Adjusting to Cultural Differences

By Sidney Burton, Foster Undergraduate who is participating in an exchange with the University of Manchester Business School in Manchester, UK

Before studying abroad, I had never been to Europe. I was honestly kind of surprised at how many differences there are between England and America. Coming in I figured, well they speak English so it should be pretty easy to figure it all out! No. I was wrong. First off, the English accent is not as easy to understand as the posh accents shown in movies. I have learned that there are a lot of different variations to the accent, and outside of London it took some getting used to before I could communicate easily. The Liverpool accent is especially difficult, heads up.

Other than understanding the accent, there are a lot of word differences. Outside of the obvious “chips” instead of “fries,” my favorites include: lift=elevator, jumper=sweatshirt, trousers=pants (pants=underwear), and they ask “are you alright?” instead of “how are you?” I’m still unsure of the appropriate answer to that question. It has been pretty fun to hear random words that are differences, and notice how I actually started to use some of the English instead.

While understanding an accent and using different words may seem small, it makes communicating difficult. Thankfully, as the people here do still speak English, it didn’t take long to transition. It obviously is harder in a non-English speaking country, but it is something that impacted me more than I expected. However, when my family came to visit over Easter break, it was fun to be able to “translate” for them. Not only is it hard to understand the English accent initially, apparently it is hard for them to understand our accent as we “speak very fast.”