American in Scotland

Sting has this song about being an Englishmen in New-York. I remember not really getting it. I mean, sure, different accent and a different place, but the states and the UK are both English speaking countries, how different can they possibly be? But then I actually moved to the UK.

The first time I realized that Americans and Brits speak a totally different language was when I spent about a month in London. It was unreal. I went to the supermarket and asked for a trash bag, only to be stared at by the Sainsbury guy, who was quite baffled by the fact that I didn’t refer to it as a bin bag. Then there was the fact that doing the dishes is referred to as washing up (and washing up liquid), which to me just sounds like taking a shower. There is also the enchanting word “smellies”, which is perfumery, while I would think it’s the exact opposite and then pudding, that means dessert. And how keen and reckon are such common words, whereas they are barely used by Americans (and sound quite ridicules with my accent).

And this is even before getting started about what SCOTTISH English is like. It seems as though one of the most popular words in Scotland is “wee” (as in small, that is). The two best anecdotes I have in regards to “wee” are:

  1. I saw an add by a shop inviting people to come and check out their “wee grand selection”. Till this moment I am unsure if their selection was big or small…
  2. I heard a mom saying to her daughter “lets go and have a wee little pee”. I honestly feel like this sentence has too many words indicating the exact same thing.

Another conversation that left me quite puzzled was an encounter with an elderly Scottish man. His dog came over to say hi to me and we started talking for a few minutes. He was off course a complete stranger, but when we parted our own way the man said “see you soon, pal”. And I was like “….”.

But honestly, I love Scotland a lot, everyday is an opportunity to learn new things. After mastering the “heya” and “cheers” greetings, and after starting to pronounce the words “sorry” and “thank you” with a non-American accent, the next step would be to master the phrases “ah dinnea ken” (I dunno), or “aye am ur” (yes I am).




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