Thursday 18 August 2011

Assimilation Failures (The two-year anniversary post)

I have officially be in the UK for two years as of last weekend.  As stupid as it sounds (and I know how stupid it sounds), I actually have a hard time remembering what it was like to not live here.  I try to think "what would I be doing at this time of day when I lived back in Colorado?" and I can't do it.  I suppose its easy for your mind to not use up valuable memory space on things you took for granted. 

I think I've done very well with my "assimilation process" as my father-in-law always calls it (right before he reminds me that I will never truly be assimilated... gee thanks, FIL.) I've learned to drive, I've held down a job with very few embarrassing culture clash mistakes*, I've (mostly) stopped saying things like "I hate this country"* when I have to actually walk up to a bank instead of drive through it and I've realised that shops closing at 4:00pm on a Sunday is not really the end of the world.

But... there are a few failures in  my assimilation process that I am prepared to share with you now:

1. I still call the hair that hangs over your forehead bangs.  I never remember to say fringe even when the hair stylist is holding up this part of my hair and asking me what to do with my fringe, I still say I'd like long-ish bangs.  I also can't naturally call a wallet a purse or a purse a handbag, and the pants/trousers thing still causes me grief.  Oh, and the place one parks there car is always a parking lot to me - my mouth just can't seem to say car park.

2. Speaking of parking, I can't park to save my life.  I used to be able to swing in to a space with no fear of smashing into the car on either side, but now I do it like an old lady and probably piss off everyone behind me (especially when I have to reverse and do it again... oh the shame).  I blame it on the smaller parking spaces, but are they are actually smaller, or am I just a really crap right-hand-drive parker?  Don't even mention parallel parking... I coudn't even do that in America.

3. I have not developed the appreciation for clothes dried in the sunshine.  Even when it is sunny and "perfect" conditions to hang laundry out on the line, I use the dryer.  Dryer sheet softness beats clothes with peg marks and potential spider hazards any day!  And using those drying rack things is enough to make me want to slit my wrists.  Take my advice: buy a tumble dryer - even if it has to live in your garage - buy one - it will change your expat life.

4. I still have to think for a moment when I order a sandwich and am asked "with salad?"  I used to say no (clearly, I wanted a sandwich, not a salad) until I realised they meant "do you want lettuce (and sometimes other salad-y type items) inside the sandwich".  Yes please I do, but forgive me for taking longer than necessary to answer your simple question.

5. I totally suck at Celsius temperatures.  Yes, when I stop to think about it, I know that 0C is 32F, 10C is 50F and anything over 30 is what I consider too hot, but somehow all temperatures in the middle mean nothing to me.  Case in point: it's raining and quite chilly today - the postman came in my office and said "my car reading said it was 11 degrees", and when I didn't respond with the surprise he expected, he said "only 11 degrees!" and only then did I know I was supposed to complain with him about how cold it apparently is.
(Thank you, Steve Jobs, for at least allowing me to display degrees in Fahrenheit on my iPhone - its the only way I know how to dress myself in the morning!)

*minus that time in my second week that I asked if extra postage was required for a letter to be sent to Wales. Doh!

* I must admit, I did "hate this country" just yesterday when I was made to feel like an first-class idiot when I made a joke about cooties and no one knew what cooties were and then didn't understand at all when I tried to explain them.  C'mon - they're cooties - who has ever had to explain cooties before!?


  1. I am possibly even more confused as a Brit in the US than you, as my American wife will often adopt British-isms with me at home, so I don't always realise that nobody else speaks like that when I go out! lol

    Almost all your language probs I have in reverse, of course. (I am collecting enough of them to do another blog post.)

    I was brought up in the 1970s UK, with both temp measures (my parents used F and my school used C), I am probably more comfortable with F than C, although like with the metric system for distance and weights, the modern, C is definitely better.

  2. My husband does the same thing for me at home - its kind of him, but has put me in some awkward social situations :) Can't wait to read your language problem post, Paul!

  3. I get made fun of for the way I say herbs ('erbs), tomatoes, and garage. Probably won't change any time soon.

    Cooties! Can't believe they don't know cooties! "circle, circle, dot, dot, now you've got the cootie shot!" haha.


  4. Your blog is very clever and it pictures the cultural difference in a funny way!!

  5. Calling by from Post of the Month Club, I have absolutely no idea what cooties are. :)

  6. I have found your nice blog through Happy Homemaker UK,and with your permission I am becoming a follower to come here again! Regards,

  7. Love it! I guess I haven't ordered a sandwich to know about the salad thing. And dumb question, but does it cost more to send something to Wales? What about other parts of the UK, like N Ireland? Hmmm

  8. No, it does not cost more to send anything to Wales, Scotland or NI, but me asking the question sure raised a good laugh in my office.

  9. Totally with you on number 3... i can't stand the smell or feel of outdoor line-dried clothes!