Earlier this month, I read online how Americans had recently been rated as the worst tourists abroad. This was seemingly based on the poor behavior that we exhibit when travelling to international locales. That story coupled with the fact that every spring, just as the temperatures warm up and the flowers bloom, I am reminded of my own experience living abroad in London as a undergraduate during the spring of my junior year.
Although, I had already been to Europe as a high school student, this was the first time I would be living there on my own, enrolling in a British University, and renting a room from a young Irish couple in the suburbs of London.
It was an experience I had been relishing and preparing for – for well, probably my entire life. Before I departed, I devoured all the reading material I could on living abroad trying to ensure that I would NOT be one of those ‘ugly Americans’ from the story above. I even packed my almost all black and grey wardrobe in equally dark colored suitcases and foolishly thought that I was set to seamlessly blend in abroad.
What I didn’t account for was that, although I was going to an English-speaking country (I opted for it over France, despite having a French minor) that I would still encounter plenty of ‘lost in translation’ moments along my several months long journey.
The first happened just days after I had arrived. I was boarding a bus in my neighborhood that would take me to my new school. I thought I was prepared with my pound coin in hand, but when I got on the bus, the driver yelled, “one quid.”Um, did he say squid!? What was he talking about? He repeated it several times, while I just stood there with a puzzled expression on my face, Finally, I showed him my coin and he said, “yeah, one quid!” Apparently, I had just learned my first English slang.
Another ‘lost in translation’ moment happened sometime later into my stay. Because I was a student and on a limited budget, I ate a LOT of peanut and butter jelly sandwiches to save money. One day, I was talking to my landlady, Jane, when I mentioned a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Her horrified look surprised me. She said it sounded disgusting then wondered how it didn’t slip off the bread. What was she talking about, I thought. After more discussion, I learned that ‘jelly’ in England is ‘jello.’ We had a good laugh about that one!
What I learned from this experience abroad and what I’ve carried into the rest of my life so far has been the importance of keeping an open mind and to keep learning, whether it’s at a new job or meeting a new person. As long as you are sincere in your approach to learn, people will be there to help you along the way.