Yes, Americans need to learn English before traveling to London

Whenever we visit new countries, we try to learn at least a few words to use in our daily interactions with the people we meet and encounter. Whether it’s “hello” when walking into a store, “pardon me” when moving past people on the sidewalk, or “thank you” when being served a meal, it always adds to the experience to make even the smallest bit of effort to connect with people – word by word. But, we neglected to teach our American sons a few words to connect with Londoners on our recent trip to England.

I have to admit that it slipped my mind.

I took advantage of the fact that we share a national language – English. I assumed that my sons would feel like we were making an effort without learning a few words – just be greeting and speaking with people. But, then I got schooled by my eight-year-old son.

On our first day in London during our holiday, my younger son asked why I didn’t teach him any “British” words. I asked him what he meant – and he didn’t hold back.

My son remarked that in London you say “cheers” instead of saying “thank you” when leaving stores and restaurants.

My son said that the Mother’s Day cards in a London grocery store all said “mum” instead of “mom.”

My son shared that in the London Underground, it says where the train “terminates” vs. where it “ends.”

My son noted that on a London shop sign the word “favourite” had an “u” in it – and we spell it as “favorite.”

My son shared that the flight attendants on the way back from London asked if we had any “rubbish” – instead of “garbage.”

Of course, my son also had to note that one’s “bottom” is referred to as “bum” in London, too!

A recent BuzzFeed article shared the “18 British slang words you should learn before taking a flight to the U.K.” Included on the list are works like “knackered,” which means exhausted, and “chuffed,” which means proud. BBC America also helps American decode “10 things Brits say” so we can understand what they really mean. This includes hearing the word “cheers,” and understanding it means “thank you” and not “to good health” (said as you clink glasses).

Before we return to London, you better believe that I’ll make sure to review some of these essential words with my sons before touch down there. And, I’ll never take for granted the fact that we don’t need to learn the language before we go to any country again – even if it’s an English-speaking one!

Boys and phone booths in London

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