Nikki is a sophomore studying abroad this semester in Ormskirk, England. Check in each week for posts from Nikki as she shares her experiences abroad.
Studying abroad in England does not provide the same culture shock that one would feel if they went to, say, China or Thailand. Nevertheless, there are some major differences between the British way of life and ours. I’d like to outline some of those differences while also discussing some of my favorite questions that I’ve been asked because I’m an American.
Most Asked Questions
“Did you take a yellow school bus to school?”
“Is high school like Mean Girls? Do you own a gun?”
“Can you buy one at Walmart?”
Coming to England, I expected the question about guns because guns are nearly nonexistent in the United Kingdom. Some police officers don’t even carry them. The common theme seems to be that everyone thinks American life is just like a sitcom. They ask if there are ‘cliques’ like jocks, nerds and burnouts. Here is the interesting thing about the British, or at least my experience with them: there are no cliques. If at some point in time you drink or go out with them, you are now friends. You can now include yourselves in their plans. In fact, this is how you get invited places: they say, “You coming?” not “Do you want to come with?” They just assume you are coming with. You feel very wanted here in England.
The Stereotype that the British are Overly Polite
This is so beyond true! I have said it once and I will say it again. Chivalry is not dead, it is just in England. Here, men open doors for you all the time. People compliment each other all the time for no reason other than to compliment each other. They offer to make you tea, and everyone makes sure that everyone gets home safely after drinking. Even people who are — how do I say this nicely? Rude/annoying? — ask how your day is going, will open doors for you, offer you a drink or walk you safely back to your dorm.
Are you okay?
This phrase drives me crazy! People don’t ask, “How are you?” They ask, “Are you okay?” To this day I react badly to that phrase because I immediately think, “Oh my gosh, do I look sick? Is there something on my face? Do I look unstable?”
It rains. All the time. It is like they are stuck in spring. The hottest it has been in 75ish. The coldest it will probably get is 40ish degrees. (Yes, 40ish in December.)
I enjoy the food here because I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), so plain food suits me well. Here, you drink tea, not coffee. You eat beans with everything — toast, eggs, chips (excuse me, fries) and sausages. Pancakes are almost nonexistent here, which makes me incredibly sad. Everything is less sweet, less salty, less fatty and less greasy. Mountain Dew is closer to juice than it is to our throat-burning soda from home. Chocolate-covered and orange-flavored things are huge here. It’s insane. There are orange and chocolate cakes, candies and muffins. I find it revolting. They also eat sandwiches constantly. It’s the equivalent to an American hamburger.
Words and their American Meanings
Are you okay? — How are you?
Chips — Fries
Crisps — Chips
Queue — Line
Jumper — Sweater
Till — Check Out
They just say “aluminum” way wrong
Love — Babe or Girl. People often say “How are you, love?” or “Let me get that for you, love”
Overall, life here is pretty grand. Everyone is incredibly nice. People get really excited when they hear our accents, and I’ve been asked on more than one occasion why would I come here if I get to live in America. America tends to be a bit idealized here, at least by the young people who watch our shows and movies and listen to our music. It’s peaceful here and a lot less fast-paced than back home. So far, I have no complaints. Life across the pond is lovely.