Mind The Gap
I got out of Heathrow feeling tired and disgruntled after a 9 hour flight that had a scary amount of turbulence the last 2 hours. My journey wasn’t quite over because I had to make my way from Heathrow to Harrow to meet my host family so I made my way towards the underground train or the Tube. There are yellow signs and an electronic voice that reminds riders over and over to “Mind the Gap” between the platform and the train because it’s a tad uneven in places. I didn’t really think much of it at first but this phrase seeded itself into the back of my mind. I got off the train and when I got up to the ground level I saw a few recognizable signs. There are McDonalds and Starbucks signs just about anywhere there is a lifef0rm capable of coughing up money and that includes London. There were signs of Captain America: The Winter Soldier on buses and various other Hollywood films. The people and even dress like Americans in some ways, though they are a bit dressier. All the signs are in English too so it didn’t seem too odd. London is a very ethnically diverse place and it felt a lot like Seattle in many ways except for the fact that everyone was on driving on the opposite side of the road. At least that’s all that seemed different at first. But I quickly learned it’s important to “mind the gap” culturally here because this is not America.
I haven’t quite put together all the things that make the English different from Americans but I’m determined to compile a list of features of “Englishness” that I encounter. So far I’ve gotten a taste of the British accent and some slang from my host family. Apparently “I’m chuffed” would mean that “I’m really excited/pumped” or “I’m really good.” And “side-dish” means an irrelevant or overlooked thing. Ex: “She’s not dating him. He’s more of a side dish.” or “I’ve stopped taking mum’s advice. She’s a bit of a side-dish.” I think I’m using these correctly. Oh, and TV commercials are called adverts and pounds (the money) are called quids. I’ll post more slang terms as I learn them. I’m having fun collecting them.
It’s not just linguistic cues either, they don’t really make eye contact or smile at you when you walk by or are on the Tube. If you smile, I’ve been told, you come across as a total creeper. They are very reserved in many ways until you get to know them. Us Americans probably come across as a bunch of over excitable children a lot of the time in comparison. The Tube is often silent as people read the paper or books as they make their ways to work and then home. But they do have the younger generation on their I-phones and what-not as well. Some things are universal and they need to text and be on Facebook appear to be one of those things. The English are also very sarcastic but hilarious. At least that’s the impression I gather from my British professors here. They say things in a dramatic way but in almost a monotone.
I’ve been watching the news a bit too and it’s insane to realize how different everything is. Apparently not everything revolves around the White House and America’s struggles. The Brits had issues of their own! Scotland is voting soon on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or not and the U.K. is wondering whether or not is should remain part of the European Union or not as relations in Europe become more tense with Russia and Ukraine fighting over Crimea. Talk about a mess! It should be an exciting few months, not just for me but for Britain and Europe in general. It seems Britain is trying to sort out its identity as much as I am. It will be exciting to see what we find.