For many Aussies, living in the UK is a good time not a long time. And two years is hardly enough time to become accustomed to the cultural idiosyncrasies of any country, much less the mother country. We might have been colonised by her, but the cultural and professional divisions that have occurred over the past 229 years are wider than you think.
Here are 10 things I wish I knew before arriving in the UK fresh off the Airbus.
- The Continental kiss is a legitimate way to greet people
Londoners love to lay one on both cheeks Parisian style; perhaps because it doesn’t require any eye contact, something capital dwellers like to avoid at all costs. However, don’t expect a northerner (anyone beyond Hampstead) to engage in such a greeting. You’ll be left hanging the same amount of time it takes them to realise you are just as pretentious as their southern cousins.
- Tomato sauce is ketchup
This should be taught in Australian primary schools. Other than the Antipodes, nobody in the world calls it tomato sauce. That’s right, not even the mother country. No matter how literal the meaning (sauce made with the puree of tomatoes) don’t ever ask for it, your server will stare blankly at you, call immigration and have you deported for crimes against condiments.
- You are not Bennelong
You’re not the first Australian to have graced these shores and you certainly won’t be the last. Australians are no longer considered the exotic fruit we once were. Londoners don’t care where anyone is from much less that you’re from Yepoon. So leave the blow-up kangaroo at home, ya bogan.
- Your Australian work experience means nothing
This is a big one. Unless you already have a job, your Aussie CV is about as valuable as the template you cut and paste it into. You could have built Sydney and some parts of the lower Blue Mountains, but until you’ve stuffed cheques into envelopes for £8 an hour, UK employers will banish you and your CV like the convict they perceive you to be. So get a temp job, ya criminal.
- Undies are called pants, pants are called trousers, and it’s not a doona
Confusing, but Brits will never make the logical realisation you are talking about ‘trousers’ when you remark on their ‘pants’. They will squeal, cover their ears and run out of the room Benny Hill style straight to HR. Not even the overwhelming influx of American culture will convince them the rest of the world has made the change. Also: duvet means doona, fit means hot, and chav means bogan.
- Soccer is football and football is never soccer
This is not a hard and fast rule. If we have to call it football because we’re in their country, when they come to our country will they call it soccer out of respect for our other footy codes? Nup. They will call it football. So keep calling it soccer you little Socceroo, it really annoys them.
- Britain is home to the novice meteorologist
Brits love to make wild predictions about the weather that have no basis in science. No matter how adamant they may be, weather patterns in one part of the year will not affect the quality of the weather in another part of the year. For example, a few nice days in spring does not mean the British Isles will experience a summer to rival the south of France. That was summer.
- You will only be friends with Australians (and maybe Kiwis and South Africans, but mainly Aussies)
Sure you may want to assimilate into British society, but that Houdini act takes years. Why would Brits want to invest time and effort getting to know you when you are going home in two years? They’ve circled their wagons long before you came along. Besides, all you will want to talk about is how amazing Australia is compared to the UK, so quarantine the conversation to just Aussies.
- You need to soften your accent
Not full Minogue, but when you start work your pronunciation has to improve, and in some cases you will mimic your co-workers just to be understood. Think of it as a business strategy rather than selling out on your Ostrayeness.
- You can always go home
Nobody cares how long you stuck it out in London. They’re probably all wondering why you went in the first place. So if it’s too hard, do some travel and go home. Preferably farewell Europe by doing one of those alcohol fuelled bus tours, so you can drag our country’s name through the mud only to rack off back to Australia, leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces. Cheers, you happy little Anzac.
Laurence is an Aussie who’s spent a good deal of time living it up in London. Check out his blog ProjectNewBoyfiriend.com