I begin this post by saying I love living in England, so take what I say lightheartedly. I still enjoy my seventy minute walk from home to work, fawning over the beautiful Bath architecture and picturesque countryside. I just remember what it was like being stateside and wish I was here and now…here I am. It is a beautiful thing to be content and happy in life.
I remember the problems of being a ‘hidden foreigner’ in America when it came to conversations with those who had never left the US of A. I have left those behind me and after three years in England realise I still run into a problem with the American part of me here in England. I overshare. It is not so much that I overshare in a bad way, but that I love to talk and can open up to almost anyone quite easily. It is a quality of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) that you can find something to relate to anyone you meet and do not feel shy to start talking to someone you do not know. I am constantly trying to reign myself in and give people the ‘cliff notes’ version in conversations. The trouble I find is that when I feel most comfortable and let my guard down, that I share and talk the most without realising it. An American Conversing in England.
I realised this last night at play rehearsal that there is still a phrase used in England that still trips me up. ‘
It is said when seeing someone you know and is similar to a ‘hello’. The person does not actually want to know how you are doing. Not that they do not genuinely care about you. If you do take it literally and start telling them how you are exhausted from working 16 hours, running on four hours of sleep, and that you havent seen your kids in three days you are definitely over sharing.
The correct response would be something short and sweet.
“Yeah. Good to see you.”
When I first moved back to England three years ago and I would be asked ‘You alright?’ upon coming to work by coworkers I actually thought they assumed something was wrong with me. Did I have a funny look on my face? Did I look sick? Was I late for work? It took me a few weeks of hearing it to realise the connotation of the phrase. It is simply like saying ‘hello, good to see you’.
I find myself torn from not saying much at all and coming across as tired/aloof/bored/shy/etc which in actuality I would be none of the above at that moment or from jumping at the bite when someone starts up a conversation with me and talk way too much and come across as an oversharing way too open american. I’m hoping I’ll eventually find the middle ground.
As I have my inner turmoil of not oversharing in social situations in England I find while I hear what others say I may not ‘understand’ them. Having tea and coffee breaks through out the day or night is a social norm here. During one such tea break I was finishing up with making my cuppa when someone asked if the kettle was on. Having just moments before touched the kettle, not realising it was hot I answered:
“No, but it was just boiled and is still hot. I just burned my hand.”
I had not really burned my hand but my mouth does not know when to stop talking and I can start rambling. The person moments later made a comment about how what they had said was the English way of saying they wanted a cup. I then realised they may have said ‘Is the kettle on’ but meant ‘Can you make a me a cup of tea?’.
Which means I am still not picking up on the subtle English cues and that I am still used to the American blunt say what you mean way of conversing. I am still finding myself lost in translation.
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