A Geek Abroad -Introduction

By Abigail K and Rob C

Hello! My name is Abigail, and along with my other half, Rob, we will be bringing you an occasional piece called, ‘A Geek Abroad’. We’ll be visiting caves, countryside, cafes, and castles seen in pop culture, as well as places of huge historical significance from all over the world (though mostly Britain, where we live). The town we live in is called Kendal and it’s on the edge of the Lake District, a huge National Park containing both England’s deepest body of water and England’s tallest peak. The Lake District has plenty of its own historical significance, being the home of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.

 

A lot of the places we will visit you’ll be familiar with from your favorite movies and TV shows; like Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Outlander, Game of Thrones, Monty Python, Sherlock and more! Before we dive into those though, I wanted to tell you a little about the differences between England and America and highlight some of the hurdles I have sporadically stumbled over, while trying to integrate into this little Island with a big reputation.

We’ll start with the most basic of Britishisms, tea. As most of you know, the British drink tea like Americans drink coffee…by the bucket. What you might not realize is how ingrained into the culture it is. It’s not just a drink, it’s a requirement. It’s polite, a branch of friendship; it’s comfort, and restoration. When the plumber or electrician pops around to fix that leaky light bulb, you offer them a tea*. When a friend comes over to chat, the first words out of your mouth better be, “Fancy a brew?” Whether someone has broken their arm, or their heart; their pride or just the kettle over at there place…their quandary can be quelled with cuppa.

* “It’s worth mentioning that the ‘Builder’s Tea’ is a very specific blend – Milk, two sugars, and exceptionally strong. The opposite of this; tea which is exceedingly milky and lacking sugar; is known as dishwater.” (Rob says he could write an entire post just about tea)

I suspect it’s something a little magical. A few thousand years of faeries and folklore must have left a lasting impression on the country (and perhaps the tea leaves it imports too). I’ve had tea in many other countries, even the same blend; but it just feels right here…like it’s HOME.

Speaking of things that aren’t the same…language. There are so many words that mean something completely different here than in America. Several times I’ve been halfway through a conversation and realized that we’re talking about something entirely different.

Some Alternate Facts:

American British
Pants Underwear
Sweater/Sweatshirt Jumper
Bachelor/ette Party Stag/Hen Do
Crazy/Insane Mad
Angry Also Mad
Dessert Pudding*
Cookies Biscuits**
Biscuits Don’t Exist
Dinner Tea
Fries Chips***
Chips Crisps

 

*Any dessert is called Pudding, whether it’s cake, custard, cookies, or whatever. They don’t have literal pudding like America.

**There are differences between American cookies and British biscuits though. Biscuits are flatter and harder. Things like chocolate chip are still called cookies. It’s baffling to say the least.

***Fries do exist here, though the word usually refers to thinner potato sticks, like you would find at fast food restaurants. Chips are thicker, more like American steak fries. Though there is no official thickness for chips, it appears that they must be at least 1 cm thick to be categorized thus. Sadly, the webpage for the British Potato Council on uk.gov has been shut down, but THIS still exists, so maybe we’ll be OK after all.

There is a special type of salad dressing (more prevalent than any other) called ‘salad cream’. Bread is always buttered, instead of mayo or mustard. Their hot dogs come in a can. Their Toad in the Hole involves sausages and Yorkshire Pudding (which is neither pudding nor pudding) instead of just an egg fried inside a slice of bread. Their bacon is much closer to ham and the stuff we Americans covet is called ‘streaky bacon’ (I still think it’s way more delicious). Indian Cuisine is huge, Britain has ‘curry houses’ here like the southwest has taquerias.

In non food-related areas, you’ll find more roundabouts than regular intersections and I’ll admit, it works better. Higher education is always referred to as University or Uni because their ‘college’ is the equivalent to the last two years of high school in America (at least age-wise, the actual education is entirely different). There is a pub in the town we live in that is over 100 years older than the United States; not just the building, the actual business has been around that long!

The age of this place impresses upon you a deep feeling of…settlement; this is the way things are, this is how they’ve always been, this is how they’ll always be. Different as it is, this country is endlessly fascinating and is steeped in so much history that I’m convinced the cold, wet weather is actually just a high concentration of ghosts. I am quite excited to share this place, its history, its castles, and discover all the ways it has permeated the things we all love as geeks. Join us, would you kindly?

We’ll leave you with one of our favorite photos of the Lake District, taken on a hike up Rannerdale Knot in Buttermere.
TTFN, Abigail and Rob

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