Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 14: Stranger In A Strange Land, Part One

Got this idea from my friend Jen S. (Hi, Jen!) For this edition, I'll talk about living in England when I was 20.

The first thing I had to get used to was the food. I don't think I ever really did. I'm still baffled that their "fruit flavor" of choice is black currant. Hello? Obscure much? Gross much? I love these Rowntree Fruit Pastilles that come in a tube, and sometimes still find them imported. I give all the black currant ones to David, and believe me, there are lots. There was this black currant juice that my friends loved that made me gag, Ribena. Shudder.

In the refectory, which was like a school cafeteria, they had a ladle ready to dump viscous white stuff over every item on offer, savory or sweet. I think in the first case it was some kind of gravy, and for dessert it was like custard. Either way, it was N-A-S-T-Y. At first, I was skeeved by the typical breakfast of baked beans on toast, but I came to love that one. It beat the hell out of whatever demonic ritual they were subjecting the eggs to--they always reeked of dirty socks however they were prepared.

Then there was the tea thing. I don't just mean the constant drinking of tea, which I perversely avoided all year but decided to start drinking coffee instead, but the whole "tea head" lifestyle, wherein everyone started getting all misty around 4:00 p.m. and needed to sit down and be fortified by hot beverages and tiny sandwiches (excessively buttered) or they could no longer function. This seemed to be true of every demographic, and while it's civilized and all, it was so pervasive that I wondered if it were somehow genetic. I loved how the rude, punk boys I hung out with would start craving "a brew" around 2:00 a.m, and how where I come from, that probably means beer. Not for them--they were wanting an actual pot of brewed tea with milk at that hour, preferably with "toasties," the adorable nickname for grilled cheese and tomato.

I had my share of linguistic misunderstandings, too. One that stays with me is sitting with my friend John while he was writing a note to someone. "Throw me a rubber, will you?" he asked me, seemingly out of the blue. I had no response to that.

Another time I was at play rehearsal and a guy asked my friend Paul where our castmate Molly was. "I don't know," he said, "But I knocked her up twice this morning." I started laughing like a crazy person, and they glanced at me and then at each other. "Not sure what it's about," shrugged Paul, "but Americans always lose it when I say that."

There is a moment that I will always remember for its blatant cultural difference, and that was when I went for a walk with the boy I was dating at the time, a thuggy, black-booted, long-haired, guitar-playing, unemployed high school drop-out who I loved like ice cream.

"Look at us!" I exulted in the blush of young love, "We're having a ramble on Hampstead Heath! Just like Heathcliff and Cathy!" He rolled his eyes.

"That was Yorkshire," he said. Wow. Really? I mean, you left school at 14 but you know your Brontes? We're not in California anymore, Toto.

Not sure who is reading my blog in England, except Katie. (Hi, Katie!) Apologies for any blatant errors.


Type (little) a said...

On par with "i knocked her up", I made a faux pas at my cousin's rehearsal dinner in belgium. I was chuffed to practice my french, and announced at the rehearsal dinner, "C'est delicious, je suis plein" I thought i said, (and did, literally) "it's delicious, I am full" instead, I announced that my 14 year old self was pregnant.

Also, now I want wine gums.

miss. chief said...

The word in Spanish for 'pregnant' is 'embarazada' ... which, of course, I thought meant 'embarrassed'.

Hah. I have no idea how many people I told that I was pregnant before somebody told me what I was saying.

Aunt LoLo said...

LOVE this. Too funny!!

Jen S. said...

I'm honored! And does mean there will be a part 2 as well! Fun stories!

DrSpouse said...

No blatant errors, except your misguided dislike of blackcurrant. Mad woman.