absolutely love London. It’s a great place to live except for that pesky cost of living. I think it’s the most underrated food city in the world too. Of course British food isn’t the best, but London’s the most multicultural city there is. Outside of their home country, the best Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Lebanese, and Indian food was all found in London. I spent my last semester in college in London and will be back in a couple weeks for the 2nd time since. Can’t wait!

  15. Kellie says:

    It always nice to see how us Brits are viewed through someone else eyes. I hadn’t realised the X at the end of an email or text was a British thing. I’m glad the cold and rain didn’t put you off you too much!

  16. Naomi says:

    The accents are the one thing I miss so much about Britain. I’m a Geordie and when I’m away travelling, I have learnt to change my accent as people have a hard time understanding me otherwise – my accent has now changed to a weird hybrid accent now! It’s the biggest sign I’m home when I just go back to speaking like my “home” self. Glad to hear that you enjoyed Britain Kate, it is far from perfect but I feel it sometimes gets a undeserved bad rap especially when they say Brits are cold! Lots of good luck to you and Mario on your round the world trip – I’m sure it’ll be amazing!

  17. I love it Kate. I feel exactly the same way. Hubby and I lived in London for just under 3 yrs back in 1997. It was strange being an American and not knowing “English”. Well we learned and to this day I say some things in “proper English” and forget if it is English or American. We loved living there and would love to go back, but we too are more of warm and less expensive. Thus us currently living in Southern Spain. :-) take care and can’t wait to see where you go next.

  18. Eileen of the super tourists says:

    I love it! Been wanting to make a move to the UK just because it would be the perfect place to base myself for future European and African adventures with my daughter. Although I have tons of Brit friends and I have to agree on most parts especially the X kisses and the accents!

  19. J Irish Brit says:

    Nice blog, and thank you for using the term Football (<that was an Oxford comma by the way) to describe our national sport.
    Personally I'm a huge American sport fan, NFL in particular (Bengals for my sins, WHO DEY!) and attempt to immerse myself in the language when I am accross the pond (less often than I would like).

    I do have to take issue with one area of your blog, and it may well be a mirror to your referencing Asian/Oriental…

    ' “Asian” does not mean what you think it means.

    In the UK, “Asian” means “southern Asian” — from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. Asians are the dominant ethnic minority here. People from China, Japan, Korea, or Southeast Asia are referred to as “Oriental.” Which makes me uneasy, as “Oriental” is a vaguely offensive term in the US.

    '(Of course, I didn’t learn this until I left Chester, as Chester has approximately zero people of color in town at any given time.)' '

    People of color(sic) [we use a 'u'], is not an acceptable term in the UK, it reeks of 'them and us' culture, and despite our percieved stuffiness (there goes that Oxford comma again) we embrace our multi-culturalism and ethnic diversity like almost nowhere else on the planet.

    • Thanks for that information. “People of color” or “person of color” is a respectful term in the US — I’m surprised to hear it’s offensive in the UK. Glad to know!

      • J Irish Brit says:

        It cannot be respectful in any culture to say your skin colour is different from mine so i am defining you as different from me. That is disrespect not respect, take a good look at yourself!

        • I think that’s a myopic point of view, J Irish Brit. We don’t live in a colorblind world. Pretending that you don’t see skin color doesn’t do you any favors.

          It’s possible to love your friends and family for who they are and appreciate them, regardless of skin color — but also to acknowledge that in Arizona, your Hispanic friends could be stopped by cops and forced to show their papers just because they look like they could be an illegal immigrant. Acknowledge that here in England, there has been an uptick in violence against Muslims and people who look like they could be Muslim since the Woolwich murder.

          Until we live in a world where skin color is irrelevant, it’s foolish to pretend that we do.

      • K says:

        Yeah, as a fellow American I’m a bit surprised to hear you say that the phrase “people of color” is a respectful term in the US, since I would definitely disagree with that. Not to say that my opinion of what is respectful in America is more correct than your opinion, since they are both just opinions. But I mightn’t say that that phrase is respectful as a fact. Might just be a regional difference or a personal difference.

        Amusingly it immediately reminded me of that part in Arrested Development when Lucille says “There’s a colored man in my kitchen!” and Michael responds with, “Colored? What color was he, exactly?” (Blue.)

      • Nads says:

        Oh come on! if the words weren’t meant with malice then does it really matter what the words are? Some people need to stop being so ‘PC’ about things and get a grip on reality and stop getting their knickers in a twist over semantics!!

