Thursday, 30 June 2011

Should I stay or should I go now.

In America, when you go to a restaurant- well, a fast food restaurant or a Starbucks  (Oh!  Or Chipotle. Mmmmmm, Chipotle....) - they ask you if you'd like your food "for here" or "to go".

Here in the UK the standard is "eat in" or "take away".  We don't really eat fast food, but it comes up pretty often at Pret a Manger and Starbucks.

This is one of those changes that I still haven't managed to make and it usually results in confused looks from the people behind the counter.  I don't understand why "to go" doesn't register with them, but it just doesn't.  I guess because it doesn't follow the expected script so their brain is thrown...

I've had a few people comment on "how well I've kept my American accent".  That just sounds weird to me.  i was 31 years old when I moved to England.  I don't imagine that my accent will actually change that much.  I do notice that my word choices have changed already.  In fact, they'd started to change just from all my talks and emails with Ross before I even moved here.

So here's where I stand on adopting British vocabulary as an expat:
I've heard some expats deride those that adopt British words and turns of phrases, claiming that it is pretentious or cheesy or something.  I disagree.  Now, I was under strict orders from my best friend Micah not to adopt a Madonna-style British accent the moment I set foot on UK soil.  That makes sense.  I don't mind making changes to the way I say things.  In fact, I think it's sort of stubborn and rude not to try to use the language that people expect and understand.  If the cultural norm is to say something one way, then people are going to be confused if you say it a different way.  It's certainly pig-headed to say things in a way that people aren't accustomed to and then be irritated that they don't understand you!  So I say, adapt your word choice.  It'll come naturally and eventually you'll be confused when you go back to the States and struggle to find the word that your family will understand.

What words trip you up?
Which ones have you adopted?


  1. when I lived in America I HAD to adpot certain words or phrases otherwise there was no way of being understood, it was just easier.

  2. Now that I'm a mother I use most of the English baby words: nappy, dummy, pushchair, pram, cot..... but I just can't ever bring myself to say "mum," as it has no sentiment to me. I absolutely want my baby to know me as "mom"

  3. @Bron- Yep. Ross used to say certain words differently in order to be understood when he visited me. "Water" was a big culprit.
    @Kris- I wonder if our kids will end up calling me mum or mom... I imagine since Ross is British, they'll hear him refer to me as mum and that's what it'll be. It doesn't bother me, but I can see why you'd feel attached to "mom".

  4. Vernon will want me to keep my accent and American vocabulary, but, I want to use the appropriate language to avoid confusion and frustration. As for the accent, I think I will pick it up unknowingly. I am from Wisconsin and you would never know it. I've been a Yooper for 11 years and people who don't know me think I'm Canadian. The word i will have the most trouble with is "Trousers" that word is awkward and what I call an "old man" word. I will continue to say pants and enjoy the reactions. LOL I also use the word "fanny" a lot in relation to the "bottom" because it's cute and non-vulgar... but in the UK it is not a word I want to use in public so I pray I don't slip with that one. :)

  5. I just read Kris' comment. what is a dummy and what is a pushchair?

  6. I can't pinpoint the British/Kenyan words I use specifically but I know I use the word 'quite' much more often. I'm sure there's others but I have started introducing myself to Kenyans as Me-kah instead of My-cah because no one can pronounce it and just assume that I'm saying Michael which just causes never ending confusion and corrections.