This blog post really should be titled “things I am eating and drinking (wrong),” but that’s just not very catchy. It strikes me how many of these lingering Americanisms have to do with food and beverages. Eating and drinking take up 70% of my day, so it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of my life.
After three months living in London, I have managed to pick up some things – I refer to the trash can as the “rubbish bin” fairly consistently. However, some things still escape me.
In the States, I was considered crazy because I actually timed my tea bags steeping, rather than just leaving them in the cup until I had drunk it all (although this is partially because it takes me about half an hour to finish a cup of tea). A thing that recently happened to me: a coworker came over to my desk for an unrelated item and exclaimed in disgust and horror: “What IS that?” – it was my tea. In my defense, it was tea that I had put a teabag & milk in simultaneously (I know but the kitchen is so far away and the milk fridge is in the same place as the hot water and tea bags and yes there’s a milk fridge) and the tea bag hadn’t quite steeped yet, so it was very pale, but it was a somewhat disheartening moment tbh.
I like buses. I can now get on and off the bus (including going up and down the bus stairs to second floor bus without falling!) successfully. Stop laughing, this is an achievement. However, Brad helpfully pointed out a few weeks ago that I do seem to be the only person on the street that has the requisite lack of dignity to be willing to sprint a block or more in order to catch buses. This does explain why bus drivers seem to be consistently laughing at me. At least, I’m hoping it’s the running and not something else that I’m missing that no one is telling me.
I had a very British experience on a bus several weeks ago when a very large man got on the bus with a boom box. It was a bluetooth-powered monstrosity blaring profane rap music (particularly relevant because of the decently sized population of small children on the bus). No one missed how offensive this was – you could tell it by the very, very slight shifting of positions as he came down the aisle. Yet he went to the back of the bus in the middle of rush-hour crush and everyone kept on looking forward. Everyone. Elbow to elbow people, grannies, the ubiquitous smelly dude on the bus, the woman with the bag so large it didn’t fit on her lap within the confines of one seat (that’s me), the woman with a stroller and four children, man with briefcase, man in suit on phone – the whole population of bus people. For seven stops. No one said a word. No one looked at anyone else. The most that happened is that when he finally, finally! got off the bus, one woman sort of rolled her eyes and sighed a tiny bit. Blaring music. I almost threw something at him but there was so much peer pressure that I couldn’t move.
After three months, it is both amazing to me how few phrases don’t translate and also which ones don’t seem to work consistently. After instigating complete confusion by asking for cream in my coffee a few months ago – “Pouring cream?” – I went back to the same coffee shop and asked for room for milk (note my carefully not requesting cream). “Room for” caused mass confusion. At this point, it might be me or it might be the barista, I don’t know. I was eventually served an iced americano alongside the world’s tiniest little jug of milk by my somewhat bewildered barista. The americano did have room for the milk. The milk then split in my iced americano. Honestly the whole experience was a lot and I don’t think anybody knows what happened. I wish I had a picture but pulling out my phone to photograph the experience would’ve been the last straw.
I am a rubbish gardener (see what I did there?). But I have an herb garden! It was pre-planted for me by my flat’s previous tenant and helpfully labeled.
I think this has a future. On a low note, Brad pointed out that it’s been three months and this is by our back door and I just noticed that it was there, so hopefully it flourishes well in neglect.
Cooking and baking: a story of highs and lows.
High: I made black bean soup!
Low: I made black bean soup twice because the first time I got overly confident with my oz to ml conversions and turned it into charcoal and then restarted but my local store had 293040 types of beans but NOT black beans. Brad went to four stores before he found black beans – canned, this time, not dried, also safer – and then we got to have soup. Brad is expecting his sainthood to be announced any day now.
High: I made scones!
Low: Before I made scones, I attempted cookies that were humiliating. I could blame the conversions, but I don’t know what went wrong. It’s possible that I overbeat them. ALSO possible that the fact that my oven varied from 186C to 257C over the course of 12 minutes baking the scones (according to the meat thermometer that I stuck in the oven because that’s the same, right?) and that is insane and definitely would destroy a batch of cookies. But apparently scones are impenetrable baking magic and I should make them more often.
I can use “cheers” now. I use it regularly. I’m assuming that I’m using it right because it seems to mean everything and nothing. I’m going to continue using cheers when I move back to the US because it’s so incredibly useful. Nobody tell me I’m doing it wrong. It’s the best tool in a slightly awkward conversational exchange. Drop something and someone picks it up for you? Cheers! Saying goodbye? Cheers! Someone holds the bus door for you so that you can sprint that last 20m in full view of the whole waiting bus? Cheers! Actually celebrating something? Honestly have no idea. Assume it’s cheers.
This summary of faux pas doesn’t even include last weekend when I was in Paris and managed to embarrass myself in front of an entirely new population of people with my strange overconfidence with the ten words I know in the French language. Here, have a picture of Montmartre and some food that I ate there. I’ll follow up with stories soon. I hope you’re living slightly less awkwardly than this American in London.