    • Stutz says:

      Unless you have a different definition of the Oxford comma, I don’t believe those were good examples. The definition is “a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction in a series of three or more terms.” Basically, it only applies to lists. For example: “red, white, and blue” as opposed to “red, white and blue”. Your first example is simply a conjunction of two independent clauses. The second example, although it has three items, to me reads more like a parenthetical, i.e., “…is not an acceptable term in the UK (it reeks of them and us), and despite…” In that case, it would also be a conjunction of clauses.

      Personally I have always preferred to use the Oxford comma. It makes more logical and intuitive sense to me.

  20. Jess says:

    Brilliant Kate. I am british and although your observations dont exactly sum up the UK they are all spot on! (Although I dont call anyone oriental either). The weather is also crap but if you ever get the chance to visit in the summer and there is by any chance some nice weather then you have to go to Cornwall. Trust me! And we are awful at promoting ourselves something that really gets me down at times as I wishit wasn’t so outrageous to have some confidence now and again!

  21. It always confused me when my American friends looked at me funnily when I asked “You all right?”

  22. George says:

    As a brit I didn’t understand any of this as strange ha, in particular the kisses :) x

  23. Helen says:

    Hey Kate,

    As echoed above it’s really interesting to see your own country through someone else’s eyes. That is why I love to travel so much and read travel blogs.

    I love how everyone has a different subjective viewpoint and a unique story to tell. If we all looked the same, spoke the same and behaved the same how boring would life be?

    Thanks for sharing! Enjoy your RTW trip!

    x (I debated whether to put this, but it feels weird not to!) :)

  24. Tom says:

    So true about the “you alright?” I’m from Australia and lived there for two years and found that the funniest difference about our dialog. I’ve only just got back a few months ago and the only thing I don’t miss about glorious London is the weather. What a city, and the links to the rest of Europe are golden.. best 2 years of my life.

  25. Megan says:

    As an Aussie living in the UK for the last year, I totally agree with the significance of every point you’ve made – especially “You all right?”, which I still often answer with “Um, yep, why?”

    Have an amazing time on your trip!

  26. Amy says:

    Everything is spot on! Especially the “all right?”. When I moved to Italy, I started saying the equivalent in Italian, and thought it was just a translation issue or an “oh, they don’t say that here” moment when people were confused. Then I said it to Americans and realised it’s a “translation issue” between Englishes too!

    The “You are not Italian” point is so true, and something Americans should know before they meet Europeans (it’s not just us Brits who are sensitive about it!). It’s strange to us, this American tendency to say “Oh, I’m British/German/Italian etc” and then when you show a further interest it turns out that they don’t speak the language, have never visited the “homeland” and in some cases even their parents don’t speak it and haven’t visited. I don’t think you have to be born and bred somewhere to be that nationality, but it is very American to have such a strong identification with a heritage you don’t really seem to be a strong part of.

    It’s not so much that we object to people being aware of their past even if they aren’t “really” X nationality, we just find it odd that for a lot of Americans it’s one of the first things they bring up when you ask where they’re from: “I’m American, but I have German heritage”. It’s unthinkable for a Brit to do that, unless they have a very foreign name they have to spell out for you!

    I have Maltese heritage, but I don’t speak the language (well, English is an official language, but you know what I mean…) and I’ve not visited since I was VERY small, so I would never bring it up unless we were actually discussing heritage. I don’t identify as half-Maltese in the slightest, so I just find it odd when someone with even less connection to their “roots” consider it such a part of them.

    • Megan says:

      I’m so glad someone finally said this! I think its great to respect and appreciate where your ancestors came from, but it’s silly to consider a culture you have little connection with to be a huge part of your identity.
      For example, my mom’s entire family considers themselves to be extremely Irish. Only two of them have been there, and when I visited I certainly didn’t tell people I was Irish. I’m American – simple as that. From what I’ve gathered in talking to people from different nationalities, saying otherwise is certainly a very American thing to do!

      • Stutz says:

        In the US, I perceive it in most cases as more of a conversational thing, like discussing your astrological sign. It’s not always a statement of identity (since it’s obvious to all parties that we identify as American) so much as an indication of what “flavor” your family has. That said, our feeling of being a “nation of immigrants” is still quite strong, so there’s always an underlying awareness that every family tree ultimately is rooted somewhere else, somewhere older and more “original”.

        With recent immigrants this feeling is much stronger. While it may be a little silly for someone like me, who has Swiss & English ancestry in the very distant past, to identify strongly with my ancestor’s culture, it’s not so silly for a person born to Mexican immigrants and who grew up speaking Spanish at home to feel a bit like a Mexican living in America, as opposed to an American from a Mexican family. The last point I’ll make is that a person’s ancestry can certainly color their family. In the US this is often true of persons with Italian, Jewish, and Russian backgrounds, for example.

