±A - Join Our Community

Learn from the experiences of other expats and make new friends in our disccussion forums and Facebook groups

±A - Cigna

±A - Read Our Guide

The Expat Focus Guide to Moving Abroad contains everything you need to know when planning an international relocation available now, completely free

±A - Compare Quotes and Save

Find the best health insurance provider or foreign currency transfer specialist by comparing free quotes

±A - Listen to the Podcast

The Expat Focus podcast features interviews with expats living abroad and service providers meeting their needs subscribe today!

±A - Expert Financial

From our tax, investment and FX partners

±A - ExpatFocus Partners

Expat Focus Partners
Become a Partner. Click Here.


Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Americans, You’ve Been Warned!

  Posted Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:13:47)   (2931 Reads)

Toni Hargis

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I go to great pains to keep Americans apprised of British customs, sayings and manners. Not that we all take tea at precisely 4pm every day, or consort with the Queen on a regular basis, but there are some things that while minor, make all the difference.

If you’ve yet to read Rules, Britannia, let me recap a few of my tips:

Please – While the meaning of “please” is usually implied in the tone of an American request, the word itself is not always used. In the UK, its absence will draw audible intakes of breath and small children may well find the cookie, or toy they are requesting withheld until they “ask properly”. The word “please” is used by everyone regardless of background; it is said to everyone regardless of station, so that includes waiters and other people paid to serve you.

He/She – Again, while no harm is meant in the US by referring to a person as “he” or “she” while they are standing right in front of you, it’s considered very rude in the UK, and often elicits the rhetorical and shocked question “Who’s she? The cat’s mother”. Seriously. If you can’t remember, or don’t know, the name of the person you’re talking about, simply say “We were just discussing…..”.

Freakin’ – Use of this word may cause raised eyebrows as it’s not generally known in the UK and sounds a little too much like “frigging”, which is a substitute for the F word and not used in polite company.

Shagadelic – Yes, I know Austin Powers made this a household word, but it’s still not one you pop into family conversations in the UK. Do you know what “Shag” means by any chance?

There’s something however, that I missed entirely until recently, and I feel compelled to speak out in order to spare Americans huge embarrassment, although it would give Brits a huge laugh.

***It’s “ARSEd” not “ASKED”; and “arsed” is not just slang for “asked”.***

Example - “I can’t be arsed”, meaning I can’t be bothered.

Again, not really something you’d say at work, or to your British mother-in-law as blogger Michelloui (The American Resident) did for many years. Having only heard this one example, I thought it was a charming yet idiosyncratic error on her part – until last week when I saw a Facebook comment from another blogger The Lady Who Lunches. Having lived in the UK for quite a while, she is apt to use the odd British expression, as she did here.

TLWL Status Update – This might be the first year where I just can’t be asked to do anything for Halloween …
Me – Do you mean “arsed”?
TLWL – Oh yes, that’s what I meant – why is it spelled like that?
Me (thinking) – Erm….it’s quite phonetic really.
Then later –
TLWL – I thought “arsed” was just slang for “asked”.

(Apparently she and a few friends, who also have British partners, have been popping it into all sorts of conversations.)

So there you have it Americans. Be careful when using British slang; you may not quite know what you’re saying!

Toni Hargis,
(Saving the World, One Accidental Insult at a Time)

Toni Summers Hargis is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.

Toni Hargis
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students (Summertime). She is also the author of 'Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom' (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.
Link  QR 

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

Bupa Global is one of the world’s largest international health insurers. We offer direct access to over 1.2m medical providers worldwide, and we settle directly with them so you don’t have to pay up front for your treatment. We provide access to leading specialists without the need to see your family doctor first and ensure that you have the same level of cover wherever you might be, home or away.

Cigna International

Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.