I’ve been in England for just over a week now and have spent much of my time walking a dog named Ben, wandering through the old streets and waterfront in the city of Bristol, and hanging out in cute cafes. So, I sit here at “The Horseshoe Inn” pub on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, writing my first postcard from jolly old England – a few random observations from an outsider looking in. Here are a few things I’ve learned from Bristol travel.
If sixteen people attend a party in a small cabin located in a remote field in the English countryside, there’s a high probability that at least 4 of the blokes at the party will be named “Nigel”. Since I’m bad at remembering names, I started calling all the blokes Nigel. After a few drinks, they all started answering to Nigel. I felt like I was in the middle of a Bridget Jones movie.
British teenage girls will use the word “like” at least, like, six times in each sentence. At least this is, like, true when they’re, like, talking to their girlfriend on the bus, like, on the way home from school. But it sounds, like, so much cuter with that British accent!
The Bristol bus system is very civilized, much like the English people. The next stop is announced (in a sexy British “James Bond” accent), you push the red “stop” button, and wait patiently for the bus to stop before exiting. Very easily understood, even by me.
But I learned two lessons the hard way:
Lesson #1 – Bus 48A along Fishpond Road does NOT take the same route as bus 48 along Fishpond Road. Bus 48A goes to a remote university far, far away from home. (It took me, like, an hour longer to get home that evening. Poor Ben-the-dog was crossing his legs at the door.)
Lesson #2 – When waiting at the bus stop, you MUST wave at the bus to make it stop. Yeah, I knew that, but yesterday I arrived at the bus stop just as bus 48 was approaching. I remarked to two people gathered at the bus stop how lucky my timing was…as the bus drove right on by. They were waiting for bus 47. “You must raise your hand!” they scolded me. Yeah, like, I knew that.
There is a Cafe Nero on almost every block in downtown Bristol and, even though I’m getting better at understanding the British accent, that Scottish woman working at yesterday’s Cafe Nero really threw me! (Gotta work on understanding that accent.)
Welsh is no better. At the “Nigel Cabin Party”, one of my friend’s friends brought along her Welsh Mum who was visiting for the holidays. I sat next to Mum for a while, sipping my red wine and nodding while she spoke a completely foreign version of English. No idea what she said, but she was sweet and I think invited me to stay with her for a while in Wales.
British Customer Service
I arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport very groggy after a mostly sleepless night and trudged over to the airport bus station. There was a long line (“queue”) so I went to the e-machines along the wall and was so proud of myself for figuring it out (after all, it’s in ENGLISH!). I pressed my destination, Swindon, and then sat down and waited for the bus.
Then it dawned on me: instructions from my friend read “take the bus to Reading then the train to Chippenham“. So, why was Swindon stuck in my exhausted brain? I didn’t know where the hell Swindon was or if it was anywhere even remotely close to my final destination.
So, I joined the line (“queue”).
After about 15 minutes I finally got to a real live person and explained my dilemma. She was exasperated with me because “these tickets are non-refundable!“But, after consulting with her supervisor, she agreed to a refund minus the 5-pound processing fee. Then she sold me the correct bus ticket to Reading, and I was happy.
Until later – when I arrived on the bus in Reading and bought my train ticket to Chippenham….which went RIGHT THROUGH SWINDON!
(In summary, I could’ve just taken the damn bus to Swindon using my original ticket and then the train to Chippenham…)
It still feels a little odd to understand most of what’s going on around me. I spent four years in a language barrier bubble in Taiwan where everything is in Chinese and nothing makes much sense. I seem to fit in here, so much that a British guy stopped me on the street yesterday in downtown Bristol. He was lost and asked me for directions to City Center…and I, like, actually knew the way!
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