Wow. 2020. I remember being a kid in the 70s and watching the sci-fi TV series “Space 1999”. That was futuristic, that was the future! 2020? I don’t think anyone then was thinking beyond that date or even trying to imagine it. I was a TV kid, I loved me some sci-fi…..Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek oh my! TV in the 70s (and 80s) was also obsessed with time travel. Don’t get me started on movies. All those American programmes….sigh. I watched TV and my imagination travelled.
It’s the LAST day of the FIRST month of the year! 2020 y’all!! Who woulda thunk it?!
June 2020 would make it eight years since I left London (England) and set foot on Texan soil. Plano, to be exact, to work and live. EIGHT YEARS!!!! I couldn’t have imagined this…nine years ago, let alone 20. In 2011, I was on a 2 and a half week vacation in New York with my cousin and her friend (henceforth now adopted “cousin Christy”) and I remember someone asking me if I would consider moving to the US. Consider WHAAAAAAT? WHY??!! Leave my….LIFE? I’d never have thunk it. One year later…..
I was selected as the new “HP Ambassador”, one of two employees to embark on a 12 month experience in Texas. Steve D’Arcy and I would be “rotation 33”, BOTH of us from England – this had never happened before. I arrived all bright eyed and bushy tailed, stepped out of Dallas Fort Worth airport and, woooosh, I thought my eye brows were going to melt. Is this heat or WHAT? Or what apparently. I was told the sun was just warming up and it would be much hotter in a couple of months. Ay caramba! My google search of Plano didn’t tell me all this. It gets up to and/or over 110 F/43 C, I have seen and felt it. I still have to manually calculate Celsius vs Fahrenheit….welcome to America. Facepalm. It was time to learn the language of the street.
The first thing I had to do was learn how to drive, the American way – on the “other” side of the round, counter to everything I’d been taught.
In the UK, you drive on the left hand side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car. In the US, it’s the opposite of what I just said. I STILL get into the “passenger” side of my car sometimes.
In Texas, you can turn right on a red light, in the UK, you STOP and don’t do anything or risk your entire life. In London, where I lived, there are mainly single lane roads, a dual carriage road is a motorway, THREE lanes? A major highway. In Plano/Dallas, three lane roads are the norm, no biggie. FIVE LANE high ways, that’s the business. They have road and they will use it, very speedily. I think it was my nerves that needed to learn how to drive.
Image of the Central Expressway and I-635 interchange in North Dallas, commonly known as the “High Five Interchange” (source: Internet)
Next, learning the lingo, and getting people to understand me it would seem. Every time I’d be in a restaurant and I’d be asked what I want to drink. “Water”, I’d reply and be met with a blank stare then the attempt at comprehension – what/sorry/excuse me. I’d repeat it – water (“who-tah”) and then finally, the aha moment – “oh, wah-darh”! Every. Single. Time. What else could I be asking for?
Language barriers are real people. I’m living on my third continent – Africa (Nigeria), Europe (England) and America, for completion. I feel like I can speak three languages, the only thing is, all three of them are ENGLISH.
Reminds me of a YouTube clip of Martha Stewart asking comedienne, HBO Star and Nigerian-American Yvonne Orji, if she spoke “Nigerian” – insert wide eyed oh no she di’nt emoji. For the record people – there is NO such language as “Nigerian”. Don’t do it people. DO NOT. There is “Nigerian English” which can be anything from accents to the different use and placement of words, but not to be confused with “pidgin English” (again, don’t). But I understand how easy it is to make that mistake. I’m glad and grateful for the diverse group of friends of various nationalities that I’ve met in the last eight years. They have taught me a lot.
Back to AMERICA.
TV had prepared me somewhat for America and I have visited quite a few times. Not Texas. Not enough preparation clearly. Texas is the second largest state in the US, you quickly learn that “everything is BIG in Texas”. It’s not jokes.
I didn’t know about the unique Texan accent/drawl, slangs, popular local culture idiosyncrasies or their fascination with cows. Matthew McConaughey’s voice, ok. I get it now. DALLAS???!! You mean it’s a real place not a TV show??!! I didn’t also know that “cowboys” were real.
Our colleagues would be tickled pink when Steve and I would say “schedule” – we say “shed-yool”, the “English” way (thank you very much), compared to “skej-ool”, the American pronunciation. Frankly, everyone was tickled pink when we spoke. Americans lurrrrve the British accent! Thank you for making me feel extra special!
One day, I told someone to meet me in the car park, 30 minutes later, she called me from her house, where her car was parked. She was sitting in it wondering where I was.
Another day, I told someone I have to be somewhere at “half 4”, she thought I meant 2pm. It was imperative I learnt how to speak “American” in order to communicate effectively (as a designated “alien”). Alien = any person not a citizen or national of the United States.
Don’t assume everyone is speaking the same English you are. A few of the words I quickly learnt in my first few days were:
|US version||UK version|
|Parking garage||Car park|
|(Car) Trunk||(Car) Boot|
|(Car) Hood||(Car) Bonnet|
|Condo||(Doesn’t exist but a “flat” would be close)|
|First floor||Ground floor|
Imagine my shock when I learnt there was such a thing as “AMERICAN Football”. I have stories. Another day, another blog.
Then those that don’t exactly directly translate….
|Term||How I understand it|
|Amana||“I am going to now” e.g. amana make a phone call|
|Fixin too||When you’re getting ready to do something e.g. I’m fixin to have dinner, she’s fixin’ to have a bath|
|All y’all||All of all of you?|
|Y’alls||(At this point I admit defeat)|
Note: “Y’all” is very VERY “Southern term”.
Y’all refers to a group of two or more people, but if you’re referring to two or more groups of people, you have to specify that. That’s where the phrase “all y’all” comes in. “All y’all” can also simply refer to a large group of people; it’s a fluid phrase that the whole state uses but has become more common with all Americans.
The one that TICKLES me pink to this day! Boon doggle. Used to describe an activity where (e.g) a group going on a “jolly” under the guise of a business trip (you know what I mean). It can also refer to a person or object. What was so amusing (to me at the time), no one was quite sure if it was spelt doggle, daggle or dawgle or if it’s hyphenated. Americans are not as finicky about grammar as the English. Don’t get me started on spelling. Yes I still write – programme, organisation and centre.
The one word I’m not enamoured by is “awesome”. Why? Because EVERYTHING is awesome! In America. But is it really though?!! IS IT PEOPLE??! No. Everything can not always be awesome. It can be…brilliant, fantastic, magnificent, good, ok, nice….….alright, rant over. As you were.
I arrived Dallas, Texas in 2012. I only planned to stay for 12 months. Eight years later! WOW. That first year was great, some of it “interesting”. It was a huge change. The company and it’s people, my colleagues helped settle me in. This Brit….learning, living, adjusting and trying to speak American to fit into a new life; and I wrote a book about my exploits, in and outside the office 🙂
Cover image credit: Pixabay
#2020musings #abritabroad #thistexanlife #englishspeaking
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