Moving into a flat share with a group of strangers is an experience Gen Z’ers are likely to be all too familiar with, but one which – while a bit of a risk – has, for me, always been lovely and serial killer-free. In my current rental, we happen to come from all different parts of the world, which means that I often find myself explaining the more obscure quirks and colloquialisms of British culture.
For instance, it’s never occurred to me that the often-rhetorical British greeting ‘you alright?’, could easily be misconstrued as a genuine question. After a good few months of using it on my American flatmate, I finally got ‘sorry, do I not seem alright?’ and had to explain that regardless of whether you’re elated or deep in the pits of despair, the response must always be, ‘Yeah, not too bad thanks – you?’
The overuse of the word sorry has also caused some confusion because of its wide range of meanings. The Brits of course know that it could be saying anything from, ‘I didn’t mean to do or say that’ to ‘you’re blocking my way so I’m therefore apologising for my existence’ to ‘I’ve got no idea what you mean.’
I’ve also got far too used to the most aggressive words (sweary) in the English language having very little impact on me, so something else I’ve had to work on is limiting my use of profanities as pet names. On reflection, I can perhaps understand how calling someone a **** could be misinterpreted – must work on that.
I’m by no means a nationalist, but explaining these stupid British quirks and idioms fills me with a weird sort of pride. What I’ve enjoyed even more though, is observing those of my flatmates and how we share with each other. They have encouraged me to do things like end my phone calls after only one round of goodbyes, and in exchange, I’ve watched them like a proud mother as they pick up slang like quid or fiver and tell each other to go fu*k themselves as terms of endearment. The British culture really is one of beauty.