When I announced to my friends and family that I would be giving up my teaching job in Oman to get married and move to England I didn’t receive the positive, supportive response I had hoped for. They responded with everything from “You can’t take Emily away! She loves her school!” to “You’ve never been to England!”
And, my personal favorite was from a British colleague who responded with a very puzzled look on her face with “Why?” when I shared my joy of becoming engaged and moving to England. She then gave me her blessing which was, “You do realize the weather is HORRIBLE over there?”
Getting married and moving are quite stressful experiences in their own, but getting married, uprooting your child (again) and moving to a country where you’ve never been, some might say, is a bit more stressful.
Not for me though.
I mean, how hard could it really be living in a country where the native language is English? (Or, so I thought.) Didn’t I uproot my perfectly happy and content eight year-old two years prior and move to the Middle East? This would be a walk in the park in comparison.
Then we arrived, and the culture shock set in. More so than when we had arrived in Oman. I tried to decode British English, but there were so many more differences than I had ever imagined. I quickly learned that “dinner” was served as the afternoon meal and “tea” was an early evening meal.
“Tea” was also referred to as simply afternoon tea, and sometimes when I was invited to a friend’s home for tea I wasn’t sure which to expect!
It didn’t take me long to realize there were countless language differences, some I’ve adoptedand others I haven’t. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use the word “trousers”, which refers to what we in America call “pants”. But, if I use the word “pants” here, everybody thinks I’m referring to underwear!
As usual, Emily adjusted very quickly, and after only two months she sounded like she had lived here her entire life. She often corrects my pronunciation of words and use of American vocabulary. “It’s not SAAAAX, mum! It’s SOOOOCKS!” and “It’s not ALLLLIE, mum ! It’s OOOOLLIE!” Emily says this with what I consider a very thick British accent.
The difference between British and American English is vast. I could spend hours writing about nappies (diapers), fringe (bangs), plastic wrap (Saran wrap), boot (trunk of the car), bonnet (hood of the car), dumby (pacifier), rubbish (garbage), swimming costume (swimsuit), toilets (bathrooms), out on the piss (going out drinking) and my favorite: takin’ the mick (making fun of someone).
When I speak or see my American friends and family I have to consciously “Americanize” my way of speaking. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t realized that I was doing this until I recently visited an American friend.
She lives here, in England, and she pointed out that when she spoke to her mom, who was visiting for three months, she had to switch her brain from “British” to “American”. “Oh yeah”, I thought. I have been doing the same without even realizing it!
Now, two and one half years later, Emily not only speaks like a Brit, but considers herself more British than American (this first became obvious during the World Cup when I asked if “we were voting for America” and she retorted with, “First of all, you don’t vote. And secondly, no, I’m supporting England.”)
Regardless of who’s British or American in our family, and if we change our 19-month old’s “nappy” or “diaper”, England is our home.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Jen Warren of England in the United Kingdom. You can also find her on her blog at Children of Chorizo.
Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/scraplab/3839518420/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.