  27. It’s such a special experience to be able to live abroad! And it’s always so interesting to look back and see what you’ve learned and how it has changed you and some of your perceptions.

    The other really interesting thing is what you end up missing once you’ve gone. Is there anything that comes to mind as something you might miss, besides your friends?

  28. Jessica says:

    I found that British humour was the most difficult thing to get used to when I was living there. I’m sure it’s not universal, but I found a lot of Brits are into “you’re such an idiot” jokes, and then they laugh and wait for you to razz them back. I’ve never felt more like a stereotypical nice Canadian than when I first arrived and wondered why it seemed like everyone was being so mean to each other. It’s amazing how we can all speak the same language, but really not get each other sometimes.

  29. Maddie says:

    Very funny, as a Brit it’s so weird having these things pointed out that you think of as completely normal. The only one I find odd is the Oriental thing, the only time I’ve ever heard this used is from much older people. If someone is Asian, they’re Asian. Glad you’ve enjoyed your time so far.

  30. Diane says:

    This post opened my eyes to some things I definitely didn’t learn while in the UK (just a short trip). Interesting to learn about different cultures and see how the same things are perceived through a different lens. I think the Asian/Oriental thing would annoy me and “You all right?” would make me think I looked like I was about to die or something. Good to know in case I ever hear it when in the UK!

  31. Roisin says:

    It’s interesting to see the small differences. And it’s true – hardly anyone has heard of John Mayer.

    Enjoy your RTW trip :)

  32. I can relate to all these facts! It’s amazing how many small differences there are between British and American culture. It took me forever to understand what the x was at the end of text, now I do it all the time. I love how many accents there are here. It’s so fun. I love living in London. But the weather is a bit hard to take as is the price of life. This was a fun read-best of luck with your year abroad!

  33. Rana says:

    After reading your blog about UK, I’ve become more thrilled about visiting UK again this summer. I’ve been to London before , but I’m planning on visiting Edinburgh, Brighton, Cornwall and Milton Keynes.
    I loved using the word “cheers!” at the end of any conversation :)

    I hope one day I’ll get to experience living there for a year.

    • allan says:

      Milton Keynes, skip that one. nothing to see there, no culture, architecturally void, just a but of suburban squalor.
      replace it with York, Whitby (and surrounding area) Durham, Stamford, Keswick (and surrounding area), the peak district, yorkshire dales etc. the list is so long.

  34. Great insight. I had the same issues with the “You al’right yeah?” that Londoners love to say. One of the things I will never tire of though is being called “love” or “darling” by Northerners and old ladies.

  35. Charlie says:

    Who’s John Mayer? x x x ;)

    Really interesting to see the UK through an expat’s eyes! The difference between how Brits and North American’s present themselves definitely rings true to me. I’ve similar experiences here in Canada. I never felt comfortable stretching the truth a wee bit to sell myself to employers, my CV’s changed a lot here! This difference in attitude is reflected in the different humour too.

    The use of Oriental is a very antiquated term and is not common in the UK. In fact, in my experience, people use “Asian” to refer to all the countries in Asia apart from India, when you’d probably say “Indian”. But anyway, just splitting hairs! Your observation about football NEVER stopping is spot on!!!

  36. This. Is. Amazing. You have NO IDEA how much it annoys me when a North American says, “I’m Italian” or “I’m Irish” etc. etc. if they weren’t born in the country they’re talking about, or are like fourth or fifth generation and have never stepped foot there. YOU’RE AMERICAN/CANADIAN. Gah.

    Now, oriental – I’m not sure all Brits use that term. In my hometown (Leeds) and in Newcastle at least, we just use ‘Asian’, and then Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi etc. individually. Probably a regional thing.

    And pop music in the UK is amazing. I trust you came across the almighty Girls Aloud?

    • Helen says:

      Yeah I agree on the ‘Oriental’ thing – I don’t think people say, it very much, even down south but there will of course be exceptions. Although I don’t think it’s really considered that offensive here anyway. Maybe it’s a generational thing?

      I lived in Belfast for a while and I remember going to my first party there. As soon as I opened my mouth and they heard I was from Liverpool, they said ‘I was one of them’. I think I have ancestry that is Irish, but I wouldn’t consider myself Irish in any way shape or form! But it was nice to be so welcomed! But in England you can claim heritage but unless you were born there or grew up there people are like ‘no you’re British!’

      But oh dear Tom – Girls Aloud ;)

      Kate – Agree with the accents completely! We have tons! Even in Liverpool, the accents vary depending on where you’re from in the city!

