21 April 2016

You Alright? And other English quirks

“You're right?” I heard this a few times from different people during my first few days at my new job. I took it as me looking sickly. For me, that means I'm white, which means I'm bleeding. So my head was racing. I'd quickly respond with a “good”, followed by an even quicker “Why?”

That second response would make the person anxious and finding it hard to find an answer. I learned that 'You're right?' isn't about my physical health or my physical looks, instead it is the English version of “How are you?” Even after six years of coming to this beautiful island I'm still learning more and more about this unique language.

And for that I'll say “Cheers!” Did I use that right? A word I often associated with victory or greetings is a unique word in England. It can be said as a hello, a salute, or a thank you. I'm starting to use this word. Admittedly, right now it is forced, but I do like it. I've been using it as a way to say “thank you.” At the end of a bus ride, I look at the bus driver, say “cheers” and get off the bus.

Speaking of “thank you's” the English people are so darn polite when they hand over their money at stores. You go to get groceries and when you check out the cashier tells you how much. As you dig out the money, you hand it over and as she takes it you say “thank you.” Think about that… I'm saying thank you for taking my money. The cashier takes your money and also says thank you. Then this person hands you back your change with a thank you. And once again you say thank you. This time is even more confusing. The cashier just hands you bills and change and we both assume that the change is right. We have no idea and people waiting in line don't want you to figure out right now, so you stuff the money in your pocket and you leave with your groceries, feeling great because of all the thank you's.

Speaking of lines. I got that wrong. It is not a line, it is a queue. And people in England take great pride in their ability to queue in an organized and gentlemanly way. From going to the movies, to getting treats at a Christmas market, the Brits queue with pride and an amazing sense of patience. The best way to watch a queue is at a busy bus stop. People outside the bus waiting to get on, but first the people have to get off. Which if it is a double-decker bus can take a bit of time. Only after everyone has left the bus that people start getting on. Then the process of “thank you's” start again. You give the driver your money with a thank you. He says thank you. You wait for change and get another thank you, and as you walk to your seat you say one final thank you. With the queue's and the thank you's you can arrive to your bus stop a couple of minutes late and still be on time!

I'm now starting my third month in England and I still am learning more about it and its people everyday. An island with so many people, so many nationalities, so much culture, so much history, and it is this history that makes me want to learn more and more…

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