Speaking the same language?

When you’re living in a foreign country, you can expect to face problems with misunderstandings, or complete lack of understanding. But living in a foreign country who’s primary language is the same as your home, you expect there to be a few less.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an endless supply of misunderstandings that happen to Aussies living in the UK. I’m pretty sure that the British often purposely pretend not to understand us so they can mock us, but either way – there’s a few things you should know before heading to these chilly shores.

1. Lollies are not sweets but might be ice blocks

Here’s the deal: don’t ask for lollies unless you want a lollipop. You will be disappointed. Sweets are apparently the term for all other non lollipop, non chocolate confectionery – but be warned, you should still specify whether you want boiled sweets or chewy / jelly sweets. And one final hint, ice lolly = ice block. I know. I’m rolling my eyes too.

2. Chips are hot and crisps are cold

In Oz, it’s easy. We have chips – the kind you find in an aluminium bag – and hot chips – the kind you get at a take away. In the UK, saying you want to grab some chips when you’re in the supermarket will have your shopping mate thinking you’re planning on heading to the fish and chip shop after you’re done.

3. Pants means underwear not trousers

Declaring to your colleagues “I’ve wet my pants” after the kitchen tap has gone all splash happy on you will be met with extreme mirth. Ditto if they overhear you asking your girlfriend “are you wearing pants?” when discussing what her outfit tomorrow night will be.

4. Hooking up doesn’t mean having a shag but it might get you off

The Brits can be a coy bunch when they want to be, and “hooking up” seems to mean the same as “getting off” which apparently means just having a snog. Brits beware – if you’re in Oz and you’ve hooked up or gotten off – you’ve probably not been wearing pants.

5. Asian means Indian

It took me at least three forms on arriving to finally remember not to tick “Asian” as my ethnicity, but to look further down to “Chinese”. Asians in the UK are Indians, and South East Asians are Orientals. I still feel faintly outraged every time I realise I’ve been robbed of my ethnic identity here, but I guess as Indian born British are the largest ethnic group of all in the UK, they get first dibs.

6. Thongs are not footwear

“I’m just going to put my thongs on” is almost always met with looks of surprise – although why I would wear multiple pairs of g-string undies, I have no idea. Nevertheless, the British wear flip-flops on their feet and thongs as their underwear.

What other misunderstandings have you had in foreign countries?


4 thoughts on “Speaking the same language?

  1. I have learned something new now, thank you. Haven’t gotten around those differences yet. Still struggling with some standard “issues” and trying to keep the expression I have learned through travelling the US/ American TV apart from what I know would be different in the UK.

  2. I’ve asked the same question about thongs/g-strings… Crisps/chips, pants/knickers & the whole lolly/sweet/candy confusion is slightly understandable… But romping down the street in multiple pairs of underwear is hardly something I’m going to do, or announce to the world.

    But if you think those are bad, don’t get into the vest/tank top/singlet discussion… You’ll go ’round in circles!

    • You would not believe how often the tank top / vest / singlet debate comes up in our house. And I’m still not sure what’s what!

      • All I seem to remember is that it ends up going around in a circle.

        Actually, if you want to give him a good laugh, start a conversation with the boy about slippery dips …

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