Sometimes I have a quick interaction – say, with a cashier – that includes this: “You live in England? What’s it like?” or the English version: “How are you finding it here?” How to summarize the whole of my experience of Glossop and its surrounds into a soundbite? Surprisingly, I didn’t actually struggle with this question.
Everything’s smaller here.
That was the first incarnation of my answer – it was one of the first things I noticed. Houses are smaller, cars are smaller, roads are smaller, yards are smaller, packs of things at the store are smaller, paper towels are smaller, mountains are smaller, trees are smaller, what they call rivers are smaller, everything is smaller. The people aren’t smaller – I don’t find myself surrounded by four-foot tall people, thankfully.
Then I stayed here awhile, and I realized something else: Everything’s milder here, too.
Some examples to start:
- The weather is milder.
- It simply doesn’t rain as hard here as I’ve experienced in the US. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “It’s raining cats and dogs!” only to look out and see a light rain (sometimes a drizzle). For all the increased perception of certain things the English usually have (see point 2), they always seem to miss the look I give them after this exchange.
- It doesn’t rain as long: most days with rain are really days of showers: rain for about 10-15 minutes, stop for awhile, rain again, stop again. They say, “It’s been pissing with rain all day.” They mean, “Tt’s been spurting drizzles all day.”
- It doesn’t hail hard: hailstones tend to be pebble-sized, perhaps 1/16″ diameter at most. Thus, you don’t park your car in the garage to protect it from the (frequent) hail: you obstruct the street with it and keep your junk in the garage – the only difference is that the American motorist will usually keep it on the driveway.
- Thunder and lightning are very rare here. Shame, I’ve always liked a good lightning storm.
- When it’s hot, it isn’t as hot here as I’ve experienced – even in Michigan.
- When it’s cold, it isn’t as cold here as I’ve experienced – even in Louisiana. (Yes, really.)
- Ideas about strife have much lower thresholds than I’m used to.
- Abuse means verbal abuse, usually I’m still fuzzy on what precisely they mean by this, to be honest. What I do know is that I often come across accusations of one person abusing another when I thought the accused was just being straightforward.
- Rows (which rhymes with house, not with doze) apparently have different grades. Makes sense: fights do, too, if you think about it. I’ve concluded that what constitutes the lowest grades of row to an Englishperson doesn’t even register as any sort of discord to me. The next higher grade would be a simple disagreement to me.
I’ve never been good at being anything other than straightforward, and I tend to actually tell people when I disagree with them. Goodness knows how many people I’ve unknowingly abused and had rows with!
So yes, everything’s smaller, and everything’s milder. I’ve left many examples out, and the milder list is really just the tip of the iceberg. What would you add to either? Is there anything that you wonder whether it’s included or not?