Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Brit in the USA: How To Keep In Touch With People Back Home

Many British expats—like me—can find themselves going years without seeing their friends and family back home. Whatever the reason—be it lack of finances or time—the prospect of hopping across the ocean can be problematic for some. It is vitally important, then, that we find other ways of maintaining contact with those across the Pond.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

17 British Slang Words and Phrases Most Americans Don't Understand

Guest post by Claire Bolden McGill: A List of 17 British Slang Words and Phrases Most Americans Don't Understand

I love a good old British colloquialism or slang phrase and I throw them in left, right and centre (center) when I am talking. This can lead to much confusion for my poor American friends. I often see their brows furrow as they try to make out exactly what I’m saying. I’ve learned to stop and translate now, but I think they’re rather fond of the abundance of British phrases and sayings that pop out willy-nilly (see?!) from my mouth.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dear America, Led Zeppelin Were Not American

Dear America.

I am writing this letter in the hope that you will take into consideration something very close to my heart.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 British Food Combinations Americans Find Odd

Whenever I engage an American in conversation about British food, he or she will invariably find a hitherto unfamiliar dish - described by me in detail -  to be bizarre. This is particularly true during a discussion on food combinations. For whatever reason, America - the nation who thinks it's perfectly fine to put chili con carne on a bun - largely disapproves of our inter-nutritional meddling.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

15 Words And Phrases I Never Used Before I Came to America, by a British Expat

Guest post by Claire Bolden McGill: A list of 15 Words And Phrases I Never Used Before I Came to America

Monday, January 20, 2014

10 Driving Terms Used in Britain But Not The US

Any motorist that has braved the roads of both Great Britain and the United States will no doubt be familiar with the myriad of differences in driving terminology. It's not simply a case of learning to drive on an unfamiliar side of the road; you have to learn the lingo, the different names for roads signs, car parts and vehicle designated areas. The following is a list of 10 words and phrases used by British drivers not widely used in the US. In each case, I have included the American equivalent. (Note: for a longer - but less detailed - list of terms, see this cheat sheet).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Britain's Most Beloved Writer, Enid Blyton, Never Cracked America

According to a 2008 survey by the Costa Book Awards, she was voted - ahead of Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Jane Austen and William Shakespeare - as Britain's most beloved writer. She has sold more than 600 million copies of her books internationally, and is widely revered in not just Britain, but India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and many other nations.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

6 Things I Didn't Know About The U.S. Before Moving Here, By A British Expat

There are certain things about moving to another country that no one tells you. As a British citizen relocating to the United States in 2008, I was under the impression that - despite all of the well-known spelling variations - Britain and the U.S. were pretty much similar in terms of everyday living. It's only after you move to a place, after you fully immerse yourself in it, that you realise just how naive you were. This was the case for me six years ago. The following is a list of 6 things I didn't know about the United States before moving here.

1. Visa costs
There is a common misconception among non-expats that the simple act of marriage between a Brit and an American is enough to grant the former unrestricted rights to live in the United States, free of charge. When I tell people that, actually, I had to pay considerable costs (over $1,000) just to secure a Permanent Resident Card, they appear shocked. Their astonishment is doubled when I tell them that this is true for an American citizen looking to secure the equivalent visa in the UK. Of course, until I went through the visa process myself - filling out the myriad of relevant forms, submitting evidence legitimising by marriage (photos, bank statements etc.), and sending checks to the Department of Homeland Security - I was just as in the dark as everyone else.    

2. Paid holiday leave is not the law
When I lived in the UK, I almost took for granted the fact that I was guaranteed - by law - 28 calendar days per year of paid holiday leave. In hindsight, I look back on how easy it would have been to take four week-long holidays throughout the year and, in doing so, not fear for my job. In the United States, while certain jobs will include paid vacation as part of a benefits package, paid vacation is not a guaranteed right. Indeed, the U.S. is one of the only nations in the developed world where this is the case.  

3. Public transportation can be hard to come by
Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of how much I miss public transportation. Back in the day, when I still lived in England, I could hop on a train and be on the other side of the country in two hours. Moreover, no matter what town I was in, there was likely some sort of bus service. Here in the U.S., unless you live in a major city like New York, Chicago or San Fransisco, you might find it hard to get from A to B without a motor vehicle of your own. Indeed, when I lived in the town of Anderson, IN, the bus system was practically non-existent outside of the town center. As for trains, the only carriages you're likely to see in the Hoosier state are those carrying cargo rather than people.

