Thursday, 24 April 2008

Week 4: Football & More Language Tips

So, somewhere in my crazy social agenda (note the sarcasm) I found the time to experience one of England's most beloved No, not American football, the football watched in all the rest of the

Now let me just say that choosing a football team to root for in England is sort of like choosing which political party you're going to vote for...and everyone will try to get you to root for 'their' team. Just in the area where I live there are 3 major teams that are followed: Liverpool, Manchester United, and Everton. Everton is kind of the under-dog, if you will. One of the guys from work had a spare ticket, so I joined him and his friends for a game on a Thursday night for the Everton v. Chelsea game.

We meet at a pub, of course, for some beers. Then we drive closer to the stadium and stop at a pub, of course, for some more beers. And on to the stadium from there. Once we arrive at the stadium, one of the guys meets me out front with a pink Everton hat and scarf (an effort to 'woo' me as a fan). I have to admit, it's working a little bit:) So after saying thank you, I proceed to enter the stadium, expecting to head straight for the beer stand (it had been >5 min since we'd had a beer).

Now, maybe this is stereotypical, but I expected football to be the apex of drinking in England. Turns out, you can't drink in the stands:( What the f___? Fine enough, less trips to the toilet. But, the game was great...I learned all sorts of new words that I can't repeat anywhere other than a football stadium. But it was great...Everton plays in a relatively small stadium in Liverpool, reminds me of Wrigley Field. Both teams have little songs and chants that they yell. Oddly enough, you can't even really see the timer or scoreboard from most seats -- in the US it seems they post this info all over a stadium.

Unfortunately, Everton lost, and Chelsea went on to the quarter-finals...but I really enjoyed the game. In typical Susan fashion, of course, I tripped and landed flat on my face outside of the stadium. Awesome. England 1, Susan 0. Some things, like my clumsiness, will never change! I swear it wasn't the beer!

This week's language tip is regarding saying goodbye over the phone. In the US, we would say a simple 'goodbye', 'talk to you later', or just 'later'. Normal tone, emphasis, etc. Here, they say the word 'bye' in a higher pitch, almost like a question and they proceed to repeat it up to 3-4 times. It is as if they are having a game to see who can say 'bye' last when hanging up the phone. This is a game that I have yet to win. Very strange, isn't it?

Week 4: What's in the UK News?

Another installment of your favorite updates in the UK quoted from 'The Standard’, Chester & District, 24th April 2008 Print.

  • ‘Black cab drivers to stage protest over unlimited licence decision’. Well the good news is that this is not what I thought. This is not referring to African American cab drivers, apparently they are referring to cab drivers who drive black-coloured cabs.

  • ‘Man jailed for going ‘beserk’ in city pub’. Ah, yes, it’s not an installment of the UK news if there’s not a story about some guy who’s been drinking for the last 10 hours in a pub throwing things and causing the ‘members of the public to cower’ due to his behaviour. Apparently his estranged lover gave him some bad news during hour 10 of his drink-a-thon

  • ‘Abandoned cat George was thrown from car’. Okay, seriously? So, some person was witnessed throwing this cat from their car and the cat subsequently wandered the streets until its hair was so matted it was ripping the poor little guys hair off. Some kind soul has taken him to a shelter where he is being re-socialised. The article actually says that they named him Gorgeous George to try and build his confidence. Right.

  • Finally, I decided to venture out this week in search of a true gem….into the singles ads. And what a gem did I find….’Dizzy but intelligent hard working blonde, seeking special, seductive male for no strings good times.’ Um, isn’t that prostitution in print?

And that's it for this week's update...till next time...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Week 4: Shakespeare & Ghosts

So, as previously mentioned, I am still living in an empty apartment...which is awesome by the way. My personal items are somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic on their way to me around the 1st of May. Wonderful. Now, there is a bit of a silver lining. This not only forces me to get out and get to know the area, but also to work out at the gym around the corner. That being said, after 3 weeks, I woke up last Saturday morning and glanced at the Lonely Planet guide my parents had given me and decided that I would venture out a bit further.

I opened the page to a town called Stratford-Upon-Avon (yes that's the name of the town), which is the hometown of William Shakespeare. So, within 2 hours, I had packed, gone to the bank and gassed up the car. Within 2 more hours I was there. I quickly called one of the B&B's in the guidebook and checked in for the price of 40 GBP (i.e. ~$75) for a TINY room, but really cute and well-equipped. Now for those of you not familiar with a B&B, it truly is someone's house with various rooms you can rent. So there are en-suite rooms which have their own/attached bathroom OR there are those with unattached bathrooms, but there are also common areas shared by the owners and all of the visitors. The owner typically makes a formal English Breakfast served in a proper dining room with China and the whole bit. Very nice.

