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Grin and Bear It

24 May

I dedicate these case studies to every individual who has ever had to bear a gruelling job. I hear, though it’s only rumoured, that some people bear these jobs with smiles plastered on their faces. I am not such a person.

Thus, I unfold, for your reading pleasure, the case history of my work experience in London England. In no particular order:

Case 1
What: Fabric and sewing shop (aka. sweat shop) owned by couple, teetering on edge of being morally reprehensible
Work Classification: Slave
Sentence: One week
Reason for Leaving: Offered week-long unpaid internship at The Guardian. Quit job when was not allowed time off for “frivolous reasons”
Positive Takeaway: Now up to date on UK labour law

Case 2
What: Nightclub in Hertfordshire, UK
Work: Picking up glasses
Sentence: One night
Reason for leaving: Minimum wage (£5.38) x 6 hours = £32.28. Cost of shoes ruined from drunkards spilling drinks near or on me as well as from walking on glass all night? £35. Did not return for round two.
Positive Takeaway: Not aggressive enough for shoving required in club atmosphere

Case 3
What: Bakery
Work: Bread slicer/ display re-arranger/ cookie distributor
Sentence: One month
Reason for leaving: Finally offered a job, which involved the use of my university degree
Positive Takeaway: Lots of free samples of baked goods during nine hour shifts with no break. Also, learned look cute wearing baker’s cap.


“Les Photos! Les Photos!”

23 Mar

17 March 2011:

A married man hops aboard the train, eyes cast downward, fingers battling a stuck zipper. I watch. His eyes dart up and down. Quick scan. Nobody’s watching. Up again. Oh. That woman is watching. He thrusts a yellow-stained book in front of the zipper. Takes a deep breath in. Then out. Clenched fingers tussle with the zipper. Sigh. He surrenders. Undoes his coat from behind the book. Pretends to read for the rest of the journey while casting periodic glances at the device that fails him.

12 March 2011:

A woman on Upper Street plays her flute as my mate and I hobble toward her. She plays her flute.
“She’s good,” he says.
“Yes,” I say.
She layers a long red skirt atop a yellow one. Together they act as a cushion from the ground. On her head rests fabric that I assume must once have resembled a hat. I look at her. He looks at her. She plays.
She stops. With no warning. Her head falls down, meeting her knees, which curl up toward her. And she stays like that. Doesn’t pick up her flute. Again.

3 March 2011:

A child tightens his grip on his father’s hand. He’s in the Louvre, in the Egyptian section. It’s full of mummies, what every child loves—dead people wrapped in bandages. He uses his father’s hand to stabilise himself as he jumps up and down. Not very high but he manages to bounce a few inches off the ground.

“Les photos! Les photos!” he yelps.

This image keeps me smiling for the rest of the day. I don’t know why.

A list of Odd British Terms & Phrases, in order of increasing outlandishness

17 Mar

No doubt there are more extensive and inclusive ones out there but this one has been assembled by me and thus is pure genius (Kidding! Kind of…)

