(an actual London tube station)
i haven't written a blog in a while. this is (i think) because i truly feared that my sarcastic and frequently negative entries about life in jolly ol' England might be creating a very real barrier to me ever feeling "at home" here. so, in lieu of a long rant or analysis of any one item, i'd just like to rattle off some things i've noted over the last month or so...
"ham salad" - this confused me when i saw it. i thought it must be a horrible concoction similar in make-up to egg-salad: diced ham mixed in mayonnaise? alas, it was something much more simple: ham salad means sliced ham with lettuce and tomato on bread. that's it. having basic sandwich toppings classifies as "salad," hence, you have a "ham salad sandwich."
"egg mayonnaise" - this is the same thing as what Americans called egg salad. the exact opposite of the ham salad formulation. i know egg mayonnaise is a fair name for what it is, but i prefer calling it egg salad because as soon as you put the word "mayonnaise" in the name of something, that something is rendered pretty much disgusting.
the word "salad" is widely used to refer to the presence of lettuce and tomato on top of something (as in the ham salad above).
when a "side salad" is served with dinner or lunch it almost never comes with dressing of any kind. you eat it dry, or with... (wait for it) "salad mayonnaise." eek.
baked beans are served as an integral part of a breakfast plate. you know, fried or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. - plus a big dollop of baked beans. back in America baked beans were made to accompany hot dogs and brown sugar and that's about it.
milk goes in your tea. just as Americans put milk in their coffee, almost all Brits splash milk into their tea. i never even thought of doing it - except when making chai tea, which is a whole different thing.
in England they sell the well-known skin care brand Oil of Olay, except they pronounce it "Oil of YOU-lay." this is apparently because for years the items were sold as "Oil of Ulay," not "Olay." a typo carried way too far? perhaps.
Brits do not discuss money quite the same way Americans do - even cool, young, upwardly mobile types. when i first moved here i met a nice guy who works in show business (for lack of a better word). i mentioned to him in passing that he should go work in Los Angeles for a little while because he'd make tons of money there doing what he does. after i said this he looked at me like i had just called his mother a whore. apparently telling someone they could really prosper in a given city falls outside the British guidelines of acceptable party conversation.
a lot of stairwells inside the crowded tube stations in London have small signs that tell you to KEEP LEFT when going up or down the stairs - presumably to keep the flow of crowds at maximum efficiency. this is fine. except a lot of people around London aren't FROM London. Americans are used to standing to the RIGHT and walking or driving to the RIGHT side. a lot of Europeans also go to the right. In London there's such a mix of culture that inevitably only half the people around actually DO keep left. if you also factor in the people who are just idiots that can't read signs or don't care about getting where they're going in a reasonable amount of time, and the experience makes you want to kill someone. it's like stepping into the face of a giant wave - a wave with smelly, sick and stupid people in it.
and another thing about the tube: when i'm on there my sense of smell is heightened. last week a guy in the same carriage as me was eating a sandwich and i could smell the wilted lettuce on it from about eight seats away. today the carriage was so crowded that i swear i could tell that a man next to me had just drank milk by the smell of his breath. eeew.
and one more thing regarding the tube: about two weeks ago i was riding the District Line during my daily work commute and this message came over the loud speaker: "Ladies and gentlemen, because of a person under a train, service is currently suspended on the Jubilee Line." this is the train driver's way of telling us kind folk that someone has killed themselves by jumping onto the train track somewhere ahead of us. this has happened three times since Christmas, if i recall correctly. something i find interesting is how pleasantly and matter-of-fact-ly it's announced to the passengers. it's typical British understatement: "indeed, someone's dead on the tracks, but we'll be carrying on in just a moment, thank you."
recently my British husband was reading an American book written by Dale Carnegie. the book made a reference to the legendary outlaw Jesse James. my Oxford-educated husband said: "Who's Jesse James? the black guy?" no, i said. that's Jesse JACKSON.
well, thanks for reading -- or as a Brit might say, "Cheers!"
and by the way... i think Americans assume that saying "Cheers" sorta means "see ya!" in casual Brit-speak (in addition to being the usual toast over a round of drinks). however, when i moved to London i learned that "Cheers" is actually said in place of "Thanks" -- like when receiving your plate of food from a waiter -- so all you Americans take note before you make yourselves look silly using that word in the wrong spot.
heaven forbid ;-)