Saturday, 15 May 2010

Bits and Bobs as the British say May 14, 2010

I just feel like writing today so this is going to be a blog about all things British.  So many of you have been asking about their peculiarities and ways.  I had hoped we wouldn't be picking up these things but it seems that little by little we have.  Joe called someone a mate the other day when he was talking to me and didn't even know it.  "Mate" is their word for friend (male or female) and used liberally.  He picks up more because of working with them all day.  Plus his co-workers make it their duty to correct him whenever he says something especially "American".  He got a verbal warning (as his friend at work called it) for saying potato chips and candy instead of "crisps and sweets" yesterday.  They have many laughs over these things at work apparently.  Joe comes home and reports these things to me and we have a laugh.  Because of his daily exposure to the language and accent he can understand what the Brits say a lot better than me.  I have a hard time if their accent is very thick or if they talk fast.  We got a call the other day from a guy who was late for an appointment here.  For the life of me, I couldn't understand most of the message.  Joe was out in the yard so I took the phone out to him to listen to it.  He said, "his truck broke down".  I was just dumbfounded.  It didn't sound anything like that to me.  I went back inside and listened again.  Sure enough the part I couldn't get was "sorry, I had some trouble with me lorry".

We have had to hire someone to do some of the yard work.  We have hedges so high that Joe would have to buy a tall ladder AND a hedger to do the job.  There is a hedge that runs along one side of our driveway that is over 8' tall and about 90 yards long (I counted it out in strides the other  day).  That is the long one, but we have even higher conifers along the back fence and up one side of the back yard.  This guy will also do edging around all the flower beds.  He said he doesn't weed but knows a retired gentleman who weeds for people and just gets paid by the hour.  That should help me get out from under all this weeding.  It is never ending.  The dandelions started coming up in the lawn the other day and Joe started having a heart attack.  So in came Green Thumb to do a treatment on our lawn.  When the guy got here he said he'd been here a year or so ago and that the grass was practically up to his knees.  I knew that this yard hadn't been taken care of for eons!  They said we have about every kind of weed imaginable in our grass.  Great, I knew Joe would be happy about that.

Green Thumb has only been in the UK for a few years.  Most people hardly have any grass here.  It's really amazing.  But when you learn some of the statistics of this country you understand why.  For example, the United Kingdom (including Ireland, Scotland and Wales) is about the size of Wisconsin.  The population of Wisconsin is 5.6 million. The population of the UK is over 61 million!  Another telltale figure:  US population per square km (1 mile = 1.609 km) is 32.3.  The UK population per square km is 250!  So you see there are many many people here but very little space.  That is why houses are close together, yards are practically non-existent unless you get into the higher price ranges.  Even those homes still don't have huge yards.  

Many of the Brits go to the US for holiday (vacations are holidays here, they never use the word vacation).  They love the newness,  openness, convenience of tons of stores and parking, and the warm weather (Florida is very popular).  They don't really have much in amusement parks and Disney World is a big destination.  When they holiday in Europe they go to Spain, Greece or other warm weather locals.  It's all about getting to warm sunny skies.  They don't even think of visiting all the historical locations here in England.  Kind of like us living near Washington, D.C. but never going down there to sightsee.  

Speaking of their vacation.  Wow are things different here than in the US.  When you are first hired you are given 20 - 25 days of annual leave per year!  Starting with the first day you start work.  When Joe tells people that you have to work at Aireco for a year before you get 5 days paid vacation people just can't believe it.  They all say, "Well, I'd never work there!"  They don't realize how good they have it.  United gives 20 days and the employees think they have it bad because most companies give 25 days!  The sick leave policy is even more unbelievable.  They are allowed to "self diagnose" meaning if they are sick they don't have to go to a doctor for a note or anything.  Joe thinks that the sick leave allowance is around 20 days a year too.

                                                             Houses with names...

