For anyone travelling or living abroad, cultural and language differences can be as frustrating as they are interesting. It is useful to know in advance as many of these as possible to avoid confusion. Although it can’t be compared to learning an entirely different language, there are many words used in America that have another meaning in England. Jelly, for instance, is jam, and Jell-O is jelly. Therefore, ordering a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in London would only result in strange looks from the waiter.
The English language doesn’t just change in English speaking countries like America and Australia. There are subtle differences across the United Kingdom. For example, the Scots eat “neeps and tatties” while the English will have turnips and potatoes. Incidentally, turnips in England are known as swede, while the American rutabega is the English turnip. See how it can be confusing?
Americans Eating in Britain
American tourists may be surprised to be greeted by so many American-style restaurants. It can be tempting to stick with the safety of the familiar. After all, British cooking never had a good reputation until recently. But today’s standards and expectations are high as competition soars between restaurants, especially with those owned by celebrity chefs. Don’t give in to the temptation of a well-known fast-food joint. Experience the new culinary delights of British food. Trying local food is all a part of travelling to different countries.
Ready to Order?
Many English terms actually come from the French. When needing a napkin, it is acceptable to ask for a “serviette”. A zucchini is known as a ‘courgette’ and an ‘aubergine’ is what Americans call an eggplant. However, French fries are ‘chips’ and should not be at all confused with potato chips, which are ‘crisps’. Don’t forget the ‘tomato sauce’, also known as ketchup.
Order squash and a brightly-colored fruit drink will appear. Lemonade is actually lemon/lime soda. Soda is called ‘fizzy drink‘, beer is ‘lager’ and ale is ‘bitter’. Fancy a cuppa? It’s a cup of tea, always hot, served with the option of milk and sugar.
The appetiser is called a starter. In the mood for shrimp? Have the prawns. A succulent fillet steak (pronounced fill-it) will satisfy the desire for tenderloin. The ground beef in burgers and Shepherd’s Pie is known as mince, which is different from the delightful spicy raisin filling in mince pies at Christmastime.
Pudding for Dessert
The American version of vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch pudding will not be found on a British pudding menu. Pudding in general means dessert. A pudding also is a cake-like substance which is steamed in a bowl for several hours, such as the traditional English Christmas pudding. But don’t mistake a steak and kidney pudding for dessert!
The equivalent of the popular American pudding would be custard or mousse. Custard can be runny and poured on Christmas pudding! It can also be thick and eaten on its own, and is also an important ingredient in an English trifle which is layers of sherry-soaked cake, custard, fruit and whipped cream. Mousse is rich, light and fluffy.
A Few More Words of English
American – British:
- Broth – Stock
- Broil – Grill
- Canned – Tinned
- Pickles – Gherkins
- Candy – Sweets
- Cookies – Biscuits
- Biscuits – Scones
- Apple Crisp – Apple Crumble
To name a few!
It’s time to ask for the bill, not “check, please!”