So, I spent the afternoon wandering the town with churches that are centuries old, viewing ol' Bill Shakespeare's birth and burial grounds. There is so much history in these towns its amazing. I ended up finding the Royal Shakespeare Company's Theatre and they had obstructed view tickets to the Merchant of Venice that night for just 18 GBP! SO, I figured why not and bought them. Turns out that the obstructed views seats are awesome and not very obstructued, so I saved like 20 GBP!

The following morning, after English Breakfast, I walked along the River Avon early in the morning and watched the crew teams practicing. I then hopped in the car to go on my first Castle Hunt! I am just amazed by castles. Seriously, I just can't conceive living in a castle or fighting in a medieval battle or even wearing those crazy dresses! Now let me just say that there are 2 main types of castles to see. There are the ones that want to make money by any means necessary and turn into a bit of a showy circus and then there are the English Heritage properties that are preserved as is, no frills whatsoever. Well, I saw quite the spectrum, let me say. I drove around 10 miles from Stratford-U-A to Warwick Castle. For the hefty price of 17GBP, I walked in to see the Six Flags of Medieval other words, there were all sorts of interactive videos and displays and wax sculptures. There was a guy dressed in battle gear that was showing kids how to shoot a bow and arrow...and there was (included in my fee) a ticket to the Ghost Alive! exhibit. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm always up for a I join in line.....

They tell us to walk up these steps and wait at the top for someone to get us. There's maybe 10 of us in the group, and we see a statue of a ghost dressed in black at the top of the steps. I, of course, whisper sarcastically to the girl next to me, 'ooh how scary, maybe it's a real ghost'. Almost on cue, the statue shrieks at us and we realize it's a real person dressed like a ghost. I'm an idiot, but what else is new. So, we go inside the exhibit, which is in one of the towers of the castle. It's really dark, we''re all crammed in and there's strobe lights all around. There's these actors who are re-enacting the murder of some guy from like the 1200's. What we don't know is there are creepy hidden actors that jump out and yell in your face from behind curtains, dooors, etc. I literally screamed like 10 x's and felt like the biggest jack-ace ever. At least everyone else got a kick out of me! I guess what I've learned is that I like thrills, but not surprises!

Anyway, that was basically Warwick I drove over another 5-10 miles to Kenilworth Castle. This was a castle from Elizabethan times, and is in a state of ruins, but managed by the English Heritage group. They had a great guidebook that enlightened you on the history and origin of the castle and walked you through a self-guided tour...for the price of 7GBP. My other lesson learned, I don't need the extra frills when I'm viewing castles. It's just weird.

Next week includes...more language blunders and my first football experience....

Week 3: The language

So the good news is that I didn't do anything horrifyingly stupid this week. The bad news is that I didn't do anything horrifyingly stupid this you don't have that to look forward to. What I have started to pick up on is the wonderful British Language....

A common American greeting to a passerby or to begin a conversation is 'How are you doing?' or 'What are you up to?'. Not so much here. For the first week, I seriously thought that I looked sickly (or suffering as they say) or lost because everyone kept asking me 'You alright?'. I would hesitantly reply yes, only to realize that they didn't really care if I was truly alright, but only saying it...much as we would when we ask how someone is doing.

The other thing that sticks out to me is that whenever someone is talking and they want to pause, instead of saying 'um', 'ah', 'so', 'therefore', they say 'yea?' with an inflection in their voice. Now, I took this as an actual question, as in whether or not I agreed or understood what they were saying. Not the case. It is entirely rhetorical as far as I can tell.

I guess both of these situations exemplify a typical question of concern or request for feedback in America. Therefore, when people here say these phrases to me, it feels that they then are interrupting my response because they continue talking. It's one of those strange cultural things that I think will take some time and is kind of humorous. We're both doing what's natural for us, but it has such a different interpretation.

My 3rd main observation on British communication involves when you walk into someone's office to ask them a question. Typical Americans love instant gratification and response, therefore when someone walks into my office to ask a quick question, it is typical to wait for 10-15 seconds while I finish my sentence. At this point, I might pause my conversation, turn and ask how I can help. In England, it seems, that when you go to ask someone a question, they will wave you in and then proceed to finish possibly a 10-15 minute conversation without acknowledging your presence almost. It's kind of nice because it shows they're focused on the conversation at hand, but nonetheless, different from what I'm used to!

Finally, I have found that when someone is laid off here they are referred to as 'being made redundant'. Now, I may note that I have not managed to already be laid off, thank goodness. However, I have heard the term and feel that it is an even more positive way of saying you're 'letting someone go'. It makes sense when you're backfilling someone to say they are being made redundant, simply by the definition of the word redundant....but how does that work when you just get rid of a position? are they then just fired? Will let you know if I figure it out.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Week 2: What's in the UK News?

