Tuesday, May 29, 2018

No Flytipping, and Other Communication Fails

Welcome to London. We expected that this part of the trip would be easy, because Brits speak English, and Americans speak English, right?

[insert evil laugh here]

The problem wasn't the vocabulary we knew we had to learn, like "loo" or "water closet" for bathroom/toilet. It was the words we didn't know we had to learn.

First night in London, we're in a pub, I'm taking anti-inflammatories for my aching parts, and I'm feeling like I want to play safe and stick to a white soda, like a Sprite, 7Up, etc, rather than drink something with alcohol.

"You mean a lemonade?"

In America, THIS is a lemonade. Made with lemons, sugar, and water, super tart and flavorful.

"No, I'm not really feeling a lemonade. I want a white soda.  Something fizzy and sweet, but not too sweet."

Like this.

Yep, if you want one of these, you order a lemonade. Hopefully figuring it out before you die of thirst.

I imagine Brits coming to the USA face the same dilemma, in reverse.

I did know that the yummy cookies our Airbnb hostess put out for us in our room are called biscuits in the UK.  (Coming in the other direction, my British friends, biscuits are something we either give to our dogs, or pour gravy all over. Because we pour gravy on everything.)

We were lucky to get our biscuits.

Because, in my ignorance, believing "Oh, there's Wi-Fi available just about everywhere," upon arrival at Gatwick, I was unable to communicate with our hostess as to our ETA, and she had an afternoon appointment. We just got to the flat shortly before she had to leave. (See my post here on getting an Orange vacation SIM card.)  Of course, once in the flat and connected to her Wi-Fi, all the messages I'd sent her, and those she'd sent me (Where are you?), went through promptly.

And when you're in the Underground, or the Tube, you won't find "Exit" signs.

These are fairly self-explanatory, even to a clueless American tourist.

These? Not so much.

Okay. So a "zebra crossing," has white and black stripes, "humped" means there's a hump in the road (don't go there, naughty thoughts!), and the pedestrian has the right of way.

Whereas a humped pelican crossing is a normal pedestrian crossing. With a hump.

Something I found quite interesting was the traffic lights for drivers. As they do in the USA, there's three vertical lights: green, amber, and red. But after a red light, the amber lights again for a moment, before the green lights up.

This is very helpful for pedestrians, whether they are pelicans or zebras.

Americans and Brits all wear pants. But when explaining to our hostess that we needed use of the washer, since we'd spilled gravy on our pants on the airplane, we discovered another linguistic discrepancy.

In the USA, pants = trousers, slacks, jeans.
In the UK, they're your "unmentionables:" thongs, panties, underwear.

So it struck our hostess as hilarious we'd somehow managed to get gravy on our UNDERWEAR on the plane.

Also, fanny packs? Nope. In the UK, you can wear a bumbag. But a fanny is the naughty bits covered by your pants. Positive or otherwise.

This sign, in the woods of Kent, left me bewildered. In the USA, there's a shitty thing teens do, in farm country, which is cow-tipping. They go up to a cow peacefully minding her own business, sleeping upright, (as cows often do), and push her over. 

I was pretty sure that flytipping was not a similar kind of prank, because that would be even trickier than spilling gravy on one's pants in an airplane seat, and I was right.

It means no DUMPING TRASH. I guess nice, stinky garbage would be something of a tip to a fly...?

More travel stories and photos in the coming weeks.

Do you have any interesting UK English vs. American English stories?

P.S. My memoir is FREE on Netgalley through May 31. Go grab a copy while you can!