Language noun- a system of communication consisting of sounds, words, and grammar, or the system of communication used by people in a particular country or type of work. Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus. 

When travelling to America, a language barrier wasn’t anything that crossed my mind. How wrong and niave I was! Britain and American have different names for multiple items- more than I was aware of, which is strange considering we supposedly speak the same language. 

For example, the British would call this a “note”, whereas Americans call it a “bill”, striking up much confusion in work!

The Brits call this a ” bill”, but in America it is a “check”.

The most frustrating and irritating difference if you get it wrong though is ” chips”. I’ve ordered chips and I get a plate of crisps. To say I wasn’t happy was an understatement. What I really wanted was “french fries”, as I have come to realise they do not sell the proper British chunky chips, which is really disappointing! 

America- chips. Britain- crisps. 

America- fries. Britain- French fries. 

America- ” They’ve never lived”- Emily Hallworth. Britain- chips. 

These are just some examples of the differences but there are many, many more. 

The two countries also take offence to different things too.

In Britain, we don’t mind saying ” I’m just going to the toilet” or having signs that say “toilet”. But in America, they consider this ” too much information”, so I have had to train myself to call it a “restroom” or “bathroom”. 

To this day, the funniest moment of difference and offence was when I told a man to “take care” and he stuck two fingers up at me. In Britain, this means something rude resulting in me getting insulted, however, the Americans use this symbol to say “peace”. Something else completely! I have yet to live this moment down at work.

As well as language differences between Americans and Brits, there are also many language differences between other participants on the work and travel program, with individuals speaking their native language as well as English, and a few speaking more. This makes me feel very lazy and ashamed of the British language system for not teaching us a second language to the same extent. Hearing these individuals switch between the two so easily is fascinating and really motivating to learn another language. 

So my advice before travelling is research the language beforehand if you want to be understood and not made a fool of! 


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