‘Crisps’ or ‘Chips’?

One of the first things I remember being told about exchange is that assimilating into another culture can be hard. “It’s England,” I thought. “It can’t be that hard.” If I was to study in Italy or France, a country whose first language wasn’t English; that would be hard.  Now I’ll just get this out of the road and say it. I was wrong. It wasn’t ‘hard’ per say, but it was a lot different than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love England. I love the perpetual cold and rainy days, the history, the Victorian architecture. But there are a few things that confused the hell out of me and here they are.

The people.
I now have many British friends, some of whom are from London. I have no problems getting along with these people – love ‘em to bits. But when I first walked through the streets of London I wasn’t met by friendly smiles, or people willing to help out the lost tourist. Instead they were steely eyed and hell bent on getting from A to B without disruption. At first it made me think ‘Oh god, why did I choose this country’ BUT I got used to it, it’s not bad it’s just different and that’s okay. Besides, now I know my way around I’m just another person on the escalator getting frustrated when some doesn’t stand on the right (this is a must: overtaking on the left, standing on the right).

Food.
You’d think being fairly similar countries the food in England wouldn’t be all too different from the food in Australia. For the most part that’s true but imagine my shock and disgust to open a blue packet of crisps (chips, I mean chips) to find not original, but salt and vinegar and that’s not the half of it. Cinnamon on donuts? Nope, sugar, sugar and more sugar. A bit of chicken salt on my chips? Ha, no. Pasito soft drink? Silly Australian, no again. Okay, I’m probably exaggerating slightly, the food is edible but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until I can buy a pie.

Obvious disapproval of being mislead by the blue packaging.

Language.
Yes we may both speak English but to say I haven’t had a few issues in communicating simply isn’t true. Among the few:
Pants. Get used to asking for ‘trousers’ when shopping or be prepared to have the awkward ‘ah actually I was looking for thermal trousers, not literal heated underwear’ conversation,’ you’ve been warned.
Capsicum.
My first Subway encounter went a little like this: “I’ll have the green capsicum too thanks”

Subway employee,”uh… the what?”

“Capsicum, the green stuff?”

Friend, “Emma. That’s pepper.”

*Sighs internally*

Orange squash.
Sadly I learned the hard way that this is in no way orange juice or at a stretch, soft drink. It’s cordial. It took drinking a full glass of the stuff to realise that. Safe to say the flat mates have no let me live it down.

And of course we have the obvious, thongs.
On multiple occasions I’ve gotten the ‘that’s way too much information Emma’ look when saying, “I’m just going to put my thongs on before we go.”

My point here is that YES England is an English speaking country, YES it’s very similar to home and YES it really doesn’t take that long to settle in. BUT there are some things (plenty more that I haven’t talked about here) that are simply going to confuse the hell out of you or make you feel uncomfortable so don’t be surprised or feel stupid when it happens. It takes a while and debates like ‘crisps’ or ‘chips’ still happen but I’ve finally managed to stop myself before blurting out ‘capsicum’ at Subway. Adapting is key. Enjoy England.

Canada – some tips on how to fit in

Moving to a different country obviously means having to adjust to the different culture. Even similar countries like Canada and Australia vary quite considerably. Things we say or do, or our tastes, in general, are strange to them (as many Canadians have pointed out), and vice versa.

Some tips:

  • A flat white coffee comes in one size. Order a latte instead. Canadian coffee sucks.
  • Hot chips are “fries” (duh).
  • Bread and milk taste weird.
  • Main meals are called “Entrees” and entrees are called “Appetizers” on menus.
  • Tax (GST and Provincial Sales Tax) are added on top of the listed price. So if a price tag says it is $10, that means $10 + tax.
  • Although they officially use the metric system, most Canadians use pounds for a measurement of weight. You may want to learn the conversion rate so you don’t scare yourself looking at the scales.
  • Be prepared to explain how Netball, AFL and Union or League work. They have no idea.
  • If you say “ice hockey” they will most likely correct you to just “hockey,” as if there is only one variation of the sport.
  • They celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. Depending on who you’re with, they go hard out with the dress up and the decor.

    Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving

Halloween

Halloween

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Their GPA scale is 0-4. If you say “4s open doors” they will think you’re more studious than you are.

    I argue this is okay because I am half Canadian

    I argue this is okay because I am half Canadian

  • Canadian students (at least at the University of Calgary) are VERY studious. Find the fun ones.
  • If you drive, you can turn right on a red light after stopping in most provinces.
  • If you don’t hold the door open for a person within 5 metres of you, then you are an asshole. To be safe hold it for anyone within 7 metres.
  • Guys may get patted down walking into clubs.
  • Recycle everything or you will feel like a bad person.
  • They call a maple leaf the “Canadian leaf” or the “Canadian flag leaf”, because they are so proud. I get this whenever I show a Canadian my tattoo.
  • As Canada is bilingual, most things, including road signs and packaging, are written in both English and French. If you go to Quebec (the French-speaking province), the people tend to live up to French stereotypes, not Canadian.

 

They live up to their stereotypes –

Broken down in the Tim's car park

Broken down in the Tim’s car park

  • They are polite and helpful, and they do say “eh” and “aboot” (but they don’t always think they do).
  • Poutine (hot chips, gravy and cheese) is delicious if done correctly. Generally, you should avoid poutine in fast food restaurants.
  • Maple syrup is a staple.
  • Tim Horton’s (coffee shops) are everywhere and sacred. On a road trip, our van broke down in a Tim’s car park. Four nice Canadian men wearing flannelette shirts came over and helped fix our van. Our Canadian friend brought them Tim’s gift cards as a thank you. As the photo suggests, this was, and still is, my most Canadian experience.
  • Ice hockey is big with most Canadians. It is also awesome. Go to a game or two.

 

 

 

 

Things most Canadians won’t understand:

  • Words like “bottle-o,” “fortnight,” or just general slang.
  • “Thongs” are flip-flops here (duh), but enjoy watching people’s faces when you tell them you’re wearing thongs. Especially old people.
  • Why you like Vegemite (if you do) – which by the way, you can find at London Drugs (in Calgary anyway).
  • That magpies are crazy, blood-thirsty, dangerous animals. Apparently they don’t swoop here but I haven’t been around in the Spring to verify this. If you flinch walking past a magpie there is a good chance they will laugh at you.
  • Some occasions when you’re being sarcastic or insulting, especially if you use the word “mate” in there. They get the obvious stuff, just not the subtler ones.

Hope this helps.

As always, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca is you have specific questions.

Emma