2012 Spring External Programs Shannon Barter United Kingdom

New Home in Marylebone!

I became an official Londoner today when I moved into my brand new flat in the Marylebone neighborhood of Central London! As awesome as orientation was, it is definitely nice to finally have my own space to call home! I do, however, use the term space rather loosely. I do have my own room, but it is about the size of a walk in closet! I cannot complain though, as long as it fits me and my one suitcase worth of clothes I am perfectly content! I am on the fifth floor of a 22 story building, which has its ups and downs. On the one hand I can use the stairs and avoid waiting for an elevator, but on the other hand it means I do not have the same amazing view available on some of the other floors. Each flat has six bedrooms (all singles) and a common kitchen area with a table to eat at. My flatmates are from across the US as well as one from China.

There are definitely some differences with the kitchens here compared to at home. The kitchen did not come with much, your usual main cooking appliances – oh and a kettle! Fitting in with the typical Londoner’s love of tea, that is the one extra appliance besides a microwave that every flat comes with! Now I love tea as much as the next person, but I still find it funny that a kettle was considered such a necessary appliance that they provide them on every floor. Additionally, the stove is actually referred to as the “Hob” in London, which brought about a lot of confusion when I was trying to cook my first dinner and couldn’t find the switch to turn the stove on!

It is little differences like this that I keep noticing all around the city. One may think that since English is spoken in both the US and the UK adapting here would be quite simple, but there are many differences in various aspects of life and speech across the pond!  For one thing, when you order coffee here they ask you if you would like it “black or white.” This was very confusing to me the first time it happened, but then the man behind the counter explained that black coffee is without cream and sugar, and white coffee is with the added sweeteners. Also, when someone says they are “pissing on you” it does not actually mean they are trying to pee on you, thankfully. It is common British slang to use the word “pissing”  to mean joking around or kidding with. This is one of those things where the first time I heard someone say it I just awkwardly smiled and pretended I knew what they were talking about, but eventually I have caught on. Each time I talk to a local I learn more and more common slang terms to bring back with me to the states!

Also, I thought I should include one of my favorite differences so far: speed bumps. Now, in America when you are approaching a speed bump there will usually be some sort of yellow sign with the words “Speed Bump Ahead” displayed in bold letters.  Additionally, if there was an area of high pedestrian traffic there would be a simple sign with a man walking on it. In London, these signs look a little different …

Humped Zebra Crossing!

Yep, that’s right: humped zebra crossing! Now, you can imagine my confusion the first time I saw a sign like this on the side of the road. I haven’t been in the UK that long, but I have yet to run into any humped zebras. I asked my British friend about the phrase, and apparently it is used to signify a giant speed bump with a striped crosswalk on top of it. I think these should spread to the US too, much more amusing than our signs!

Classes are set to start this week, so I will definitely report back on how those go soon! In the meantime, wish me luck in my new home in Marylebone!

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