OK, so I won't lie to you- there have been some major adjustments that I had to make in order to settle in England, after 25 years in South Florida. Life in London, otherwise known as "Life without Dunkin Donuts", hasn't been easy. I'm glad they're on ball over here with McDonald's, Burger King and KFC. That's comforting. I'm even okay with the fact that they don't "Supersize" anything. But, hey, since America is known for it's enormous ass-size, and childhood obesity, this isn't a horrible thing. A large soft drink in England, is the size of a small in The States. They don't make fast food places the least bit easy to get to, like in the States. They aren't on every corner, and KFC doesn't have a drive thru. Nor does Starbuck's, I might add. I love that all my friends offer to mail me Dunkin Donuts coffee. That's cute and much appreciated, but there is something about a Dunkin Donuts employee MAKING it for me that makes me miss it most.
I took notice right away, I mean RIGHT away, like as in the car ride from the airport, that "kebabs" seem to be a VERY big deal here. There IS a kebab place on every corner, sometimes 2 or 3 on a small main street. I rarely see anyone in them...in the day time. I began understanding that a greasy kebab is the equivalent of a 4am drive-thru run at Taco Bell after a night of clubbing. Gotcha on the kebab thing. I'll pass.
Another thing I learned is that there are only two Taco Bells within a three hour radius from where I live, and those were in a mall (shopping centre) so there would be no late night Taco Bell runs after clubbing. In fact, there would be no late night clubbing, either. This is because the Tube Stations close and no one wants to take the disgusting "Night Bus" full of drunks, vomit and pee to get home. Most people don't drive into London because, well, quite honestly, there isn't any room for their car in London. I'm not even joking. If there was room, there isn't any parking. Besides, the Tube is efficient. It's not NYC subway shitty, it's a solid 6, which is relatively passable on a cleanliness scale of 1-10. I don't think I'll ever get used to public transportation, or these little chicken nugget cars, or the tiny, narrow streets that are just jammed packed, and lined with parked cars. I'm used to this:
I used to drive the same stretch of straight road for 12 miles to go to work every day for 15 years. It was two lanes, then it opened up into three lanes. Before I left, they were working on making it three and four lanes wide. That's what you do when there are too many cars in your city. You widen roads. Well, then again, our houses didn't sit so close to the street, either. Here, the houses are practically ON the road. If you're lucky enough to have a driveway, the ass end of your nugget car pretty much touches the footpath that butts up to the street. That means people walking by can see you having a bowl of granola and a glass of gin for breakfast everyday, as they walk to the bus stop or Tube Station.
So, life as I knew it- getting in your big, oversized SUV, travelling down open roads, to work, or the store, parking in a massive parking lot, walking into the place, doing what you have to do, walking out to your big ass truck, driving swiftly to your next destination WAS OVER.
I had to do a LOT more walking. Not JUST walking. Walking briskly, with a purpose, and carrying some kind of shoulder/messenger/backpack of a BAG. Ugh. Wait, wait, it get's better. Can we talk STAIRS?! I have never in my life encountered this many sets of steps and stairs EVER. Every Tube Station is like that scene from "Rocky" when he runs up the monument steps. Yeah, yeah, they have escalators every now & then, but they're so long, you can get carnival nauseaus from them. Then, there are stairs in the "car park", so even if you were lucky enough to drive to the bus/train/tube station, you still aren't catching a break! I'm not shitting you- There are stairs in grocery stores (oh, and p.s- in the grocery store- NO BAGGERS! "Do it yourself, love."), Dr offices, bus stations, train stations, and retail stores ("Bedding? Upstairs, love.") No dilly-dallying, either. Steppers will walk right up your spine if you're going too slow. That's just a little tip in case you plan on visiting. Oh, and every Tube Station smells like pee.
