I always knew I wanted to go abroad. However, I also knew that I was terrible with languages. Eventually, I settled on a program in Bath, England.
I remember thinking, “oh I’ll be in England, yeah it’s a different country, but hey, it’s still the same language….I mean yeah, the slang is probably a bit different, but it can’t be that different.”
It was only a matter of days before I realized that I could not have been more wrong. I constantly found myself either wondering what in the world someone had just said to me; or worse yet, confronting an angry/confused/embarrassed Brit over something I’d innocently said.
Aside from the basics, the language that I was so sure I knew, was definitely not the English I was used to. One of my most memorable speech flubs was informing a rather cute British boy I’d met that I’d love to “hang out” with him sometime. Seems innocent enough right? Well, after he blushed about 7 shades of red and choked out a laugh, he proceeded to stammer out that I had basically just informed him that I wanted to flash him. Needless to say, I was mortified and couldn’t pray hard enough for the ground to open up and swallow me whole. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Fortunately, he and I became great friends and we still talk to this day.
I’d like to say that that was my only verbal slip-up, but no, I seemed to make them daily. For instance, I was walking down the street with some British friends one day and made the mistake of complaining that I’d somehow gotten mud on my new pants. Well, after looking at me like I had 3 heads, one of the girls laughingly informed me that I meant my “trousers” as pants means underwear in England.
Thanks to my British friends, I quickly adjusted to the Queen’s English, and basic British slang. To this day, I still call take out “take-away”, occasionally refer to sneakers as trainers, find “bloody” to be the perfect explicative/description out there, and various other Britishisms.
I should have known better from the beginning. I was in a new country and everything was different, even the things I thought would be the same. As soon as I realized that, and opened myself up to absorbing that difference, I was fine. Bath, and England in general still owns a large piece of my heart and I can’t wait to go back. Next time I go abroad anywhere though, I’ll be sure to remember what I learned the first time, you can’t go abroad expecting it to be like home, even if there are similarities. As soon as you step off that plane, you’re in a new place and everything is different. You need to follow their rules and obey their customs. Enjoy it, you’ll learn more about yourself and the world around you by experiencing a new country then you will any other way.
Posted By: Kristen