Albino Gerbils #MicroblogMondays

My daughter has pink eye. Apparently, that is not a commonly used phrase here, so when I texted my friend to tell her this ailment might impinge on our planned play date, she had to ask me what it was, saying that the only thing she could picture was an albino gerbil. 

This is a problem I encounter frequently. Even though I’ve spoken English my entire life, since living here, I often feel like I’m speaking a foreign language. Diapers are nappies; underwear are pants; pants are trousers. If you’re quick with facts and figures, you’re clever, not smart, but you can look smart if you’re dressed well. If your child doesn’t feel well, he’s poorly, but if he’s sick, he’s actually thrown up. It can be dizzying, and half the time, I feel like I’ve inadvertently insulted someone with one of my Americanisms. Or, at the very least, utterly confused them, and probably myself along the way. Missy has already begun correcting my English: “No, Mommy, it’s time for a nappy change.” (Yeah, still not potty trained, don’t ask.) “No, Mommy, throw it in the bin (not trash).”

My year-long job search has been the most glaring example. Not just unfamiliar terms and phrases for concepts and systems I feel I should have a better grasp on by now, but an entire nonsense language of acronyms and abbreviations for those terms (not unlike being thrust into the world of infertility and fertility treatments): TAQA, QCF, GCSE, NVQ, PGCE, LSA, EWC, KS3. 

Albino gerbils abound.

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15 thoughts on “Albino Gerbils #MicroblogMondays

  1. We never realise what we’re saying until it’s pointed out to us. Job hunting in a different country can be especially tough – good luck! Ps. My wee ladeen (as we say here in Ireland!) isn’t potty trained yet either and he’s near Missy’s age. We’ll get there!

  2. I’m English but I’ve lived outside England since I was 23, so I wouldn’t know half of those acronyms either. I’d be worried about a job search in the UK as they seem to be obsessed with qualifications – last time I looked, you needed an NVQ (?) to make a sandwich. I’m now in Ireland and they have their own different language – a cupboard is a “press”; moaning is “giving out”; there’s no present perfect (“I’m here ten years”) and “how are you?” doesn’t seem to require an answer (maybe that’s the same in the UK, but when I lived in Italy you definitely expected an answer). I have refused to pick up some of these terms, I don’t know why really, I just prefer my own versions. Good luck with that job hunting!

    • Yes, the greeting here is “You alright?” without any necessary response. As for the job hunt, I may need to resort to professional help. Maybe a set of local eyes can tell me if there are any glaring mistakes or confusion in my CV or cover letters. I’m at a loss!

  3. Cracking up over the idea of albino gerbils (but… yeah… they do have pink eyes). I think that is the nicest/hardest part about being abroad — the idiomatic expressions.

    • Yes, it’s mostly fun/funny to learn all these new words and phrases! But when it comes to looking for work…I’m not yet adept enough in this new vernacular to come up with the equivalent of “I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork!”

  4. I’m a Kiwi, and I have no idea what pink eye is either. (Off to google it.) I understand most British sayings – in fact, we use them a lot here too – and have had to adapt some of my language when I blog because most of my readership is from the US. I enjoy it though – I love the differences in language. But I can see it could be problematic in just trying to make yourself understood or to understand in return.

    I think the pervasiveness of American media (films, TV) inevitably means that the rest of the world understands many more of your sayings – and accents – than you would of ours.

    Perhaps your mistake is assuming you speak English, when you actually speak American English?

  5. So what on earth do they call pink eye? I mean, to me it seems like a fairly good description of the affliction….

    Oh and potty training? Yeah, he’ll be 3 in June and he won’t even think about trying to go on the little training potty I bought for him. He does, however, love flushing the toilet and since he always (ALWAYS) barges in on me, he’s very adept at fetching me a tampon (even when I don’t need one)… Best of luck!

    • I’ve only ever heard it called conjunctivitis here, which is accurate, but a mouthful. Given the propensity here to shorten or abbreviate so many words, you’d think they’d have come up with something a little catchier!

      Haha! Yes. Missy loves to sit on the toilet (fully clothed) and often claims to see blood when she “wipes”! She’s definitely paying attention.

  6. “Hearing” all those British words and expressions makes me long to be in England again…but yes, trying not to sound “too” American can be a challenge! You’ll get the hang of it with time, though. And, if it makes you feel better, Skittle is nearly three-and-a-half and isn’t potty trained. She nearly was 100% and then we suffered major setbacks after she got a UTI, followed by a yeast infection, followed by pneumonia. She now won’t sit on the potty at all. And she has to be toilet-trained by the time she starts preschool in September, so I’m feeling panicky! Hugs to you.

    • Yes, that’s my fear, too! She also has to be potty trained before starting nursery school in September, when she’ll be nearly three and a half. In just the last few days, she finally started sitting on the toilet without a diaper, but that has taken ages. I’m sorry Skittle is having such a hard time right now. We’re still working on getting Missy comfortable with pooping in a diaper (which I know you also understand). I don’t even want to think about how long it will take to get her to do it in the toilet!

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