Many of you know we don't have a house number, just a house name, which is Bramcotes.  I have been fascinated by the names of the houses on our street.  I have no idea why they are named rather than a house number.  Although people here aren't particularly surprised when we say "Bramcotes" instead of a house number when asked for our address.  I tried to Google it to see why it is done.  The best answer I got was way back in time the rich people named their halls, castles, manors and lodges according to ancestry, location and family titles.  However, the same website told me that all houses now have numbers and very few have just a name and the majority have no name.  Well, they missed us on our street!  The first houses on our street have numbers and names but then there is a little one lane bridge and the houses after that are only named.

                             Lyndhurst                                       Prior's Wood   

  Wyken House                                                                                         The Brambles

Brickman's Hill                                                                                    Spion Lodge


                                                Another strange thing here is the banking system.  When we came here to visit last October, the American who did the last stint here took us to Lloyds of London bank and introduced us to someone there with a signed letter of introduction stating that we were of good character and that he has known us for 5 years.  At the time I didn't think too much about it.  I thought maybe it was just because of Lloyds being a fancy bank or something.  But I have since found out that when you open a bank account here, any bank here, you must have a letter of introduction from someone who can basically vouch for you.  At home banks are falling all over each other to get customers.  Not so here.  I have also read on websites where people are giving advice to expats moving to England that it can be VERY hard to get an account without the introduction.

I think I've told you how the authorities close down the highways whenever there is an accident.  Another thing that we've noticed is all the highways have a nice shoulder and if they don't they put a sign up that says, "no hard shoulder for 1 km" or whatever the distance.  They also have FREE roadside towing when you breakdown.  There are signs all over stating that if you breakdown go to side of road and wait for help.  With all the junky cars driven in the US the tow trucks would be busy 24/7!

I also thought it would be amusing to list some of their terminology here:  

advert                            advertisement
bonnet                            hood of a car
boot                                 trunk of a car
grafter                            worker
trainers                          tennis shoes
bobbies                           policemen
nick(ed)                          steal (stolen)
motorway                      highway/interstate
telly                                TV
garden                            yard
petrol                              gas
windscreen                    windshield
tip                                   dump (the place)
drunk as a lord             drunk as a skunk
shut your gob               shut your mouth
cheers                            thank-you, good-bye
lift                                   elevator
lass                                 girl
lad                                  boy or man
bloke                              man
ring me                          call me (phone)
have a lie-in                  sleep in
thin as a rake                skinny as a rail
car park                         parking lot
partner                          husband/wife
red sauce                       ketchup
barrister                        lawyer
bobby                             cop
burgle                             burglarize
till                                   cash register
chips                               french fries
hob                                  stove
cuppa                             cup of tea
fortnight                        two weeks
granny flat                    mother-in-law apartment
lads night out                guys night out
queue up                        line up
take-away food             take out
brown sauce                  HP, popular British sauce used like ketchup
lorry                               truck (any)
sat nav                           GPS
wellies                            knee high rubber boots
mum, mummy             mom, mommy
crack on                         go ahead
trousers                         pants
pants                              men's underwear
knickers                         women's underwear
tick the box                   check the box (when filling out forms etc.)
chemist                          pharmacist
knock me up                 wake me up

Joe told me a funny story about the use of the word partner.  United's headquarters is in Philadelphia.  Occasionally a British or French (they have a French division too) employee will have to go to Philly for a meeting or training.  So this Brit goes to Philly for a big meeting with a bunch of his American counterparts.  While at a large table of men the first night there, he was discussing things that he and his wife had done and kept referring to her as his "partner" as the British do.  He noticed over the next several days of meetings that the men were being standoffish and kind of unfriendly.  Finally on the last day someone tells him that they thought he was gay because of his term "partner" the first night.  In disbelief he yells, "No, no!"  But it was too late to save his reputation.  Most of the guys were already gone.

