Christy on the Road

Christy on the Road: Pass the American-to-English Dictionary, Please

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Christy on the Road | 0 comments

Christy on the Road: Pass the American-to-English Dictionary, Please

One of the first things I discovered when I visited Great Britain was that there’s more of a language barrier than I expected. I’d been very bold about it when I was planning my trip, telling people I’d sensibly chosen my first overseas visit to a country where they speak English. Ha. My first night in England, I sat in a pub talking with a few locals. While I found their accents charming and adorable – can you squeeze an entire nation’s cheeks at once? – I wasn’t aware they were wrestling with MY conversation until one of my companions finally pulled out his iPhone and announced that he was just going to download an American-to-English dictionary. Apparently there’s an app for me. One of my conversations during my trip went like this: “Do you want a biscuit?” “No, no thanks. Wait, that’s a cookie.” “A cookie?” “Yes, that’s not a biscuit. That’s a cookie.” “It’s a biscuit.” “We call those cookies. That’s not what we call biscuits.” “Oh, right. Well, what do you call biscuits then?” “A biscuit is bigger. Soft.” *Blank look* “It’s made of flour and egg, you know, round. You eat it warm with butter and jam.” “That’s not a biscuit, that’s a bloody scone!” “A bloody scone? Who are you, Sweeney Todd?” Food names seem to be a particularly big hang up, as I found out after another exchange went like this: “So what do Americans call chocolate?” “Uh… chocolate.” “Yes, but if I give you a box of individual pieces of chocolate, say, with a creamy center, what are those called?” “Oh, I see what you’re saying. Those are candy. It’s a box of candy. Or sometimes people say a box of chocolates.” “You know that makes no flipping sense at all.” “Sure it does.” “So what do you call boiled sweets then?” “Boiled sweets?” “You know, sugar boiled until it hardens. Flavoured, wrapped individually…” “Oh, that’s candy.” “So chocolate is candy. And boiled sweets are candy.” “Right.” “That’s insanity.” “Well what do you call candy?” “The normal things. Boiled sweets. Turkish Delight.” “And chocolate?” “Well, that can be a bar, you know, Cadbury and such. But it’s often a drink. In a cup.” *Blank look* “You know, like breakfast chocolate.” “Riiiiight.” It’s more than just the names for things that trumpet the gigantic differences between American English and British English. It’s the whole way of presenting the language. Our “Don’t Litter” becomes “Please use the bin” over there. “Watch your step” is “Mind the gap.” It’s a softer, gentler, more polite English. Well, except for signs for the bathroom. Ours say “Restroom” or “Ladies.” Theirs have an arrow and the single word “Toilet.” “What is that about?” I asked one of my British friends, pointing to the sign. “What d’you mean?” “It says ‘toilet.’” “Yeah?” “Doesn’t that seem a bit… blunt?” She looked confused. “But it’s a toilet.” It’s hard to argue with logic like...

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Christy on the Road: Where Did You Come From?

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Christy on the Road, Recent Posts | 0 comments

Christy on the Road: Where Did You Come From?

I was three days into my stay in Great Britain when I decided to venture out of the safety of Birmingham, which had quickly become …

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Christy on the Road: In Praise of Traveling Solo

Posted by on Apr 20, 2014 in Christy on the Road | 0 comments

Christy on the Road: In Praise of Traveling Solo

I had dreamed, for so many years, of visiting England. I’d collected pictures of castles, Elizabethan architecture, and rolling green hills dotted with sheep, books by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and Somerset Maugham. I studied the scenery, the mannerisms, the colloquial expressions in every English movie and television show I saw. I knew England incredibly well for someone who had never been there. And yet there I was, my first night in Birmingham, standing at the window of my hotel room, overcome with loneliness and feeling, to be honest, a bit freaked out. The jet lag wasn’t helping. “I guess I’ll just go to bed,” I said aloud, and reached for my pajamas. That was the moment everything changed. I stopped, my hand literally poised in mid-air over my suitcase, and laughed. At myself, at the situation, and with the complete realization that I was actually in England. “You’re finally here, after all these years you’re finally in England and you’re going to go to bed, just because you don’t have anyone to hang out with? Are you kidding me?” I grabbed my bag and headed out in the deepening twilight. I didn’t know where I was going, and I was still very much by myself, but suddenly I no longer saw that as a bad thing. In fact, I kind of loved it. I found a pub a few blocks from my hotel and went in. Feeling a little self-conscious, I ordered a pint of Guinness and sat down at an empty table and stopped loving being alone. Now I was just a tourist, drinking alone in a bar. How original. I glanced around and saw a young woman alone at a nearby table. I smiled at her and she smiled back. “So, do I stick out?” I asked. “Well, you didn’t until you spoke,” she answered. Within minutes, her date had joined us, and before two hours had passed, several people from other tables had gathered at our table. The beer and hilarity flowed. A nearby woman asked how long we’d all been friends. “Oh, we’ve only just met tonight,” one of the men at our table answered. “Really?” She looked genuinely surprised. “You all seem like you’ve been mates forever.” “Eh, it’s the American what’s done that to us,” he answered, gesturing at me. It was maybe the single proudest moment of my life. When I looked back on that experience later, I realized there’d have been much less of a chance of that happening if I’d been traveling with someone else. More than likely, we’d have sat at a table for two and had a conversation for two, and studied a map and planned out what sights to see the next day, and then gone to bed, satisfied we’d had a truly English experience because we’d had beer in a pub. And yeah, I’d still had the beer in a pub (I mean, I was in England, duh) but because I’d been by myself, I had an even more authentic, local experience than I could ever have imagined. Traveling alone may seem weird, or even unthinkable, and there are a lot of reasons why it’s great to travel with another person or group. A romantic getaway by yourself, for example, would be the saddest thing ever. There are also, however, plenty of reasons why flying solo is awesome. Although I’ve traveled alone before and since, my trip to England was defining for me. I’d never been off the continent of North America before, and while perhaps it was a baby step to visit a country that speaks the same language as me (well, more or less), it was still a big deal. A redeye flight, the bearded man at customs who gave me directions that ended with a cheery “Off you go, then,” my ruddy-faced taxi driver in his oh-so-British black cab who wanted to talk about Las Vegas, figuring out quickly that no one tips service personnel, strange food on the menus, tiny cars with the steering wheel on the opposite side… I...

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