While adventuring around England, I had the ability to do so from not just a tourist's perspective, but a local's, as well (thanks to my two British friends that I stayed with). Here's a look into what everyday UK life is like, compared to a Canadian's.
“Your accent! I love it!” was something I never expected to hear while on my recent trip to the United Kingdom. For one, I never really thought of myself as having an accent (aside from when I try to speak French, or even butcher my way through Italian when talking to my family), but for a proper English person to tell me that I have a beautiful accent compared to theirs… well, that seemed so crazy to me that the thought never even crossed my mind. However, it was one of the first thing that my friends said to me the moment I stepped out of baggage collection at Manchester Airport and we waved each other down, running toward each other with arms flailing and a chorus of, “Oh, my Gods”.
I met Amy while we both worked for the same blog a couple of years ago; she had found me through a blogging group of some sorts via Twitter and asked if I would be willing to write articles for the company (she was in charge of their social media) and, as they say, the rest is history. Despite both of us no longer working there, we kept in touch and our friendship continued on. When we decided that I should go to England for a visit and to stay with her and her girlfriend Kim, the three of us started a group chat that continued on until I took off from Toronto and has continued on since I landed back a little over a week later.
As strange as it may sound, I never once felt reluctant about flying halfway across the globe to go live with two people I’d never met in person for over a week, and although I understood why my friends and family were going, “Uh Emily, are you actually nuts?”, I thought they were being overdramatic (even by my standards).
While I waited for my luggage, mere minutes away from meeting them in person however, I started to freak out a bit. It wasn’t a what-if-they’re-crazy-killers freaking out, but more of a what-if-they-don’t-like-me-and-the-rest-of-this-trip-is-super-awkward freaking out.
I’ll cut to the chase and say that it was the complete opposite of my very last minute fears, and it was as if we’d met a million times before. By the end of the first evening, we were sitting in their living room drinking tea and watching television as if we’d known each other forever, their dog Rosie finally stopping her incessant barking and sleeping on the sofa next to me. We talked and laughed with zero awkwardness, aside from the fact that once in a blue moon we’d comment on how we liked the other’s accent.
The first day there, I got to go to Tesco, a place my step-mom had insisted I go to because she’d heard so many great things about it. I was really excited to go, but Amy and Kim said that it wasn’t anything special; still though, they took me and I was disappointed to find out that it was nothing more exciting than a No Frills back at home, but with a lot of missing stock. After grocery shopping at three different places during my stay, I would say Waitrose was my favourite (it was a fancier grocery store), and Sainsbury’s my favourite for regular grocery shopping. Of course, I relayed this new information to my stepmom to prepare her for when she eventually goes to England.
This was just one thing that I was consciously aware of, trying to take mental note of British vs. Canadian life to report back to one of my closest friends and fellow blogger, Kat, who’s moving to London early next year with her boyfriend for work. I felt it was only fair to learn as much as I could about the country, to tell her before she runs head-first into what I had previously imagined to be a totally different culture.
As it turns out however, we’re not so different. In fact, I would argue that Brits and Canadians have more in common than Canadians and Americans. For one, we spell things the same way (i.e., ‘colour’, ‘neighbour’, ‘harbour’, etc., as opposed to the American ‘color’, ‘neighbor’, ‘harbor’). We also have a lot of the same sayings, both have a prime minister and a queen (albeit, Canadians look to English Queen Elizabeth II as our queen), and a mutual non-committal relationship with winter jackets, even in temperatures where one should be worn.
Of course, we also have our differences: Canadians love of sushi vs. a British preference for battered and deep fried fish, our massive difference in population sizes, Canadians love the British royal family more than Brits actually do (or so it seems), and there is a complete British intolerance to the cold (which I adapted to quite quickly, since I find several degrees above freezing absolutely agonizingly frigid and the height of Canadian winters murderous; however, I myself bundle up completely, while the English seem to prefer waltzing around without jackets, as I mentioned above).
Despite this minute difference, I felt right at home in the UK, especially since I found a way to incorporate the fact that I’m a Canadian into the beginning of every conversation (i.e., “Wow, England is so nice! I’ve just come from Toronto and I’m already loving it here!”)… and Europeans love Canadians.
Overall, I think that Kat will have a super easy time adjusting to life in England, especially because I imagine London — which I didn’t have the chance to visit on this trip — will offer a much more culturally diverse and urban way of living, much like Toronto does. The only real struggle, if you can call it that, is the alternate words they use, but it doesn’t take much effort to casually start replacing the words we use in Canada with their British alternatives: ‘TV’ for ‘telly’, ‘trunk’ and ‘hood’ (of a car) with ‘boot’ and ‘bonnet’, ‘truck’ with ‘lorry’, ‘highway’ with ‘motorway’, and even pronouncing the word ‘garage’ as ‘gayhr-idge’ as opposed to our ‘gah-raj’ with a soft G/J sound.
What’s perhaps the most exciting aspect of all of this is that I have yet another person to come stay with when returning to England. After this trip (and having such an amazing time), there’s no doubt that I’ll have to return to the country ASAP. This time, London will be on my list of places to see.
You better have a nice, comfy spot on your couch set up for me, Kat.
**Originally posted on Emulating Emily