Dot / dart (or, Naomi’s first interactions with locals)

Saturday night, Tim and I ventured aboard public transit for the first time: we took a bus (yes, double-decker, yes we sat on the top) to a concert by the Bristol Chamber Choir. I found out about the choir during one of the many hours-long, find-out-everything-I-can-before-I-get-there internet search-fests that I fell into during the weeks preceding the move.

The concert was given in celebration of both the Jubilee and the choir’s 175th anniversary. The performances were quite good, the conductor gave hilariously English introductions to each group of pieces, blah blah blah, but that’s not what’s on my mind right now.

What I feel compelled to report on is, rather, my first extended interaction with a local. I introduced myself to a choir member immediately after the concert, with the hopes of finding out a bit more about joing the choir. After explaining my situation, she flagged down the choir secretary. Everything seemed to be going great until. . .

“Could you just tell me your email address?”

“Sure. It’s naomi dot -”

“Dot?”

“Yeah. . . you know . . . dot . . . like, a period . . .”

That was when I remembered that English people don’t say “period.” My brain started to go into overdrive. If English people don’t say “period,” then maybe they don’t say “dot” either. But what do they say? Something with a stop? I turned to Tim and tried to convey to him through some sort of pleading look that I desperately needed him to act as an English-to-English translator, but he wasn’t much of a help.

“Uh, a half-stop? Full-stop? You know, a dot? Like in a sentence?”

“Can you just spell it out? N-A-O-M-I-D-A-R-T, is that correct?”

“Oh! Dart! No, no, I meant DOT.”

“Oh, with your accent, I thought you said dart! Yes dot makes much more sense.”

This was maybe the point when I first realised that being a Canadian in England is quite different from being a Canadian in America. In America, people might knowingly make fun of me for saying “eh,” or using Celsius, but no one would mistake my “dot” for “dart.”

Instance #2 of “we are not in North America anymore, Naomi” occurred last night at pub quiz. The host of the quiz stopped by our table, and was looking over Tim’s shoulder at our answer sheet. Seeing which celebrities we were not able to identify by sight, the quizmaster remarked, “You’re at a bit of a disadvantage, being foreign.”

Foreign?

England and Canada seem so similar on paper. They spell things the same way, they measure things the same way, they both have the same Queen. But no one in America ever called me foreign. I didn’t think it was possible to feel culture shock in a country that your country is technically descended from. I guess I’ve been proven wrong.

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Europe, again

It is June and I am on a plane to Europe. It has almost become routine, although this trip is a little different from all the others.

This time I bought a one-way ticket.

I am moving to the UK.

My boyfriend is a PhD student at the University of Bristol, he’s already been there several months.

Bristol is in the west of England, near Wales.

Well, I don’t have a job lined up, but I do have a work visa, although really I’m supposed to be working on my dissertation.

I have all the answers carefully scripted; they’ve been rolling off my tongue quite easily for several months now. Yet, somehow, I am not quite sure that I have internalised any of the answers. Instead I have mastered the twin arts of evasion and understatement:

Well, I want to come back in September or October for school stuff, so I’ll be back soon enough.

Life was too hectic in New York to get any work done, so I’m really looking forward to living in a smaller city.

Summers in New York are disgusting anyway, I’m sure an English summer will be a refreshing treat.

Or my personal favourite:

Well, it pretty much costs the same to fly to the UK as it does to fly to New York, so I really won’t be any farther away.

I’m surprised that no one has tried to rebut that last one by sitting me down with an atlas and demonstrating to me that Bristol is, indeed, considerably farther away from Ottawa than New York.

I would really like my move to be no big deal. I suppose that’s why I have developed extensive arguments in support of this position. For the most part, I seem to have convinced myself. I am just sitting on a plane, flying to Europe, like I have done for the past few Junes. So I don’t have a return ticket. So what?