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Quad talk: 'Remember to leave Her Maj and pub roasts out of it'
2:03pm Thursday 14th February 2013 in News
After a year of navigating the Oxford waters alone, my partner is finally coming to join me, and so I’ve been pondering what I’d tell a naive American embarking on a life in England and the city of dreaming spires. So here is a list of things I wish I could have told past-Janey, knowing what I now know (and in no particular order): 1. Don’t make fun of the Queen. This applies to monarchy and Royal weddings too. I made this mistake over lunch with colleagues early on, and it didn’t go over well. Also, as it turns out, I’m pretty sure people actually earn a few pence a year from the Queen, but please don’t quote me on that because I learned it from YouTube.
2. Those are “exam robes”, not “capes”. Harry Potter references are difficult to avoid, especially since some of the movie’s sets are modelled after Oxford locales. But they tell me you can’t prove your intellect without dressing up like Hermione.
3. Don’t trust that you should ever pronounce a written “g” — even if people in other English towns pronounce it and you’re expected to pronounce it in every other instance. If you don’t know what I’m on about, visit my favourite college: Magdalen. It’s beautiful on a summer’s day.
4. Before you poke fun at English food, try a pub roast. Then make fun of all other English food.
5. “Pudding,” “cake,” and “tea” don’t always mean “pudding,” “cake,” or “tea”. Apparently what different English people call their dinner and dessert can tell you a lot about where they were brought up, but I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out. Just know you should not trust anything anybody says.
6. When in doubt, don’t be cheeky. British people have a great sense of humor (sic) when they self-deprecate or insult Americans, but know your audience.
7. Don’t ridicule Brits for sleeping with hot water bottles in winter. You’ll eventually want one too. 8. No need to complain about the weather — the English do that enough themselves, and you’ll just be told to shut up because you can’t have everything.
9. The British pronunciation of a word is always correct. Forget that the English language was in flux at the time the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic, and that both American and British English have evolved considerably since then. No — the way the Brits speak now is the correct way of speaking, simply because the land they live on was inhabited by white people earlier.
10. On a sunny day, go to The Perch at Binsey. There is nothing like a breezy stroll through Port Meadow, ending up in a beautiful garden with a cold pint. This list is not exhaustive, and may not be useful to anybody besides past-Janey, but I can tell future American expats that jokes aside, Oxford really is a beautiful place to live, and when I walk on the sometimes too-quaint cobbled streets, I can’t deny I’m a lucky lady. Jane Messina is a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University studying the geography of tropical diseases