I am an American citizen. I am also a Dutch citizen. This means I get to pick and choose which passport I want to travel on, and when I want to identify either the Dutch or the Americans as a ‘they’, or as an ‘us’. Since I currently live in the UK, I often find myself talking about both the Dutch and Americans as ‘they’ these days. Today, however, I’ll be wearing my Dutch hat.
When I moved to the Netherlands seven years ago I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pretty confident that my status as a long-time TCK would help me to deal with whatever came my way. I am used to being immersed in new cultures (for better or for worse), and I am used to having to adapt and fit in quickly. What I definitely didn’t expect was that I would learn a thing or two from the Dutch about this process.
In addition to learning spelling differences between British and American English, there are some other things that are helpful if you’re a first time pond-hopper. There are some obvious pronunciation differences between these two version of English that most people are already aware of, such as “aluminium” instead of “aluminum,” “herb” with an “h,” or the contrast between emphasizing of syllables like “laboratory” versus “laboratory.” But one of the hardest things to learn is the pronunciation of place names. For example, when I see the name “Holborn” I want to say it more or less the way it is spelled— “hole-born.” But surprise! It is actually said “ho-bun” with a very, very soft “r” in the “bun” bit. The Brits tend to swallow some consonants, and sometimes entire syllables.
You don’t want to sound like a complete idiot while traveling abroad, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some place names. Here’s a little guide from Anglophenia showing you how to properly say some commonly mispronounced place names.
Anglophenia has several other videos constructed to help Americans understand many things that are inherently British. Check our their Youtube channel for more.
I can’t recall the moment I made the decision to move abroad. It might sound cliche, but I just sort of knew that it was what I needed. I have spent lots of time abroad in the past, spending various summers in Spain and other countries on the continent. But the one thing I hadn’t done was moved anywhere that wasn’t in California. Because of that, I knew that this would be an entirely different experience than what I had gone through before. This wasn’t going to be a vacation—this was a new phase in my life.
As I have mentioned before, I know a great deal about life in the UK, thanks to all the books and TV I have been exposed to. However, since I had never visited, there were bound to be brand new things to learn. I was not disappointed. Here is a list of things I have learned in the last month since moving to London…and I’m sure I will be adding to it in the future!
1.) Finding a flat (apartment) during the month of September is impossible.
2.) You will probably have to make an appointment to set up a bank account.
3.) Queues (lines) are a way of life.
4.) Chip and pin machines are irritating. (AKA not all automated machines take swipe credit cards.)
5.) Don’t be fooled—if you look in the right places, you can absolutely find the ingredients to make salsa.
6.) There’s this awesome thing called Argos.
7.) Tea comes with milk unless you tell them you want it black.
8.) Costa has better hot chocolate than Starbucks.
9.) Landlords don’t trust international students.
10.) Faffing is a word. (If something is a bit of a faff, that means its a hassle—too bothersome!)
Bonus: (or not-bonus depending on your arachnophobia) Spiders live and hunt in packs. If you are arachnophobic, don’t visit Brentford!
Ever since I decided that moving to England was a viable direction in which to take myself, I have been brushing up on various aspects of “being British.” While I recognize (recognise!) a lot of spelling differences and slang thanks to books and television, I am not familiar with using them. At the suggestion of my cousin, I changed the autocorrect on my phone from American to British, which has helped with little things like the “u” in “colour” and “favourite.” I also started paying more attention to what people say on the BBC. By no means do I want to sound as though I am appropriating their terminology like a know-it-all tourist…but neither do I want to stick out like a sore American thumb. I want to embrace the new life that I’ll be leading this next year, and that includes not sounding like a git.
Here is one of the charts that I’ve been looking at every now and then to help me remember spelling differences. And somewhere I have another one to remind me that trousers are pants and pants are underwear. Am I missing anything important? If you’ve lived abroad, how did you adapt to a new culture?