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Adapting To A New Country

Most people have very romantic ideas of moving to another country, especially moving to the UK. They think Big Ben, the Queen, and the English countryside. Ok, so here’s the thing, it’s not easy and it’s not necessarily romantic. It’s hard.

Bath, EnglandThe first 6 months I spent in England was the honeymoon phase. Then reality reared its ugly head. There are some things you expect to be difficult and thats ok. It’s the simple things that throw you for a loop, like communicating. People, just because it’s an English speaking country, it’s still hard.

I remember going to a charity event the first year I was in England with all the girls. There was a photographer who took pictures when you walked in. Easy? No, hard. I wasn’t married yet and the photographer wanted my name, my sur name, which would be last name to us Americans. And I spelled it. It’s long and Polish. It has a Z. And that is where the problems started.

You see, the letter Z is not pronounced “Zee” in the UK, it’s pronounced Zed. I kept on saying, “C as in Charlie, Z as in zebra,” and it got me nowhere. Finally, one of the girls said, “Zed as in zebra.” Gah! If you’re saying zed, why say zebra?

Many years later, when we were getting the house ready to sell, I went to B & Q, which is exactly like Home Depot, down to the orange colored logo. All I wanted to do was buy an empty paint tin can. They wouldn’t sell me one, I could see the empty paint cans behind the counter, but they wouldn’t let me buy one. I walked out of the store, and called my husband on my mobile and said, “I hate this country.”

Because that’s what you do when you live in another country and can’t accomplish the simplest of tasks. You blame the whole country. It’s not fair and it’s not rational, but it’s human.

My husband is going through similar situations here in the U.S. and I feel his pain. He’s English and many people don’t understand him. I know what you’re saying; you think you understand an English accent and my husband must be talking to idiots. You may be right.

My husband, his frustrations, and an innocent tiger.It’s stupid little things like going to the hardware store and asking for something by the wrong name. Or by the right name that no one knows, or for something that may not exist here. Newel cap. That’s what he was looking for and couldn’t find. Later, he was trying to get an insurance quote and none of the representatives called him back. And I hear him, “I hate this country.” And I know what he means.

It’s frustrating because it’s just communication. We’ve been doing it our entire lives and now we have to adapt, change the words we use and how we use them. Adapting isn’t easy, you feel like you’re going to lose a part of yourself. In the end, however, you become better, stronger.

The Detroit People Mover showing its optimism.That said, I still will never say zed if I’m pronouncing the letter Z. However, I still say sur name, telly, aggro, and cheeky. And brilliant is one of my favourite words. Did you see what I did there? I put a “u” in favourite. Kill me now.

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Reader Comments (4)

It's always funny to see how many words in the English language vary in meaning from place to place--even within the same country! Don't get me started on the "pop" vs. "soda" argument!

Hopefully hubs will be able to tolerate our idiosyncrasies here with time :)

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

I hear you on the pop vs. soda argument. I said soda when I lived in Chicago and am still having trouble shaking it!

I think the husband has it slightly easier here because so many Americans love hearing a British accent. He's already replaced garden with backyard, so he's getting there.

May 19, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Wait til he asks someone to open the boot. The Differences make us interesting as far as I'm concerned. Great article.

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim, he has boot vs trunk figured out, but he sometimes still goes to the passenger side of the car when he's driving. I agree that the differences make us, and life, more interesting.

May 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

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