I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to make mistakes. In fact, this is one of the reasons I chose to study in Scotland: because it is an English-speaking country and, not being multilingual, I figured that I would make a fool of myself in any country where English is not the main language. Little did I know that there would be plenty of opportunities for me to make a fool of myself here.
Ever since I arrived in Aberdeen, I have noticed that there are a number of little, often-times quirky differences between the English spoken in the UK and that spoken in the US. Here are a few selected words/phrases and stories from a list of differences I have compiled:
I live in a flat with four other guys: 1 from Indiana, 1 from England, and 2 from Scotland. As my American flatmate and I have come to learn, the word “pants,” as we would use it in the United States, has a much different connotation in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the word “pants” actually refers to what we Americans would call “underwear.”
We discovered this seemingly minor difference while introducing our English flatmate to a few friends we’d met at orientation.
“Is it okay if I’m just in my pants?” he asked, in response to us calling him into the kitchen.
“Of course it’s okay if you are just in your pants,” I replied, what an odd question to ask, I then thought to myself, not realizing the error in what I had said until after he’d walked in to meet our new friends.
- Fries and Chips and Chips and Crisps
Thankfully, this bullet comes without an embarrassing story but with an important distinction; here, American “fries” are referred to as “chips” and American “chips” are referred to as “crisps.”
Having watched a lot of English Premier League soccer, I knew that soccer would be referred to as “football” when I got here. Therefore, in referring to soccer, I started off using the term “football.” Unfortunately, if you have an American accent and say “football” in Scotland, they assume you mean “American Football” but if you say “soccer” they will correct you with “football.” As a result, I have begun making a distinction by referring to soccer as “Football-soccer.”
- The Metric System
Being a student-athlete abroad means that I still need to be completing my off-season workouts. For this, I headed to the Aberdeen Sports Village gym early on in my first week here, where I quickly learned that the weights are all marked in kilograms and not pounds (the conversion of which is about 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds). I discovered this nice little detail after loading close to double the weight that I typically start with onto the bench press and nearly dropping the bar on my own chest.
- And Bob’s your uncle
“And Bob’s your uncle” is a common phrase in the UK which I believe means something along the lines of “and just like that.” For example, my professor was solving an equation on the board the other day and said, “you do this, that, and Bob’s your uncle—you have the answer.” I am still pretty confused on if I use it correctly, but I think I am beginning to somewhat understand the meaning.
What I have found in looking back over the full version of this list (which was too long to include) is that I have made a LOT of mistakes and learned a lot since being here. My silly mistakes have only made the lessons I’ve learned more memorable, and the Scottish people could not have been any more helpful and understanding. Whether it be helping catch a falling barbell or having some grace for being introduced to people half nude, the people here have made me feel welcome despite my slip-ups. They have helped me realize that making a fool of myself is nothing to be afraid of. Mistakes are bound to happen when you put yourself out of your comfort zone, but they are certainly not worth holding you back from trying anything new.