Four months into this Oxford adventure, I think I’ve acclimated pretty well. I’ve learnt to use a fish fork (poorly), have accepted the bracing cold (bedgrudingly), traded coffee for EBT (kicking and screaming) and no longer bat an eyelid when the choice of discussion at 3am after a night out is legal philosophy (I just make for The Hills. And I absolutely mean that in the LC, Heidi and Audrina sense of the words).
By now I’m used to ‘pudding’ meaning dessert. I get that ‘vest’ refers to a tanktop, and that ‘pants’ are in fact underwear (annoying, as I already had to get used to fashion magazines changing legwear to the singular ie. “pair this shirt with a crisp linen pant or satin trouser.” Ugh.)
Friends here have gotten used to the way I speak as well; in abbreviations/slang and a nasal Aussie drawl. ‘Deets’, ‘ceebs’ and ‘yeppers’ are accepted. When I say I’m ‘devo’ they know I’m upset and not comparing myself (with slight mispronunciation) to a traffic cone headed 80s band. And ‘arvo’ is understood to mean post-midday and no longer confused with the hero of guacamole (that’s ‘avo’ my friends). I have stopped referring to short people as ‘shrimps’ though; the affection doesn’t really translate through the whole seafood thing.
But there are some things that I’ll never get used to:
- People saying “You alright?” as a greeting. Maybe it stems from my chronic bitchface (my relaxed face is like a grumpy lemon-sucking Ron Swanson catface) but for years people have told me that I look ‘stressed’ or ‘tired’ (or say annoying things like, “Cheer up love! You’ll never get a man looking like that!” or, “You dropped something!”/“What?” [me frantically scanning the ground]/“Your smile!”). Anyway, the paranoia has carried over so when people ask if I’m ‘alright’ I defensively snap back, “Yeah, I’m fine!” But I think the socially acceptable response is something like, “Yeah I’m alright, thanks. You alright?”
- Turning the tables, people responding to my friendly, “How you going?” with a quizzical look and der-brain voiced, “Um, I’m walking?”
- Cafés listing chips as a breakfast accompaniment. Omelette and chips…whaaa?
- Double air-kissing. Or is it double cheek-kissing?! Do we make cheek contact? No contact? 1, 2…3(!) kisses? In Australia, people greet and say goodbye to each other with awkward handshakes. Even on like, dates. Even if you’ve known the person for years. Some younger people go in for the Euro cheek kiss, but I’ve never really taken to it as my face is 30% nose and kinda roughly hewn (one time, posing in front of the ruined head of the statue of Emperor Constantine at the Musei Capitolini I was told that I bore an uncanny resemblance to him). Here, my gaucheness is shown up every time I awkwardly knock cheeks with someone and then forget to go in for the second air-kiss.