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Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, I was told, when explaining that I was going on exchange to England, that at least there would be no language barrier. I was even met with some disappointment that I was not going somewhere more foreign or culturally different. But while Canadians and the English do share a common language, there is a plethora of verbal and social customs that differ.
The first difference I experienced were the accents, and no matter what is said, if said in a British accent, it is automatically better, classier and even sexier.
It was really rather bizarre to see people driving on the opposite side of the car and road. This I’m still trying to get used to. My friend, a fellow Canadian, said she held up traffic while trying to cross the street because she was looking in the wrong direction.
Coming from a city scattered with skyscrapers, it was an adjustment to the unique buildings and houses in Lancaster. Whenever I mention this to locals, they look at me like I’ve just said the sky is blue, but it a lovely change of scenery. While Vancouver is not quite the concrete jungle of New York, and it boasts many parks and forests, it has got nothing on the countryside of Lancaster. My ride to Uni was riddled with exclamations of “Look, sheep!”.
Upon arrival, people were very friendly, which is how I quickly learned that “you alright?” was another way of saying “how are you?” This threw me off as I thought people were asking if I was physically stable and I dreadfully thought that a whole day of travelling must have taken its toll and started to show.
The next challenge was money. Far more times than I care to reveal, I have held up the line at Spar trying to figure out how much the handful of coins I had added up to. To make matters more confusing, in Canada, ten cents is the size of five pence, five cents the size of twenty pence and twenty-five cents the size of ten pence. The first week, I kept calling pounds “dollars”, and asked what a “quid” was.
There was slight confusion over colloquialisms as well. As the klutz I am, I stubbed my toe and needed a band-aid, and the response I got was “you mean a plaster?”. On more than one occasion, people have commented, amused, on my use of “washroom”. My favorite is when someone asked me for a rubber, which usually means condom. A few mute seconds later (during which I thought, wow, we only just met, I think you skipped a few steps), I realized it meant eraser.
However, some things are familiar as well. People complain and talk about the weather a lot, but it’s reminiscent of home; it rains heavily in Vancouver. And no matter where the location, people seem to universally love Nutella. The differences are not life-altering; they are more amusing than annoying and they have made settling in that much more interesting.