March 1, 2010

0 Tidbits of British life

It's been a while since I last posted, which doesn't mean I haven't been doing anything, our lives have just been quite busy with everyday life.  Which does include going into Harrogate and taking pasture walks, and I should do a post on Harrogate as it is a smashing little town
(side note: I have learned that Harrogate is a town, while Ripon, just north and slightly smaller is a city.  Why? According to ancient law in order to be a city you had to have a cathedral or a market license.  Ripon has a cathedral, Harrogate has a bathhouse.)
but I kind of figured that any more posts on pasture walks, while beautiful, are kind of redundant.

Instead I have compiled a list of interesting British facts/words/idiosyncrasies. This list is in no way complete, just some things I've jotted down on one of my many Post-its.

"Are you alright?"
This is a phrase you'll hear everywhere, from shops to pubs to friends meeting.  It doesn't mean you've just eaten concrete, or that you look like you've been hit by a tornado.  This is just the British version of "How are you?" or "What's up?"
Poor/No customer service
This isn't just a myth.  Our area has particularly good (for England) service, but after living in the United "Can I help you with anything" States for our entire lives, Paul and I are both shocked/mildly relieved there's no accosting salesgirls in stores.  They let you do your thing, they might ask if you're alright browsing (note that they leave the action to you!) and then they check you out.  Even at the grocery store (supermarket, here) the cashiers sit on their stools and carry on conversations, rarely even mentioning when it's time for you to pay.  You bag, you go.  The only time this confuses us is when we go out to eat.  Some pubs you order at the bar and they serve your table, some sit you, some restaurants just leave you standing in the doorway until you decide to seat yourself- then a waitress comes over and sits you.  There's no set rule.

T.K. Maxx
That's no typo, my friends.  The store here is T.K. Maxx.  Don't know why the initial change, but it's the same type of merchandise, same font.

Dipped lights
This doesn't mean chocolate covered.  This is what regular headlights are called.  What Americans refer to as "brights" are "main beams" here.  And EVERYONE drives around with those on.  The law does say to "dip" your lights when you see another driver, usually people do.  But it surprises me that even in areas with street lights or when the moon is full there are high beams all over the country roads. 

This term is all over the serials here. WAG apparently means "wives and girlfriends" referring to footballers' ladies.  The "chief WAG" is, of course, Victoria Beckham.  Being a WAG is often a lucrative career, but volatile and hopefully self loathing.

No, not where everybody knows your name.  This is the standard closing of any conversation.  No "have a nice day" when you leave a business, no "talk to you later" when you and a friend end your outing.  It's "cheers".  Always.  And, like words in America, depending on the deliverer's accent, you may not hear all the letters.  And misunderstand.  And have an embarrassing exchange of "I'm sorry, what?"

I think this sounds like baseball, Paul prefers to reference the safe zone in a game of tag.  Actually, this is a home improvement store. Not anything like Lowe's or Home Depot, but the closest we've found so far.

Fluorescent yellow jackets EVERYTHING
We've decided this is the non-official British uniform.  Fluorescent material must be issued at birth.  Everyone wears large fluorescent yellow jackets, from construction workers to police to realtors (in a mini skirt and pumps- she kind of looked like a fluorescent flasher).  Even dogs and horses are frequently seen in fluorescent yellow coats and ankle wraps for the horses.  So beware, if you tell us you want authentic British clothing for Christmas, we're not heading to Topshop or Edinburgh Woolen Mills, we're going to the street markets... and you're getting this!

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