Friday, 24 February 2012

Tea, top hats, and Her Majesty

Stereotypes. That is the topic for today's post. But I'm sure you guessed that from the title, didn't you? If not, well, what can I say? Have you ever heard of Britain? Is my blog the basis of all your assumptions on our rather peculiar mannerisms and characteristics?

For the sake of the entire world and the future of mankind, I sincerely hope the latter is not true. Please do not take everything I say literally. I know this is a hard thing for you, because as I rediscovered only a few days ago, people will believe anything if it is said in a British accent. I mean, you believed that, didn't you? I would like to say that I am extremely responsible and do not abuse this new-found power of mine, but that would be a lie. I cannot help myself from time-to-time. Once in a while. Every other Wednesday. Ok, fine, that's a lie too. I do it all the time. But do not think of me as a deceitful person, dear reader, I mean, in the end I do correct them... occasionally. Actually, I still think that there might be somebody wandering around with the belief that at 11:00 every day in London, we all get up, face Westwards, put on the kettle, and begin to do a river dance whilst singing the national anthem. Whoops.

Before I begin to wallow in my grief and guilt (whilst secretly giggling), I will argue that there might be some truth in that. Well, not a lot really, but if we exclude the timings, the singing, and the river dancing - pretty much the entire content of the lie, we are left with one point. Tea. And we do like our tea. I'd like to imagine that at some stage in every Brit's life, that they and their family have sat back in front of the telly, each with a hot mug of PG Tips (with milk, obviously), and slowly vegetated in the silence. It's not a very exciting image, I must admit, but it's homely. Sorry to shatter your image of us formally sitting at a table, dressed in coat-tails, a top-hat, and a monocle, but it is important that you know the truth, because more often than not, we will either be in our pyjamas or tracksuits (that would be sweatpants for all you Americans out there).

Now, before you all rush off and get excited, there is a point that I must stress. We do not, I repeat (mainly for the benefit of any non-Brits reading), we do not have tea-time! There is no set time in our daily schedule when we will drop everything that we are doing, put on the kettle, and toast a couple of crumpets! I have no idea where this bizarre concept came from, and I have even less of an idea why it prompts people (generally of the prat-ish sort) to wander up to me and ask the following in a highly unconvincing British accent: "Is you have tea-time with the Queen? At the Bucklingham palace?" If you too have asked yourself the same question of us Britons, the answer is yes, yes we do. But not always at the palace. Sometimes we have it in our pyjamas in my living room at home. Tea-time. Honestly.

Seeing as none of you can hear me (unless, of course, you are extremely talented), I can only hope that you all imagined me along with millions of other Brits tutting in that past sentence. If not, I guess you have done so now. What an absurd idea tea-time is. Setting a time aside in the day to sit down, drink tea and consume vast amounts of biscuits, scones, crumpets, and other cake-like snacks, it sounds... well, bloody brilliant to be honest! Why aren't we doing more of this?! How did the world come up with this wonderful activity for us that we never took advantage of?! For a race which is supposedly meant to be (or a least sound) intelligent, I think we missed something there. How is it that America, stereotypically a silly nation, managed to think this up? Perhaps they aren't as stupid as they are made out to be. Although, they weren't exactly clever enough to adopt the practice themselves, so I guess our views don't need to be changed.

Hmm... After all this talk about tea, I quite fancy a cuppa now. And although it is 16:56 and nearly an hour past my supposed slot for tea, I think that is exactly what I'm going to have. I'm not sure the queen will be able to make it on such short notice though. Oh well, I guess I'll try tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lost in translation

I'm sure you will all know (or if your knowledge is lacking, will guess) that the biggest barrier that one would face living abroad would be the language. And you would be right. It's bloody impossible.

Six months, six whole months (well, almost) I have been here, and a full four years in school I spent learning, yet still, I am unable to speak the ruddy language. Well, that's not entirely true, I will confess. I can get by, but I doubt that incoherent sentences coupled with over-expressive hand gestures counts. But that is not the frustrating part. It is extremely annoying, I admit, but it is nothing compared to my next problem. I hope I am right in saying that I think the following is common amongst everybody with a foreign language, and if not, well, let's just say you are slightly odd and leave it at that. Here it comes then; the most irritating thing of all is that I can understand more than I can speak. There. I said it.

Even though a sizeable portion of my education was spent twiddling my thumbs and longingly staring out of the window at those playing football (that's soccer to all you Americans reading, NOT your silly excuse for a sport), I must have absorbed a certain, I'm not really sure what to call it other than a 'tolerance' or a 'familiarity' with the language. Although this is still better than nothing, the following scenario has now become a regular occurrence in my life. I'll be down the shops or merrily walking on the street, minding my own business, musing over the previous day and slowly dissecting its events to decipher some meaning (oh, you don't do this too? Awkward...), and a local will approach out of nowhere and ask me a question. Now, I often understand what they are asking of me, but due to my general incompetence at life, my usual response is to stand there blubbing, failing at producing any sort of recognisable sound. Instantly, I am then deemed worthless. A mere waste of space. And occasionally, I have even been mistaken for a severely mentally ill ape.

For those silently (or verbally - I have no way of knowing) judging me, have a bit of sense! Yes, somebody who knows nothing will have exactly the same reaction, but more often than not, they expect to be seen in that way! And if not, well, maybe they really are apes! But seriously, my frustration is getting to the point that I actually get angry at little kids in the street. There they are, happily running around and speaking the language fluently. The arrogant little so-and-sos. How dare they! I am a good amount older than them! I should be able to speak it too! All I want to do is to scream at them going, "How?! How do you do it little person?! Teach me your wise ways once you have finished skipping around the road with your equally talented friends!" I won't do it though, just in case you are worried. I am far too sensible and British for that. Plus, although I am slightly odd, I am not that kind of odd. My kind of odd is more like loving to be in the car when it rains or preferring to drink cold water out of a mug. I think I might have strayed from the point there. And used the word 'odd' far too many times. Right, now, back to reality.

Although I do try and speak as much of the language as I can, whenever the opportunity arises to speak English, I take it. Whether it's meeting new people or trying to arrange transport, I feel that with important issues such as these, using a foreign language will be more than less than unhelpful. But even then there is a little problem, and it was only over the past weekend that I fully noticed it, giving me the idea for today's post. American English is very different to British English. And by different, I mean it's wrong. So very wrong. All this 'jelly', 'jello', and 'sidewalk' business is quite silly. I mean, when I finally find someone who can speak English in a sea of people who don't, imagine my annoyance and disappointment when I find out that neither of us can understand each other. So if any of you out there are American, whilst I love you all deeply, please stop talking funny. Ta.

In my attempt to bring a small understanding to our different cultures, I did a little bit of research. Well, not exactly research. I spent a full 23 seconds on Google. But still, what I found will prove useful to you all. It is an American-British dictionary! Gone are the days when people will look confused and go, "Sorry, what?!" or, "Who says that?!" I like to think I do my little bit for society. For your upmost convenience, I have attached the link below. Use it wisely. But that is it from me for now. Terrah!