      The ‘you alright thing’ – never really thought about it before but it’s funny when you think about it! Yeah, it’s just a short version of hello how are you like you say! I suppose it’s the equivalent of the more American saying ‘What’s up?’ rather than you look bad or anything. It’s funny how different languages (or even the same) greet differently – like when you say ‘Jambo’ in Kiswahili, I think it traditionally means ‘what news’ rather than simply ‘hello’ as most people think!

      • I’m not going to get into a fight about how amazing Girls Aloud are. It’s pretty pointless as their general excellence is irrefutable ;)

        Oh and the kiss thing! I ALWAYS sign everything with a kiss. Just an ‘x’ for maybe an acquaintance/friend, an ‘xoxo’ with certain friends, and ‘xxx’ for my best friends. My Nana signs everything with ‘lol’ but she means ‘lots of love’.

  37. I have been living in the UK for 8 years and can so relate to you! I kind of got used to the different accents and understand most people (even Liverpudlians). However there is one accent I still really struggle with, which is the Glaswegian one. I have given up speaking to people from Glasgow as it always ends up being embarrasing fro both sides.

    The underselling thing is also something I find funny. My husband is English (I am German) and whenever he applies for jobs I have to remind him to brag more. But it is just not in English people’s nature to do so I think.

  38. stephanie says:

    Such a great post! Being away from the UK for over three months now has made me realise that despite the terrible weather, it still has so much diversity and quirky qualities that make it a great country to live.

    I recently spent a lot of time with Americans and was amazed at their story telling skills. We Brits do downplay our achievements a lot (Which I like) but I have learn’t a lot about ‘bigging myself up’ from the Americans I met!

    I’m glad that you visited Liverpool too and loved it! One of my favorite cities in the world!

  39. eemusings says:

    Funny – I’ve always thought of US popular music as being VERY poppy (Gaga, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus…)

    I don’t have a whole ton of experience with British accents but would agree there is a TON of variation.

  40. Sam says:

    Really interesting. I’m British, from London, and I never use kisses at the ends of emails. I find it weird (exactly because it seems flirtatious to me!). I also always try to specify “south Asian” or “east Asian”, and never use the term Oriental, as yes, I agree, it’s rather offensive. It’s also no wonder that the accents are more varied in the UK than the US, as English has had a much longer history in the former than the latter, therefore, more time to evolve! And finally, I know who John Mayer is, and I have British friends who are big fans! My partner even went to a concert of his in London a few years ago!

    • Owain says:

      Totally agreed about ‘Oriental’.

      Americans have catch-all terms for ‘anyone from south of Texas’. Brits have a catch-all term for ‘people from what used to be the colonies in south Asia’. Or, to look at it another way, Americans would be unlikely to apply the term ‘Asian’ to somebody from the Caucasus…

  41. John says:

    I think the perception of whether you’re Italian because your family has Italian heritage is interesting. In the UK, we have a long history of immigration, particularly from India and Pakistan, and I think that we genuinely would consider a second generation immigrant, i.e. born in the UK, as British – from an Indian or Pakistani family.

    There’s a stereotype of Americans that if they have one distant relative who they can trace back to Germany, for example, they like to call themselves German, but I personally think that being German, and not just having German heritage, means speaking the language and having lived in the country.

  42. Ed Rex says:

    As soon as I read this post, I wanted to ask you a question…

    ‘You alright?’

    x

  43. Great post, I particularly agree with the bit about nationality; to be considered native anything-other-than-British you definitely have to have the look, the accent and the birth certificate to prove it, and even then people will generally be suspicious! I suppose it goes to show how multicultural the UK (or at least London!) is.

    “You alright?” How I’d kill to hear that phrase!

  44. Hmmm says:

    If you wanted somewhere *not* expensive, it would have been wise to live somewhere other than Chester and London.

  45. You forgot to mention the British dark humour!

    Shame you are leaving London. Theres a lot about London I didn’t discover until living here for years. When you return I would love to recommend some awesome places for you to visit!

  46. Iain says:

    I had never heard of John Mayer prior to reading this. I may have forgotton John Mayer before finishing this comment. Poor John Whatshisname.

  47. Brooke says:

    Everything about this I agree with and experienced.

  48. Sonny says:

    Nice write up. Enjoy your traipse around the world, the UK would be glad to have you back. :-)

    Those duck confit sandwiches in Borough Market are to die for by the way.

  49. Shweem says:

    Load of bollocks, I’ve never heard anyone use the term “oriental”. Everyone uses the term “Asian”.

  50. Elle says:

    Hi! I stumble upon your blog and just wanted to say I am from Chester too! It’s a beautiful place.

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