Lost in Translation: California Dreamin’


Ironic, given that we had both independently Googled UCSD prior to our arrival and found that it was supposedly “socially dead.” Having spoken to other internationals at UC campuses and reflected on our own experiences, we have concluded we’ve had a pretty “dank” deal (or a bloody good time). 

Given that this is our last column, we wanted to give our final British perspective on California and the Land of the Free. People often ask us about the main cultural differences between here and home. While we never observed a huge cultural shock, there is something undeniably dissimilar, although it’s almost impossible to explain. Here is our best attempt.

Although we speak the same language, there are some things that are just completely lost in translation. British colloquialisms are often just completely lost on Americans. Take note.

“Got on like a house on fire” is not a literal expression, and we are not arsonists. For us, “Fancy Dress” on an invitation is a cue to wear your best costume, not your best button-up. Just a teaser: Come visit us in Great Britain and we will pop the trunk, take out the trash and host a “car boot sale.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this idea, a “car boot sale” is essentially a vintage market with people selling things from the trunks of their cars. Despite what you Americans may imagine British people saying, never in either of our 21 years have we heard someone say, “Chip, chip, Cheerio!”

Americans always say they love British comedy, British accents and British clothing. Yet they haven’t mastered British sarcasm and self-deprecating humour. Americans need to learn — it’s always funniest when you are laughing at yourself. We have learnt to really appreciate how outgoing Americans can be. From you, we can learn that not every stranger is a murderer, and it doesn’t hurt to be friendly and strike up a conversation on the tube (sometimes called the subway). Another point: America could do with a tube. California needs to get a proper public transport system, both for the environment and for struggling internationals who can’t afford a truck.

On a side note: A temperature where “freezing” isn’t actually minus numbers makes absolutely no sense. Water freezes at 0 and boils at 100 degrees Celsius — enough said. 

The extent of social networking in America continues to amaze us. Americans “like” everything. #stoptakingphotosofyourselfandyourmealsonInstagram. Having met Americans, our news feeds will never be the same. We read far too many emotional statuses — despite what Facebook asks, not everyone really cares exactly “What’s on your mind?” We’ve read a few articles that suggest you can become addicted to Facebook and Twitter. We recommend either controlling that trigger finger or rehab.

The drinking age is a constant source of bafflement and frustration. To think that at 18 you can go to war but cannot have a legal beer, outside, in an open container, is ludicrous to say the least. The perils of a high drinking age became obvious on the fateful May 17. Sun God 2K13: the one day of the year when all UCSD students rally against the “socially dead” stereotype — and who remembers it? The last thing we remember are Jell-O shots for breakfast.

California, there is a reason you are called the Golden State. (Careful. We feel an emotional status coming on). We are now full-fledged yogis, (wannabe) surfers and proud members of the Greek community. We have loved every minute of our exchange, and we thank the Guardian for letting us write about it and all you wonderful Americans for providing us with so much inspiration.

Come June 16, we will travel to the Deep South. Watch out, Texas and New Orleans. #MindtheGapontour.