Differences between British and American Culture: part 1

Once upon a time, there was a man who loved to write. However, he had a love/hate relationship with his command of the English language, and so - through his writing - he changed it.

My fellow ChicagoNow writer, Brett, recently included on his blog: Dry it in the water, details of some of the approximately 1700 words that William Shakespeare created.

These words are commonly used today, and some are surprising when you learn they never existed until Shakespeare did. One person changed so much about the future, and he probably didn't even know it.

I don't aspire to be like Shakespeare. Yes, I want my writing to be read, and appreciated - but I don't want to change the world around me. The world that surrounds me though? That wants to change me. It's not enough that the scenery has changed but my expectations must change too.

By living in America, I am acutely aware of everything that is different to what I am used to. I'm reminded that what's around me isn't the thing that is different. I am.

But why? I am European, like the ancestors of all those around me. Okay - I have met one or two Afro-American people, and a family of Korean descent, but not once have I met a Native American. Where I live nowis English speaking - yet the language is so different.

It is confusing to have to ask for fries, when I want chips - then I get fries; and chips if I want crisps. It took much confusion to figure out what a cup was. It's a jug with "cups" marked out - as well as millilitres, ounces etc.

These are terms that have developed since America was discovered and Europeans first emigrated here. Different terms are used for different things, and words have changed, but not necessarily their meaning: Colour has become color, Centre to center, and realise to realize.

I don't mind the changing of the words so much - there's more to life than dropping the u in the "our" sound, or swapping an e and an r around, and replacing an s with a z. But I do wonder if this will affect the miniatures when they start school. I assume they will be taught to spell the American way - rather than the British way. What happens then if we go back to England, and they have a test at school in England? Will they get marked down, because they learned to spell the American way?

Another thing I have noticed about school (besides the demand that parents supply the supplies, no uniforms, and the really flipping long holidays) is the age the children start.

Mini Madam should have been going to school this coming Autumn (fall). In England children begin school the September after they turn four, but here - they have to be five, and they start in August. mini Madam was born in November and, because she misses the cut off for early entry into Kindergarten (which is actually like year one) by three days - she has to wait until next year for "real" school.

She is going to school this year, but into pre-kindergarten, which I guess is year R. But here's the difference; we have to pay for her to go, and it's only half day. Well; not even half day. Three hours a morning to be exact. That wasn't a problem for me until today.

We popped into her school setting to pay her deposit for her place, and hand in some of the mountain of paperwork they require. Mini Madam was asking about staying for lunch, so I explained that she would be coming home with me for lunch, but next year she would be staying at school all day.

Cue my bubble being burst wide open. When she gets to kindergarten, she won't be staying for lunch. Because kindergarten kids don't go to school all day. They're half day too! By my calculation, if she's only half day at school for two years - while the same age children who are starting this year in England, are full day at school for the same period - isn't she going to miss a year of school? So yeah, that might only be a problem if we go back to England - but I don't see us staying in America for the whole of the children's school career.

Especially not if we decide to have another child. I recently learned that the use of gas and air (laughing gas) during labour is NOT something that is practiced here in the states. While epidurals are preferred to not be given (by midwives I've met) in England, it seems they are the go to for pain relief here. Sod that... (but that is another post entirely - and only really applicable if I ever need to weigh up such options)!

It's bizarre how we speak the same language but there are so many cultural differences between the UK and America. I haven't even touched upon the surface of the many differences.

Perhaps American independence can go some way to explaining the various differences and the way the generations have developed their culture from their European ancestors who settled here 407 years ago.

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