From stuffing suitcases to exchanging money, the one thing I didn’t think I had to worry about when I decided to study abroad in London was learning a new language. Little did I know, I was so wrong.
While living in London for two months has meant a myriad of scones and teas, it has also meant a dizzying whirlwind of learning English all over again. Of course there the few British words that everyone knows, chips for fries and the loo for the bathroom, but the list turned out to be much longer than I ever expected.
First of all, restrooms aren’t real. Only toilets and loos. Ask for the “restroom” and you’ll get a strange look and a shrug. Also, sidewalks aren’t real either, it’s the pavement. In the words of a British friend, “Why would you call it a sidewalk? It’s like calling the road the middle drive!”
The best thing to note is to not make the mistake of calling someone’s pants “pants.”
American “pants” are British “trousers,” making British “pants” American “underwear”. (This one is really good to know before you try to compliment a new British friend’s “pants”).
Also, don’t ask for takeout.
It is always “takeaway” and anytime you ask for takeout it gets very confusing.
Hallways are corridors, elevators are lifts, parking lots are car parks, and lines are queues. While most of those are quick to grasp, a few more took a little longer to come across.
For one, English jam is American jelly but British jelly is actually American jello. I’ll never forget the faces I got when I announced that I was having a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch.
There is no cream for coffee in England. It is just skim and part skim milk. Ask for cream for your coffee and you’ll get a strange glance and a cup of clotted cream if you’re lucky.
Most importantly though, all desserts are called puddings! After wandering around for hours one night in search of dessert I finally gave up, baffled by the amount of puddings on every pub’s menu. From chocolate lava to carrot cake, I was astonished by how inventive the British had gotten with pudding! Turns out, they were all just desserts.
So if you’re traveling to England anytime soon, jot these down and study up because even if you may think you speak the same, English is an entirely different language across the pond (and you’d hate to miss out on a good “pudding” just because you don’t like pudding).