Search Results

Keyword: ‘expat other trivia’

Separated by common language, part II

September 17th, 2008

It’s been close to a year since I posted a brief sampler of the linguistic differences between British and American English language variants. I had a clear intent to parlay that article into a potentially fun series. But in the intervening time, I suppose, I lost my ear when it comes to noticing divergences in everyday vocabularies. As a result, off the top of my head I could not think of many additions to my initial list.

That may be partly due to the self-imposed scope. I wanted to include only the terms that are used frequently or, at least, define objects that have a common place in everyday life. I also wanted to look for instances where an American word would be likely misunderstood if used, either because it has a different meaning in British English or is entirely uncommon on this side of the pond.

A beauty like knackered (suggested by the fellow expat Geo) does not exactly fit into these boundaries. It is a word that you’d never hear in the States, but it is considered a slang in England, never replacing exhausted in polite circles. A fun little titchy, which Becky increasingly uses in her teen-speak, is similarly too much of a colloquialism – my preferred American translation of it would be teeny-tiny – to qualify as part of formal vocabulary. And terms such as boot fair, hen night or stag party are too situational to be frequently used.

Well, I’m guessing Posh frock! could be a frequent exclamation in families with girls on shopping sprees, but in this era, girls rarely don dresses, no matter how nice.

Long story short, I realized that the best I can do is mention here the handful of words that were omitted from the original list. The short register has been lying on my desk for months. Maybe, as soon as I post it, new examples will spring to mind, giving me an excuse for another post on the topic.

The most inexplicable omission from the list was the word mate. In the States, I primarily associate this word with the process of procreation, and “I’m meeting my mates tonight” would sound rather risque to an average ear. In England, the plural mates almost exclusively replaces friends – even Becky rarely uses the latter anymore. What’s more, the singular mate is used everywhere as a form of address between men who are otherwise not acquainted with one another but need to engage in a brief transaction, be it over a counter of a sandwich shop (“Do you want a gherkin on that, mate?”) or on a packed train (“Sorry, mate, I’m trying to get off”). When I manage to insert that in my own speech, I’ll know I’ve become anglicized. (Insidentally, a gherkin is what we Americans know as a pickle.)

In schools, what we are used to call grades (as in “My daughter is in 8th grade”) are called Years. A group of students that takes most of the classes together is called a form, whereas I think in the States they would still be termed a class. A principal is branded a head teacher.

The cars in England each possess a bonnet and a boot, rather than hoods and trunks. We were almost detained on our first trip via Eurotunnel, when the customs officer politely asked me to “lift the bonnet” and met an expression of utter incomprehension in return.

And one of the favorites of a couple of my American friends here is pissed, which means wasted as in drunk. Believe me, in England, it’s a commonly used part of everyday vocabulary.

That's England

More on British medical care

April 14th, 2008
Comments Off

Basic medical help is free in the UK, we have already talked about that. You don’t need any identification to walk into a hospital emergency room or an NHS Walk-in Centre to get assistance. You may even be able to arrange an appointment with a local doctor when you need it, on availability basis.

If you live in the UK, though, you are expected to be registered with a GP (which means “general practitioner” and conversationally universally used in the abbreviated form). The idea is very similar to the primary care physician concept: Not only is your GP a doctor who knows you well and who possibly has been your physician for many years, but (s)he also guards the strings of the purse that holds the public money that might be spent on your treatment, having an important say on whether you need any, and what.

So, a Brit with a medical problem is likely to go see his/her GP for an initial consultation, and then, if needed, be referred to a specialist. The physicians’ pay – whether GPs, or specialists within NHS, – is mostly the function of the size of the practice, and the margin earnings rate for each additional visit is puny enough so that there is little incentive to see the patient more than minimally necessary. Plus, no doubt, every GP is incentivized to expend as little money as possible on treatments.

Read more…


Separated by common language

December 4th, 2007

Differences in English language as spoken by the British and the Americans is a long overdue topic for an expatriate blog. Today, I am finally getting around for a primer.

This isn’t about the obvious difference in pronunciation. True, understanding spoken English on British Isles takes considerable training and unwavering focus for someone whose ear is used to the American version. But that is only a part of the problem. The other part of it is that while you may recognize certain words, they turn out to mean something rather different. Plus, there are words which provoke no recognition from you when you hear them for the first time; yet, they mean things that are quite commonplace.
Read more…

That's England

Taxes with a twist and private medical insurance

October 15th, 2007
Comments Off

I wrote in the past about tax situation that a humble expat family is stuck in. Now, there is a little twist to ours.
Read more…

Medical, Taxation

On passport renewals

September 6th, 2007
Comments Off

My last entry has reminded me of a topic that I wanted to dedicate a separate post to, along the lines of Things You Tend To Not Spend Time Thinking Seriously About When In The Process Of Relocating Abroad. The previous article in this series discussed finer points of relocating with kids. This entry is about passport renewals.

Read more…

Costs, Relocation

What England Does Better

August 31st, 2007
Comments Off

I frequently rant about things that we do not like in England (the last obvious example of that was the driving license treatise), and even wrote a post once about things that we took for granted in the States. But occasionally, we come across a concept that makes us think, Why don’t they do it in the US? It’s long overdue on my part to collate some of those into a post. So, here goes a list of some things that we like on this side of the pond.
Read more…

European living, That's England

Short notes after a brief US trip

June 20th, 2007

My short business trip to Chicago is coming to an end. Seeing my parents and my brother’s family was a bonus; going to a baseball game with co-workers gave me a necessary jolt of American culture; further socializing with said co-workers was mostly fun; otherwise, I could have probably stayed home.
Read more…

European living

Corporate benefits and other random occurrences

June 14th, 2007
Comments Off

No sooner did I mention in my previous post that I had never personally encountered a manned police speed checkpoint, that I came upon one on my morning school run.
Read more…

Chronicles, That's England

Licensed to kill… or watch, at least

June 4th, 2007

It may come as a surprise to many, but in England, a person cannot watch TV unless (s)he is licensed to do so.
Read more…

That's England

A primer on Socialist medical service

November 24th, 2006

No sooner I complained about not having a Russian store nearby that Natasha found one. It is in no way comparable to the ones we loved so much in the States, it does not have hot kitchen – and the owners actually do not speak Russian – but it is only a couple of miles away and it sells such essentials as шпроты and сайра.
Read more…

Chronicles, Medical

Things we take for granted

November 21st, 2006

Taking a break from describing events of our life, I want to let a bit nostalgia in and recite some things that we so gotten used to in America that we never considered their importance. Without further ado, here are some things that we clearly took for granted in the great US of A.
Read more…

European living, That's England

Stupid credit history

October 16th, 2006

Sometimes, things come up that you have not really considered when you thought through various pros and cons of a potential life-altering decision (such as starting a new life abroad).

Read more…