4. High number of road accidents per year
On the subject of transportation,  I was shocked to discover (and to witness first hand) the disproportionately high number of road accidents in the United States. Indeed, in my first year living here I bore witness to two fairly major collisions. In 2011, I was involved in my first ever automobile accident. Perhaps you're thinking that I just had bad luck, that I could go another ten years and not have the same experience again. In that case I will present to you the facts (detailed in an earlier table).

In 2012, the number of road fatalities in the United Kingdom was 1,754 compared to 33,808 in the United States. I know what you're thinking; the U.S. has a much higher population than the UK. This is true. The population of the U.S. is roughly five times that of the UK. However, 33,808 is roughly nineteen times 1,754. In other words, there are approximately three times as many road fatalities per 100,000 people stateside as there are in the UK. This might have something to do with the fact that - in some states - it is legally permissible for a person to drive at 14. Moreover, the states do not mandate routine vehicle check-ups, and many of the roads in the U.S. leave a lot to be desired.

5. More spelling differences than I thought
I must confess, even with a degree in English Language, I was not fully aware of the vast number of spelling differences (and, indeed, pronunciation differences) between the two countries. Sure, everyone knows colour vs. color, metre vs. meter etc. But I was shocked to discover that words like speciality, aluminium and pyjamas have variant spellings too. Furthermore, Americans don't use the word acclimatise, but rather use the word acclimate. For a further list of lesser known spelling differences, see this article.

6. The extreme temperatures
For years, Americans had tried to convince me that - depending on which area of the United States you live in - the weather throws up far more extremes than you would experience in the UK. It was often posited to me - by friends, ex-girlfriends and later my wife - that in the northern part of America, temperatures can drop as low as −40 °C. I was skeptical; while U.S. television shows and movies had often depicted wintry scenes, I couldn't recall one that showed humans freezing to death.

In my first winter stateside (I actually touched down in snow) I realized just how naive I had been. By Christmas 2008, the temperature in central Indiana was -6 °C, which was considered normal for that time of year. I have since discovered that temperatures have indeed reached the depths of which I was warned, while Alaska holds the record for the lowest recorded temperature on Earth (−62 °C).

On the other side of the coin, the summer can bring temperatures in the low forties in many northern states, while the record temperature in the state of Indiana came in July, 1936 (47 °C (116 °F)).

Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a contributor for BBC America and writes a weekly column for Anglotopia. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs this blog, Lost In The Pond, charting the endless cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States. 

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

10 Words and Phrases Used In British Education That Are Not Used In the US

Anyone who has raised children in both Great Britain and the United States will be highly aware of the fundamental differences between the respective education systems of both nations. And while that particular post is probably for another time, those same ocean-hopping parents will no doubt be familiar with some of the education lingo used on each side of the Pond.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Comparison of British and American Words To Describe People

Between the two of them, the United States and Great Britain are home to almost 400 million people. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that these two groups of people - separated by a 3,000-mile-wide ocean - possess a variety of words and phrases to describe one another.

Monday, January 06, 2014

British Vs. American Word Differences: Weather Terminology

British English (BrE)
American English (AmE)
Snow, white stuff
Gritter van
Salt truck, winter service vehicle
Autumn weather
Fall Weather
Snow plough
Snow plow
Scorcher, sizzler, hot day
Hot day
Gale force winds
Strong winds
Brolly, umbrella
Weather warning
Weather advisory, weather warning
Mackintosh (or mack), cagoule
0 degrees celsius
32 degrees fahrenheit
Wellington Boots
Rubber boots, Gum-boots
Blizzard, snowpocalypse, snowmageddon

Sometimes, it's better hearing me in a British accent. Click the red button below.

Laurence Brown is a British man writing his way through the truly bizarre world of America - a place he sometimes accidentally calls home and a place he still hasn't quite figured out after seven years. Thankfully, his journey is made 12% easier by the fact that his accent makes him sound much smarter than he is. For evidence of this, subscribe to his popular Lost in the Pond web series over on YouTube.