I don't remember who it was that asked me if we've met any of our neighbors.  The answer is no.  I have said "hi" to the next door neighbor twice while rolling out our trash bin but that is it.   He waves but makes no other move to be friendly.  The way the houses and yards are with the fences and the hedges it is pretty much impossible to see your neighbors.  We can't see either one of ours unless we are down at the street.  All the yards on the street are surrounded by hedges and/or fences.  This neighborhood is full of old established homes and the people are the same.  They really are snobby, there is no other word for it, and value their privacy.  Even when I'm out walking on our street I rarely get a wave from a car passing by.  
But we can't judge the British by this street.  Every where we go they are very friendly and nice.  I don't even mind the neighborhood because I love the house and the garden.  Since I am here all the time, it is important that I like the place.  I like the village too, so it is fine.

See what I mean about hedges?  These are pictures of our street.

Today is Friday.  Tomorrow morning Joe and I are driving to London (a two hour drive).  One of his vendors is taking us to see the singer Michael Buble Saturday night.  They are putting us up in a Marriott, taking us to dinner and a champagne reception before the concert and then we will watch the concert from a private suite.  Guess they want United's business, huh?

Next week Joe is going to France for four days.  He and the GM from United are going over to visit the France division, tour a factory and then play golf in a tournament there.  My sneaking suspicion is the golf was the main event and other things were planned around it.  No, the wives are not going.  BUT, I will have his car here while he is gone so I have a huge shopping list!

Just a note about this blog.  When I type it out and get it ready to post, rarely does it post as I had it looking in the draft form.  For instance, the list of British and American words.  Those lists were completely even and the columns were perfectly straight.  But somehow when it posts the blog formats it the way they want.  I am such a perfectionist on that kind of stuff and it drives me crazy!  That's why I had to tell you.  Also, all the captions on the pictures are right by the right pic and that changes too.  Very frustrating.

Until next time.


  1. I heard you love the little boy in the Charlie video. We played that video for grandma last week. She thought it was very cute.

  2. Just a random comment, I came via the postsecret blog and read back a bit as I am always interested in how Americans view us British (I have relatives across the pond so I guess that's what started it).

    Two points I wanted to make:
    1. Barrister/lawyer: In the UK we have a split system for lawyers. Those who advocate in court are barristers, while those who meet clients are solicitors. If a client's case goes to court, the solicitor will instruct a barrister. So we do still call them lawyers, we just have two types

    2. Knock me up/wake me up: Perhaps it depends what part of the UK you are in (I am in the south west) but I have never heard anyone use the phrase "knock me up" to mean wake me up - to me it's a slang-y way of saying someone got pregnant/made pregnant! (E.g. "I heard she got knocked up"; "She's not the first one he's knocked up")

    Anyway I find your observations very interesting. Though the English often value their privacy I am glad you are finding us friendly!

  3. Reading your posts brings back memories of my first trip to the UK in 2007. I took photos of what you did too! The cultural shock, the new vocabs, the cute houses... all amused me! Glad you're enjoying UK!

  4. yes, us english do value our privacy when it comes to hedges around our gardens/houses. And some people are friendlier than others when it comes to getting to know your neighbourhood.

    there are also things people from the north of english say, which people from the south dont, and the other way round. like the word mardy, people from the north say that quite alot

  5. I too have been directed here from Postsecret and thought I better point out that 'knock up' means to make someone pregnant, but I see someone beat me too it! I'd also mention that whilst we do like to go to Europe on holiday, I'd say that many Brits like to go and look at old buildings etc here in England when on holiday. I guess we take most of the old things for granted though.

    I love hearing about England from a different perspective and I remember Bill Bryson talking about how you can't really walk anywhere in the US which I still find very strange!

  6. I came here from Postsecret too and i'm finding your impressions of the U.K. very amusing.

    The phrase 'knock-up' means both to wake up and to get pregnant. I live in the South West at the moment and the phrase is only ever used in relation to pregnancy here but I grew up in the Midlands where it is used to mean to wake up. Which is probably how you've come across it Kathy given you're living in that area.

    I bet you've noticed we tend to sy toilets rather than washroom/restroom/bathroom. I have cousins who emigrated to Canada and when they first came back to the u.k. for a visit it took me ages to figure out what they wanted!