Idiosyncrasies

So, are you thinking about getting a cycle for uni?”

Maybe – I’m debating between getting a bicycle or just buying the bus pass… I’m not sure how at home I feel in British traffic yet.”

Why, what’s wrong with British traffic?”

Well, nothing really, it’s just things like having to look a different direction when crossing the street; the fact that I can’t always tell which direction traffic is coming from, because one-ways and two-ways are divided by a white dotted line; and crosswalks are set up differently from at home… Oh – and riding a bicycle through the roundabouts would scare me a bit, especially since people appear to turn into either lane of a two-lane roundabout indiscriminately.”

Don’t you have roundabouts in Canada?”

Not really… We have them in some of the fancier subdivisions, but that’s mostly to slow down traffic…”

Then what do you do when traffic is coming from four directions at once?”

Well, usually we have four-way stop signs…”

“What’s a stop sign?”

“You know, like an octagonal red sign that says STOP in big letters?”

“Wait, so you all stop at once? How do people know who should go first? Isn’t it dangerous? It sounds awfully confusing… Roundabouts are much simpler…”

There is nothing like living in another country to make you realize how many things we take for granted in Canada, that are actually done differently all over the world. I knew the British loved their roundabouts, but at first I thought the apparent lack of stop signs was just a Norwich idiosyncrasy. Now I know better. Not only is the UK practically stop-sign-free, but there is reason to believe that stop signs may be an idiosyncrasy of North Americans, rather than roundabouts being an idiosyncrasy of the British – I actually had the above conversation in September with some Australian exchange students… I may have to take a poll of other international students to get to the bottom of this one…

A British roundabout (most in Norwich are simpler than this one, but you get the idea).

But to me, the funniest Canadian/British idiosyncrasies have to do with language…

Pants (Canada) = Pants (UK) =

“Are you all right?” (Canada) =  “Are you all right?” (UK) =

In Canada, reading =   In the UK, reading =

In Canada, bin = In the UK, bin =

Of course, in most aspects of our culture, the UK and Canada are really quite similar. We wait in line at the bus stop; we say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me”; we typically eat meat, vegetables, and potatoes; we complain about the weather; and we speak English (with a bit of leeway for trans-Atlantic differences). But the slight differences do stand out. And it’s a good thing they do – because they’re part of what makes exchange so much fun!

Hope you’re all right,

Margaret

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