Culture Confusion

In my last update I mentioned stereotypes, so I thought it only fair that I divulge slightly.

Of course, I’ve only visited two states so far so my insight is narrow but I could ignorantly suggest that what I’ve witnessed in this small area of New Jersey is similar to many areas of the East Coast. If I compare my town to Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls (which is set in Connecticut) I notice many similarities. And Gilmore Girls is, of course, an immaculate reflection of real life.

The first difference I’ve noticed between America and England would be the cars. All the cars are big cars here. Even the small cars are still bigger than anything I would have driven at home. Not only that but they are all so clean and super shiny. I feel like here, if you drove around with the words ‘clean me’ written in the thick coat of dirt on your van’s rear window, you’d be made a social pariah. Also, I think because the roads are so big it feels as if everyone drives very slowly (unless you’re Scott).

The second notable stereotype that I’ve decided is completely accurate about America is that people walk around in gym clothes all the time. I’m talking mostly women, and from the ages of about 13 to 45. I’ve seen groups of teenage girls walk into Starbucks and just hang out there; except every single one of them is wearing ‘yoga pants’, running shoes, and a full face of make up. I’m not talking see-through black leggings and white converse which would be normal at home, I mean full on active-wear being worn to drink lattes in. I sometimes feel over dressed when I wear jeans. (I should acknowledge that this isn’t aimed at people like my host mum, Beth, who actually does workout in her workout clothes).

The men also do wear shorts in every season. Shorts and a sweater: absolutely a sensible combination.

People love my accent, as expected. They also think all British people sound the same, as expected. (Chloe told me I sound like Merida from Brave; but she’s three so I agreed with her). I get asked a lot of questions as soon as it’s apparent that I’m not from here. Although, nobody’s asked me if I know the Queen yet, which is disappointing. (Chloe did ask me if I knew Mary Poppins though, and when I told her I didn’t she was extremely disappointed in me).

  • Bathrooms are confusing here.
  • Bedding is confusing here.
  • Orange Fanta is actually orange.
  • Soup and grilled cheese is a thing.
  • Fast food is so much better- I actually eat it for a start.
  • Supermarkets are way better
  • Apparently they like to pretend that products we’ve never even heard of are from Europe to make them more appealing to Americans
  • In New York, there is the constant sound of cars honking and sirens wailing and people just walk through the middle of traffic!? They clearly have no fear.
  • Even in New Providence, which is tiny, I’ve heard more sirens in a month than I’d hear over four months in New Haw, which seems like the wrong way around.
  • The Autumn trees here were incredible!! (The leaves have almost all fallen off now, unfortunately). But on the two days that it has rained since I got here, it genuinely made it feel like a more authentic Autumn. I now understated why people picture rain when they picture England, because I picture England when it rains.
  • I have decided that when the two countries have different words for the same thing, the American word generally makes way more sense, but the British words is just outright cuter.

At orientation they emphasised to the Brits that American’s don’t use sarcasm nearly as much as us so “be careful”. However, I happen to have a host dad who is more sarcastic than any British person I’ve ever met. It makes me uncomfortable that even do not have the sarcasm capacity to understand his jokes sometimes. I feel as if I have let my country down.

I’ve already noticed my language changing. I’m forced to use American words with the kids because otherwise they have no idea what I’m talking about, therefore some of the words I would naturally use are slowly becoming redundant. I don’t think I’ve said ‘bloody’ more than twice since I got here, I swear. Instead, words that have entered my daily vocabulary are:

  • Laundry
  • Pants (to refer to all type of trousers)
  • Purse (to refer to any type of women’s bag)
  • Sweater
  • Diaper (I still almost say “nappy” every time, but it would just be pointless)
  • Candy
  • Store
  • Buddy
  • “pee pee” (urine reference, obviously)
  • A dummy is now a “pa pa” or a “ba ba” depending on which child it belongs to.
  • I don’t pronounce the ‘t’s in “pretty” anymore, apparently.
  • “Oh my goooosh”
  • “Uh oooh”

Words I refuse to let catch on:

  • Yard
  • Sneakers
  • Sidewalk
  • I know I’ll think of more

So anyway, that’s all that comes to mind for now, but I’ll make sure to make a note every time I come across another amusing culture confusion in the future.