In my 3 weeks here, I’ve noticed a bunch of distinct differences between the UK and the other countries I’ve lived in (Nigeria and the USA). So, I’ve written down 6 big ones. Who knows, you might have noticed them too:
I’ve definitely been on a see-saw with this one. Growing up on British English in Nigeria, I swore by it until I went to the USA for my undergraduate degree. My freshman writing professor even gave me a list to help me transition away from British to American spellings. Now, I’m back to having to do it the way I once knew.
Here’s a personal rule of thumb: the American Dream of ease and comfort spills over into the American way of spelling things. This means that if it doesn’t add much more to the quality of the word, the American spelling will drop it. The British spelling will many times contain the extra ‘u’. In verbs ending in -ise, the American spelling will usually feature an –ize. Of course, there are several exceptions but often, this works:
- Labor (Ame) / Labour (Bri)
- Color (Ame) / Colour (Bri)
- Program (Ame) / Programme (Bri)
- Encyclopedia (Ame) / Encyclopaedia (Bri)
- Baptize (Ame) / Baptise (Bri)
- Driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
Well, it’s only the wrong side because I’m familiar with the exact opposite. I’ve almost given myself heart attacks because I thought buses were running down the street on the opposite side, or checked to see if cars were coming before I crossed the road only to see one appear where I’m standing from nowhere. It’s amazing how traffic moves seamlessly yet it’s upside down in my mind.
- How old everything is.
In Nigeria, the oldest storey building was built in 1845 and while many things in our traditional histories date far before the 1800s, it wasn’t until 169 years ago that we got our first storey building. More old buildings exist in the USA however in the UK, I feel like I’ve been thrown back in time with the dates and history behind some of the structures still standing. From Flodden wall of the 15th century to the World’s End pub first built in the 16th century to the majestic Edinburgh Castle of the 12th Century, Edinburgh is as ancient as it is modern. Every step is a history lesson in this place.
- Super small everything.
From the section of my brain which works on alternative theories, emerged this: the roads were built for horses and carriages and haven’t been expanded since. Or else, why is everything so compact? The houses are compact, the roads are narrow, the cars fit just within the lanes on the streets and the rooms in flats are just big enough to walk through.
- Public transportation.
It works. And it has to because driving (gas, parking, etc.) is so expensive. Or vice versa.
I didn’t see this one coming. Because the UK is a gun-free country, knives are the next best weapon of choice. This means that kitchen knives and many other sharp utensils are treated as weapons. I had to show an ID to buy a knife set for my kitchen and I couldn’t stop giggling inside me. If you’re not 18, you can’t buy a knife. Simple.
If you’ve been living in the UK or you’ve visited, what strikes you as different from your own country?