Let’s get one thing straight: Londoners and I may be speaking English, but we are not speaking the same language. Our rebellious founding fathers changed much more than just slang—they completely transmogrified the definitions of many words. This current comedy-PR gig exposes me to much more of these definitional alterations than my colleagues in finance. For example, I heard the word “pram” from a comedian. That is a hilarious sounding word that just stumbles out of the tongue, but nobody even snickered! In the 300 years American English has diverged from the British homeland, somehow, we derived the word “stroller” from the original “pram.” I can’t even pretend to see the connection, and I never thought I would have a language barrier in an English-speaking country.
The other thing to note is magnitude of the culture amalgamation in this city. As estimated by my boss, 90% of people are not native to London. While English is the common language (and I use that word loosely), almost every person has a different dialect. There are only four other people in my office, all from London and surrounding boroughs, and all of them pronounce their words differently. We had an interesting conversation comparing the intern’s proper North London accent to the grittier boss’ South London accent. I struggle to see how anybody understands each other here. Everyone has a different accent and a different interpretation of the English language. It explains the stereotype of how the Brits are fairly-reserved. In reality, they can’t understand anybody they speak to.
I don’t fit in here. Well, I’ve been asked for directions three times today, so I fit in figuratively. I mean that London is a small place—I literally don’t fit. Being a 5’11” lanky human is not conducive to the doors that were built for short, newly-evolved homo sapiensin 44 BC. I am bruised from shower and bathroom stalls I don’t fit into. Too many tables are crowded into small restaurants, impeding my long legs from fitting under the table. I feel like the tallest person in London when I go out in my high heels. On the plus side, the crowds don’t bother me because I can see over everyone.
London is an extraordinary place with more culture than expected. It’s taken more getting used to than I thought, even though it’s (in theory) an English-speaking country. But I am having so much fun with it! After all, my height and accent makes this desert girl an exotic foreigner.