Friday, 26 July 2013

Culture Shock: A Brief Guide to British Sayings and Shopping

Summer holidays have officially arrived and I could not be happier. I love my job but the breaks are very much needed!

I kicked off the holidays yesterday by heading into London to spend the day in Camden with a group of friends. It was a beautiful day full with chocolate bacon, some random craft beer, and lots of laughs. In a couple days, my amazing man and I are flying back to Canada for a couple weeks. I'm really looking forward to seeing my family (including my soon to be born nephew!) and friends. As much as I've made my home in the UK and feel quite settled here, Canada will always be "home" for me and it is definitely in my heart.

In honour of my trip, I thought I'd write a quick guide for other canucks on what to expect when coming to the UK, but that no one thinks to tell you. These are the things that when I moved here, I desperately wished I knew about the language and where to buy things.


There are the usual ones that most people know about (ie: football for soccer) but a ton of others that took some getting used to:

You alright/alright/ok?- A pretty standard greeting, but not one I was used to! When I moved here, I wondered for about a month why everyone kept asking if I was alright. I was worried that I looked sick or upset, as that question back in Canada usually means someone doesn't look happy or well and you are worried.

Pavement- This is said instead of sidewalk... it took me ages to figure out what they called sidewalks as I knew they didn't use that word, but pavement to me is any sort of paved surface so why it's used for a sidewalk, or walking path, I don't know!

Love (or other terms of endearment)- It's fairly common as a female to be called love or dear by random men, such as bus drivers. It's  bit unnerving at first, being referred to in such a familiar way, but it's usually done in a friendly way and quite harmless.

Shattered- Knackered is a word that I had heard before I moved here and is pretty well known to mean tired or exhausted but shattered (meaning the same) was new to me.

Fringe- Bangs (think hair)

Chuffed- This just means really pleased about something (chuffed to bits)

Gutted- Really upset or disappointed.

Pants- Now clearly we use pants in Canada but in Britain it means something else! Instead of meaning trousers (which is the term used here for pants), pants refer to underwear. I'll never forget the day that I forgot this and told a student to roll down his pants after he had rolled them up to his knees to make shorts (which is against uniform). This cheeky chappy then stood up and said, "Ok Miss!" and started undoing his trousers. I was horrified and instantly realised my mistake to which he stopped and grinned. I'm much more careful about using the word pants now.

There are a ton more (some not so nice!) but these are just a few that I had to learn.


After I had been in England for a week I moved into a house in Clapham Junction. I moved my stuff in the morning and then set out to buy sheets, blankets, towels and other things that I would need. As I had only been able to bring a big suitcase and carry on, I knew that I would have to buy these things but up to this point I had lived in a hostel that had provided them. I had no idea where to start. I had figured out where to buy groceries, but sheets and towels? No clue. In my North American mind, I thought that I'd head to the nearest mall as there was bound to be department stores and such that I could find what I needed in. I looked it up and the easiest one to get to was the Westfield Shopping Centre in Sheppard's Bush. So I got on the train and headed out. I got there and walked into the first entrance I saw. Unfortunately, it was the posh side of the centre and all I saw was shops full of designer bags, Tiffany's and all sorts of places that would definitely not carry reasonably priced sheets and towels. Overwhelmed and regretting my decision to move here, I continued on walking and found some more normal shops. I was still very lost and confused and eventually asked someone where I could just buy some sheets. I ended up getting some but left Westfield completely culture shocked. Clearly it is important to have some basic knowledge of where to buy things when moving to another country!

Homestuff- If you're looking to buy stuff for your home (like towels or sheets or kitchen things), you can get some really cheap, but decent quality, stuff at Tesco and even ASDA. Argos will also have things that can be really good too. In my town, we have a lot of discount shops that will carry things for really good prices. If you have a bit more cash, John Lewis, BHS, or Marks and Spencer will have some nice things.

Clothes- Again, John Lewis, BHS or M&S all carry nice things, but if you are on a budget, Tesco usually has some really nice clothes and of good quality. Both Tesco and ASDA also carry a huge range of sizes, so don't worry if you aren't a size two (also be prepared to be a larger size in clothes here and a smaller size of shoes, as the sizes are different!). Other shops that are good are: Dorothy Perkins, New Look, Next and Top Shop. There are clearly lots of other places but these are the ones that stand out to me.

Anyways... that's all for now! If you have anything to add about British sayings or anything else, feel free to add in the comments.

-E :)

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