One of my worst experiences was when I had to take the train at 7:30am to be somewhere in London by 10am. I have never been so crammed into anything. It was like wearing spanx MADE OF PEOPLE. There were armpits in noses, and noses in crotches, and feet on top of feet, and ass to ass, back to back, front to front, no eye contact, no words- just breath and germs. A total nightmare. People do this EVERYDAY! I thought I learned my lesson the day we took the train to Twickenham for a England vs Wales rugby match. I felt like the 80,000 people from the stadium were ON the train with me. I now plan accordingly, if I can. Doesn't take long to figure out what you're capable of, as a person and man, I failed that test.
I don't REALLY have to deal too much with that hustle bustle rat race commuting stuff, so I'm not going to spend hours talking about it. I will tell you, though, even though everyone speaks English here, and it's really cute when Hugh Grant did it in "Notting Hill"- there are still dialects that will knock me for a loop. I was watching a comedian, named John Bishop on the television, doing stand up comedy, and for about 8 minutes, I thought something was completely wrong with my ears. Turns out he's from Liverpool.
I actually now use the subtitle feature on most of the stand-up comedy DVD's we buy, like for Mickey Flannigan and Sarah Millican. You know what? They're funny! I also love the fact that late night talk/chat shows are WEEKLY here, unlike Jay and Dave. And- here's the best part: the two biggest hosts are flaming homo's! Yeah! Graham Norton and Alan Carr. I love that!
So, obviously there are few translation hang ups that I thought I'd list for you, so you can see what I'm up against.
U.S. word/phrase England's word/phrase
Shopping cart Trolley
Hello, Thanks, Hi, Bye Cheers
Mini Mart Newsagents
Street/Road Dual Carriageway
Fruit Basket Hamper
Draino Plughole Unblocker
Cup of tea Cuppa
Cream Clotted Cream
"The View" "Loose Women"
Beach Rock Beach
Fish Shop Chippy
Leftovers Bubble & Squeak
Diet Pepsi Diet Coke
There you have it. Some of the many things I've learned with regards to speaking. There is also one gesture that seems to be rather important and that is the "wave". It's not a big bold, arm stretched out, frenzied wave. It's when you're in the car (yes, I'm still getting used to being on the OTHER side of the car, the road...everything). Apparently, drivers here have an unspoken, courteous little lift of a few fingers, that symbolize a slight wave- and this can mean "No, you go," or "Thanks for letting me out," or "I'll wait."
I've got a handle on the weather, and because I'm actually south of London, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain everyday. I've seen some cool fog, yes. But, luckily, I haven't been too dumbstruck by the change in climate. I mean, I'm not wearing flip flops everyday, but if I was, it would be these, because the British sure know how to rock that flag!
The houses are tiny. The things in the houses are tiny. The faucets are tiny. It's like hobbits were the contractors & builders way back then. The toilets flush funny, no reassuring swirl or anything, just a lot of gurgling. I feel a little bit like Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels, especially when I'm in a car. We've been to bed & breakfasts where I've had to actually duck into doorways, and the beds look like something out of Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs. Takes a lot of getting used to. I never realized how big and massive everything is in The States. Another strange thing with the houses here is that there are no screens on the windows, so in the summer, it's perfectly fine to let flies and bees swoop in for a while, ("Oh. Blimey. Off you go.") and swipe a few times til they head back out. Sometimes, even now, when I look out the window, it's surreal to me that I live here. It's like it's a pop-up storybook with two perfect pages open. England is everything you hear about it. Historical, and charming (until those damn riots popped up! WTF?!) ...and the people ARE really, seriously crazy about tea. Oh my- have I mentioned that British people start every sentence with "Sorry.."? I haven't? Sorry.
Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders
Do I miss my family & friends? Of course. Every single day. But, my wife wouldn't have moved me over here without a stellar international phone plan that works for everyone AND a promise of at least 2 to 3 visits back & forth a year.
I wouldn't trade anything- not the funny words, shitty smelling Tube stations, tiny streets, congestion charges, stairs & steps or the bad coffee- none of it. You know why? As long as I'm here, I get to be with my wife.
|My view out the window, in the room where I do my writing.|