Lost In Translation

When I first moved to the UK, my direct approach (or if you prefer, my ‘Australian bluntness’) resulted in a quite a few hackles-on-the-rise, particularly at work.  Seven years on, I like to think I have learned to play a little more by the rules – or at the very least, understand the boundaries before pushing firmly, but ever so charmingly, against them.

I was going through my mail from the week yesterday and, noticing that British fashion brand Boden had sent their new Spring/Summer catalog in tabloid format, thought I’d have a quick flick through.  Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a full-page guide to navigating the ‘English’ language (I tried to scan it in for you but it was too big/my scanner is too small).  Let me just say that HOURS of angst and general hair-tearing could have been avoided if I had only known:

…that when the English say ‘It was quite good’
     what they mean is ‘I was mildly disappointed’.

…and when they say ‘I was a bit disappointed that…’
     what they mean is ‘I am most upset and cross.’

…also that when the English say ‘I’ll bear it in mind’
     what they mean is ‘I will do nothing about it.’

…and when they say ‘I’m sure it’s my fault’
     what they mean is ‘we both know it’s your fault.’

…and very importantly, from a work standpoint,
    when they say ‘Could we consider some other options?’,
     they don’t actually want more of your input,
     what they mean is ‘I have a much better idea than yours.’

(I am reliably informed that this is actually the sound of a penny dropping). 

Do you realise that this list could transform English relationships with the rest of the world?  Seriously, it should be incorporated into some sort of Welcome Pack, guiding foreign dignitaries through the seething mass lying just beneath those polite English manners and helping we who are ‘just-off-the’boat’ to get the ‘lay of the land’.

Now THAT would be ‘the dog’s bollocks’!

7 thoughts on “Lost In Translation

  1. This so made me smile. being born a Brit I do sympathise with foreigners trying to navigate the linguistic nuances – it's a minefield.
    Now, as a long time expat those very nuances annoy and irritate. Don't worry about making social gaffes, they won't be held against you by the locals – after all, you are a foreigner and can't be expected to now any better! 😉


  2. Oh VegemiteVix…I love it. You know I got chatted up at bus stops, on the tube, in line at the supermarket etc when I first arrived….a lot! Now I shop online and read while commuting. Hmmmm…I'm single again now. Might be time to rethink these habits.


  3. Completely love this post! I've had the same problems over here with my kiwiness causing alarm. I'm reading 'Watching the English' by Essie Fox and so far I've made every social faux pas I could possibly make including – befriending people on public transport, saying hello to people in the street, introducing myself at parties and even telling them my name, and answering the questions about what I did at home and what my life was like,honestly. My Englishman was horrified about the last one, and pointed out that I offended the person. What? Because I answered the question? Weird. Just weird. But I think this should definately be part of the living in england test.


  4. Thanks for your comments guys!

    Maybe we can start some sort of petition to add this to the HMRC site…and this should definitely form part of the Life in the UK test. After all, if you are planning a longer stay, you really should learn the lingo.


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