You have no items in your cart. Want to get some nice things?Go shopping
A bit about me: I now live in the UK. I married the British guy, put my entire life into suitcases, got an Oyster card, bought a coat (I’m from Florida) and started English lessons. I learn new words all the time, the most recent being twee.
Actually, my English lessons began in April 2009 when I came to England for a week during the Easter holidays. I’d been studying in Greece for one semester and thought I’d see England. My only British friend, Josh, arranged my accommodation with his family and with a few friends, so it was on a coach to Bristol that I learnt my first English lesson.
I was to stay that night with Ben from Bristol. I’d never met him but I trusted Josh and his choice of friends. Plus, it was actually Ben’s parents who had opened their home to me.
The coach had pulled into the station and my phone glowed with a text. Hi Shannon, it’s Ben. I’m here at the station, in the waiting room. I’ve got brown hair and I’m wearing a grey and white stripy jumper.
I read the first part with relief. Oh good, he’s here, I have a place to stay tonight, and it’ll be easy to find him, brown hair, ok that’s quite normal –
Then I read the last part.
As any primary school girl who attended Nokesville Victory Baptist would tell you, a jumper is a sleeveless dress.
Can I just say, the British are way ahead of Americans in terms of cultural knowledge. Perhaps it’s because some Americans – not all – forget that other countries exist. Another possible reason is that American media seems more prevalent here than British media is in the States. My husband knows my childhood TV programmes, but I’ve never heard of his.
Not everything in American media represents actual culture, however.
A British teenager once asked me, “So, do kids in American high schools actually walk around singing and dancing?”
I laughed in her face, but the laughter dwindled to a giggle and then faded into nothing as her round, waiting eyes told me she was perfectly serious.
After I untangled myself from memories at Victory Baptist and how much I loathed those uniforms, I focused on the situation at hand. “Focus” often means a stream of highly concentrated thoughts, like sunlight through a magnifying glass, setting fire to all remaining ants of rationality in my brain.
A cross-dressing stranger awaits me in the station. Nothing against people who choose that style; men can wear whatever they want. Scottish men wear skirts, right? I just wouldn’t have pegged this type of friend to Josh.
He does tend to wear those weird boots though…
I lie. Those weren’t my thoughts at all. I actually just laughed and got stared at by my coach-mates. I knew Ben could not be wearing a dress, and that Josh’s boot selection was completely his choice. The only ant left to scurry around my brain: What the heck is a jumper?
Communication happens when two people hold the same meaning about the topic discussed. Humour happens when they don’t. I still embarrass myself talking about my pants – “I spilled juice all over my pants”, “Check out my new pants, they were on sale”.
People laugh, but at least they understand. They don’t stare at me like I stared at that text message, and I don’t have to clarify awkwardly – No, I don’t sit around in my knickers drinking juice. Disregard that, please don’t check out my pants.
Ben turned out to be a normal guy in jeans and an April-apt sweater, and my British vocabulary increased to one.
Shannon Evans, originally from Florida, moved to London in December 2011. A lover of culture and language, she blogs at Litro about her observations of British culture in her column 'English Lessons from an American' and interviews various people in publishing and the media for 'Litro Meets'. She has been published in The Bradenton Herald and in Changing London magazine. Her favourite book is Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.