Major lesson of the week: just because you're in a country that speaks your language, that doesn't mean you speak the same "language".
I discovered this the hard way. Up until last week, I was staying at my friend Charlene's house. When the day came to finally move into my dorm, I was looking all over the place for my favorite pair of black pinstriped pants. Being completely unable to find them, I went down to the living room, where her roommate Emma and Emma's boyfriend Tom were watching TV. I asked them if they had seen my pants, and proceeded to describe them and mention where I'd last seen them.
This sounds entirely innocent. Unless, of course, you think the word "pants" actually means "underwear". Which apparantly, British people do. They stared at me with their mouths hanging open for a good 30 seconds before Emma, being into fashion, finally remembered that the term "pants" means something very different to Americans. Lesson learned: unless you're discussing your recently purchased thong, call them "trousers".
I've yet to run into any other huge cultural snags, but I still worry that I might. Within the academic realm, I'm not too worried, but it's everyday life that concerns me. For example, I have a date set up for this week, the first date I've ever had here. Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I thoroughly enjoy dating. I'm good at it. I can manage to have a dinner-length conversation with a newel post if required, and having done the casual dating thing for so long, I've got the American dating standards down to a science, at least up through date 6 when you actually have to stop being "date" you and start being "real" you. But when it comes to dating here, I'm totally clueless. Do guys pay for first dates here? When we say we're going out for a drink, is it just a drink or do they also mean dinner, a walk, a movie, etc? Is it normal to kiss on a first date here? Does the holding hands come before the first kiss or after? And how do you do it when you're not going to separate cars, but are both on public transportation? Do you get off the train and walk the person to their door before getting back on? Do you part at the tube station and just awkwardly travel in the same direction and try to be seated in separate cars of the train? Do guys here open doors and pull out your chair or not? Is it OK to have a drink with dinner on the first date, or is it awkward? Is it a cultural faux pas to share dessert, or is it expected? Do guys here actually like girls who eat salad, or do they prefer a screw-it-I'll-have-a-cheeseburger kind of girl? Do British people kiss on the cheek when they greet each other for the first time, or was that a Miami hispanic thing? If so, is it one kiss like the Spanish, 2 like the French, or 3 like the Italians? Are heels sexy or impractical in a city where everybody walks everywhere? What if he does try to kiss me on the first date? Should I let him, or will he think I'm easy? But if I don't, will he think I'm a prude? Is my British cultural ignorance still cute and quirky, or is it annoying?
This should be interesting...