I have found some of the headlines, well, hilarious and decided I just had to pass them on. Do enjoy.

Sunday March 30, 2008
‘The Standard’, Chester & District, 27th March 2008 print

• ‘One of Britain’s Safest Cities’, subtitle ‘Chester named as one of least burgled areas’. Ah yes, apparently in England you can make up words like ‘burgled’…is that a word? How do we Americans not know about this word? I believe I’ll start using this immediately. I will burgle the word burgling from England.

• ‘Hunt is launched for Rows sex attacker’. Now, typically not a funny topic, so I will not poke fun at the topic. However if you were to read into the short article, you would find this in the 7th paragraph: ‘The man is described as white, in his late teens, about 5 ft 7 ins tall and with a pale complexion’. Does anyone else feel like this describes just about every teenage boy in England? Not to mention a number of them outside of England.

•‘Tight squeeze for Layla’. This is a good one. In case you were wondering, Layla is a lovely 5-yr-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. In Paragraph 6, the writer informs you that ‘Nina said: “He (her son) threw the ball for the dogs to et. Suddenly Layla went smack bang into the metal railings. She had her two front legs through and kept trying to push herself forward but was wedged.”’ No joke, they called a fire truck to come and free this dog. While it is valiant of the fire fighters and all involved, the dog was safe after all, but this was seriously a HEADLINE!

Monday March 31, 2008
‘The Standard’, Chester & District, 20th March 2008 Print

• 'Man banned from pubs for 10 years'. Enough said.

Stay tuned.

Week 2: Parking, Locks, and Petrol Tanks

Ah yes, another exciting week here in Chester, UK. For this week's installment, I have a variety of items to discuss, primarily relating to my 1st day of work.

I feel I've made a pretty good go at mastering driving on the left-hand side at this point, albeit I admit that I do not FULLY understand the rules of the road. However< I'm getting by and relatively comfortable on the road...or so I thought. My place of employment is settled nicely between an industrial park and a quaint little neighborhood. What I mean is, some people from work park on the street, while others park down the block in a parking lot. In an effort to be 'one of the team', I chose on Day 1 to not park in the employee parking lot, but park on the street along a row where a number of other cars are parked. I get in the building and settle down at my desk and am just chatting with my office mate, when a co-worker walks in to inform me 'welcome and you've just gotten a parking ticket'. Wonderful, minutes after I start my first, day we're off to a great start. Apparently, the faded yellow line where the other were parked 'doesn't count' and the actual yellow line where I was indicate no parking. As a typical American, I will continue to challenge the 35 GBP fine I've incurred. Status update to follow next week.

Well, I can only go up from there, right? Ha ha. You know me too well. Working hours here are much less taxing than those back's actually ILLEGAL to work more than 48 hours in a week! However, due to the time change and that being my first day where I could actually call home and check email, etc, I chose to stay a bit later, say 7pm. Now let me explain that you are not allowed to wear your uniforms home, so I abandoned my desk around 7pm to wander to the locker room to change. What are the chances that this was the exact time that the nighttime security guard walked around and locked ALL of the offices and front doors to the building??? Great. The good news is that my car keys, home keys, mobile phone and all of my phone numbers are in my office. So, I find the security guard, who informs me that not only does he NOT have keys to that office, but he doesnt have anyone's mobile or home number than does. As I am examining the lounge chairs in the lobby to figure out the most optimal sleeping position, 3 maintenance guys wander up with a sledgehammer, toolbox, and block of wood. Now I will contest that this is quite possibly the MOST secure lock known to man: hinged on the inside, shatterproof glass, double inset frame. After about 1 hour of gently trying to maneuver the lock open, the sledgehammer comes out (see picture). So my legacy has been replicated here in the UK already on my first day. Now I'm the girl who 'got a parking ticket and sledgehammered the door open on her first day'.

Finally, I leave you with quite possibly my STUPIDEST moment of the first time filling up the petrol tank in my car. Interestingly enough, I have (temporarily) an Audi A4 that runs on DIESEL. So, I pull up, like normal, pop out and walk to the gas tank. I push on the corner, and it won't open. So, I just figure, oh right, gotta flip the switch inside the car. Hmmm, no that doesn't work either. Mind you, there is a 'white van man' (whom I will explain later) waiting behind me laughing as I walk back and forth and start punching the gas tank cover. Finally, I decide to be a bit rational and open the glove box to read the manual. It turns out that you need to unlock all of the doors (which doesn't seem very safe to me) in order for the gas tank to open. Ah yes, the elusive 5th door. Unfortuantely, by the time I realized this, every person at the petrol station was watching me and smiling.

Finally, I leave you with some photos of my new, and empty, apartment (or terraced house as it's called here). Will send more each time.

Until next time...