Britishism Canadianism Notes
Flat Apartment However, a nice flat is called an apartment
Cash Point ATM
SatNav GPS
Mum Mom Personally, I prefer their pronunciation for once
Queue Lineup
Lift Elevator
Tube Subway
Central Downtown Central London, not downtown London
Spirits Hard Liquor Our term is apparently endlessly amusing
Supermarket Superstore
Biscuits Cookies
Chips Fries No ordinary fries though; more similar to the kind you get at chip wagons
Crisps Chips
Slag Slut
Ta! Cheers! Thanks I still say “thank you”
Take Away Takeout
Purse Wallet And your purse is your handbag
Full Stop Period (Punctuation)
Cinema Movie Theatre Sounds a bit grander, don’t you think?
Bloke Man Ex. “He’s a proper bloke.” Still couldn’t explain what that means. Maybe hyper masculine?
Fancy To like Someone
Pull Kiss/ Make out What “pulling” has to do with kissing I’ll never know
Jelly Jell-O Also, does not taste as good.
Motorway Highway
Petrol Gas My cousin Oliver would rigorously defend the British word over the “American” one. His reasoning? “It’s not a gas!” My thoughts? Does it really matter?
Bin Garbage Bin
Rubbish Garbage
Mate Friend I think “friend” is also acceptable but it seems most people use the term mate. Piece of advice: don’t ever call a potential romantic interest “mate”
Shirt Dress shirt
Knickers Panties
Trousers Pants
Pants Boxers You’ll get awkward looks when you remark on someone’s pants, so don’t make the same mistake I did
Nappies Diapers Don’t know how I know this one seeing as I don’t know anybody with babies
Pudding Dessert Very confusing since pudding is a dessert on its own
Fag Cigarette
Mobile Cellphone
Plaster Band-aid Honestly, why call it plaster?
Fringe Bangs
Jacket Potato Baked Potato Yes, I pictured little potatoes in jackets too
Loo/ Toliets Washroom Also named “bathroom” when there’s an actual bath
Fairy cake Cupcake
Lollipop Lady Crossing Guard I’m told this is because the sign looks like a lollipop
Fanny Woman’s you-know-what
Gash Woman’s you-know-what On one of my first visits with my cousins I remarked that the large screen television was excellent for viewing a gash up close (was referring to the bloody wounds on the news programme). You should have seen their shocked faces!
Take the Piss, Take the Mickey, Winding you Up To Make fun of someone, ridicule Favourite British pastime so you’d best develop a thick skin (I’m still working on it)
All right? How’s it going? I absolutely hate this question.  It confused me for months! What do you mean am I all right? Do I look like there’s something wrong with me? Thankfully, I have since been taught to just respond with: “Yeah, you?”
Have a butchers Have a look Comes from Cockney rhyming slang: have a butcher’s hook rhymes with have a look
Canadiana Canada I’ve only heard this from the occasional Brit. “Because you call yourselves Canadian and so Canadiana makes more sense”

Case notes from across the pond: January 21, 2011 (aka. Just the two of Us)

21 Jan

Warning: short entry pre-work

Summation of Experience: Found out there is another Canadian in my office, this morning. Upon making this discovery, other office residents (primarily composed of Englishmen and Australians) exclaimed utter surprise that two Canadians could exist in the same place. Other Canadian stated: “We’re not like leprechauns, you know? More than one of us can stay in the same area.” Said office workers seemed to find this statement humorous as opposed to factual. Upon completion of a suitable period of appreciative laughter, co-workers still seemed startled by our harmonious co-existence.  

Conclusion: Inconclusive

Case notes from across the pond: January 2, 2011

2 Jan

Mission: Land in England, locate examples of English humour and dissect and analyse it for citizens in home country.

Status: In Progress
Notes Thus Far: Nearly five months of close observation of specified species (the English) has enabled me to come to a number of conclusions about the subject of humour in this nation.
In this case note entry, I will be narrowing in on my personal favourite, sarcasm—particularly what traits the British brand possesses that could possibly confuse foreigners.

Sarcasm in England is unlike any other kind of humour I have ever encountered. Well acquainted with irony in Canada, I was most displeased to discover a roadblock between the natives and myself. They did not seem to understand when I attempted sarcasm and I mistook their brand of humour for an intense dislike of…well, nearly everything.
Through questioning of said natives I was able to ascertain that sarcasm is so much a part of this culture that it is nearly impossible for a foreign citizen to distinguish between sarcasm and mean-spiritedness. In one interview where I asked one such subject abut this matter, subject replied, “You just know when someone is being sarcastic.”

Surely, there must be some verbal cue, some voice intonation, I was missing. But, native after native re-iterated this sentiment: “you just know.”
Conclusion: Adaptation is slow because natives have been bred with knowledge. Severe disadvantage for non-English.

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