When I came to live in the UK more than two years ago, there were many things I had to adapt to. Some things are relatively easy, such as using a knife and fork for eating everything (even spaghetti).
But some things are not so easy. Some things are strange. And some are amusing. This is the first part of my long list of those things.
1. Saying “trousers” instead of “pants”
I’m not unfamiliar with the word “trousers”. I learnt it in school when I was a kid, since Singapore uses British English. But, thanks to the influence of American media, most Singaporeans say “pants”.
I have always associated the word “trousers” with old men because only my dad used that word when I was growing up (he was schooled as a kid by British teachers when Singapore was still a British colony) and he was the only person in the family to actually wear trousers. So, after more than two years in England, I still have trouble saying “trousers” without thinking old men attire.
Also, I had to learn the hard way that “pants” means “underwear” in the UK.
2. People going mad when the sun comes out
Yes, the Brits go apeshit crazy when the sun comes out, understandably so since they have, like, maybe 20 sunny days in a year. But I still get amused and amazed by it.
When the sun is out, everyone goes to the beach, whether it’s a work day or a weekend, morning, afternoon, or night. It’s scary how the beach gets swallowed whole by people in the blink of an eye.
It’s something I can’t relate to because we get too much sun in Singapore so my modus operandi is to avoid it as much as I can.
3. Signing off with “x”
I was confused at first when I started receiving e-mails and texts that signed off this way:
“Bye! Sue x”
“See you tomorrow! Jane x”
I wondered why everyone’s last name was x.
And then I was told that x means kiss and it’s just a friendly way to sign off. And people use more x’s if they like you a lot or are feeling particularly excited.
I’ve tried to adopt this habit in order not to be rude and have people think that I don’t like them, but I keep forgetting to do it because it’s very strange for me to virtual kiss anyone who is not my partner or close girl friend!
4. Shops closing at 5 pm
This I find most inconvenient. I am used to shopping up till 10 pm in Singapore. I guess it has to do with labour laws here seeking to protect all residents equally. But I wonder how anyone gets any shopping done when all the shops close the moment they get off work.
It’s worse on Sundays, when supermarkets close at 4 pm so that employees can go home and enjoy some family time. I mean, I feel happy for people in the retail industry, I honestly do. But it’s just difficult to get used to it.
Just last week, on a Sunday evening, I suggested to Piers that we should go to Tesco because I want to buy some frozen fruit to make smoothies.
For the nth time, he looked at me quizzically and said, “Tesco is closed, dear.”
It took me a few seconds to remember (yet again) that he’s right.
5. Cars stopping for me
Now, this is a good thing. The British are a very gracious and polite people and I love that.
When I stop at a road to cross, a car coming my way will (8 out of 10 times) stop to let me cross. And I’m talking about a regular road without a traffic light or zebra crossing.
This is very strange because I grew up in a country where cars are king and pedestrians must bow to them and not look them in the eye. Which I think is fine because Singaporeans get taxed a serious shitload of money to drive cars, so they understandably get very possessive over roads.
So, in England, I feel bad whenever drivers stop for me because I feel that it’s easier for humans to stop than for cars to stop (especially manual cars) and they use up more petrol when they stop and start again.
While their stopping for me makes me feel very warm and appreciative, I just can’t get used to it!
That’s all for today. I’ll continue with my list when I feel like drawing more cartoons. Drawing is hard work, you know!
In the meantime, if you’re also a foreigner or immigrant here, feel free to share your stories. I will use them in subsequent posts and credit you if they’re not already on my list.