Lisa's week: The same but different
I recently had the good fortune to visit the Big Apple again for the third time! Yes, I know! I’m a lucky girl.
Now, I love big cities and I love taking short city breaks to see the sights and soak up the local culture - be it London, Berlin, Rome or Prague. But New York is something else and it’s definitely captured my heart. This won’t be the last time I head over there.
I’m lucky enough to have a friend who lives right in the heart of Manhattan who provided me a sofa bed and sightseeing services for which I’m eternally grateful. While I was there this time (I will write about the trip itself some other time), I kept my eyes open for little cultural differences and would like to share just a few here.
These are just some of my own observations but as a Brit in America, I’m often amused at how different it seems to be and how foreign I sometimes feel.
Everyone is friendly and helpful and ready to give you the best customer service they can – on the whole! To be honest, you might come across a few less than perfect experiences - specifically in New York - but generally speaking, I can only say that I’ve received excellent service whether it was in a restaurant, a cab or a shop. It’s a bit of a contrast to customer service in Germany or even in the UK.
As a female customer, I found myself referred to as “ma’am” or even “Miss”, neither of which are usual in the UK. It felt a little strange to hear “Miss” which is almost unheard of outside a school setting in Britain, but I found it somewhat charming all the same.
In a restaurant, I was given a glass of cold tap water straight away while I looked at the menu. This was then topped up automatically and it’s not a problem to just drink this without ordering any other drinks. I’ve noticed this concept creeping in over in the UK but I still prefer mineral water – and then sparkling, please. Still water is the default there and I had to learn to order sparkling water by brand or asking for a “seltzer” or “soda water” although this might be regular sparkling table water and not mineral water. I found this complicated and generally tried asking for San Pellegrino instead just to make sure!
If you want to buy something in a shop, prices are shown excluding sales tax. This can be confusing when you get to the cash till and the cashier quotes a different price to you than the one you were expecting! Different states have different levels of tax but many states also allow cities or local areas to levy their own. I gave up trying to work it out and just waited to be told what to pay!
Tips are generally from 15% to 20% compared to the 10% or so here in Germany. I was “politely” told by my cab driver that he “normally gets 20%” when I tried to round up the amount on the bill which was a bit embarrassing. I had to be a quick learner.
The European ground floor is the first floor in the US so when getting in a lift, I had to concentrate to make sure I was going to the right number – just add one floor onto the European equivalent and hope for the best!
Americans and Brits all speak English but all English is not the same! I was already aware of this but it still caught me out from time to time. British people are more aware of US English expressions but British English is less familiar to most Americans. So I found myself asking for the check and not the bill in a restaurant, going to the bathroom or restroom rather than the ladies or loo, putting my suitcase in the trunk instead of the boot in the cab, and ordering a soda when I wanted a soft drink. Food and drink proved to be problematic with many words that are completely different, so I’ll go over some of these another time.
But no matter how many of these small (and not so small) cultural differences I came across, nothing could take away the thrill of being in this most incredible city.
I heart NY!
What is Lisa's week?
"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"
Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday
Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?
Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?
Episode 4: The sound of London
Episode 5: Not just a last resort
Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise
Episode 7: Title talk
Episode 8: The Union Jack
Episode 9: Why Thursday?
Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?
Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!
Episode 13: Up in the Highlands
Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends
Episode 15: Pie in the sky
Episode 16: Through the tunnel
Episode 17: Keep left!
Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise
Episode 19: How do you say that?
Episode 20: Back to School!
Episode 21: Sweet cravings
Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?
Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"
Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)
Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?
Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.
Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!
Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot
Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?
Episode 30: Bless you!
Episode 31: What are you thankful for?
Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?
Episode 33: What's behind the door?
Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!
Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?
Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year
Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?
Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2
Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?
Episode 40: Sweet Valentine
Episode 41: A Reminder
Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!
Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils
Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question
Episode 45: The whole world's going green!
Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs
Episode 47: The joke's on you!
Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!
Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings
Episode 50: We use German words too
Episode 51: Celebrating St George
Episode 52: The perfect start to the day
Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)
Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)
Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)
Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!
Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1
Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2
Episode 59: Summer Solstice
Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20
Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live
Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Episode 63: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!
Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge
Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ
Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)
Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)
Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland
Episode 70: The first day of school
Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!
Episode 72: Celebrating language
Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!
Episode 74: My favourite time of the year
Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading
Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat
Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime
Episode 78: Talking Tenners
Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?
Episode 80: Just another few minutes!
Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.
Episode 82: What sign are you?
Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth
Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!
Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions
Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring
Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose
Episode 88: Once in a blue moon
Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1
Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2
Episode 91: This is the travel news!
Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!
Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week
Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back
Episode 95: Holy Week
Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time
Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!
Episode 98: Part of the family
Episode 99: It's a boy!
Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!
Episode 101: To all the mothers out there
Episode 102: Up, up and away
Episode 103: A very British affair!
Episode 104: Getting boarded!
Episode 105: How do you say that?
Episode 106: Ready for departure?
Episode 107: Happy Father's Day
Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)
Episode 109: Can football really come home?
Episode 110: A right royal christening
Episode 111: Touch down!
Episode 112: 70 years of public healthcare