“What do you call garbage in America?”

Over the course of my time here I have had many interesting conversations with my co-workers about the differences between the US and the UK. Even when I try to stay away from the topic because I don’t want to be constantly questioning why everyone does what they do, something happens that makes the topic come up again. Most of the conversations consist of differences in language, mostly word choice and colloquial expressions. They are often surprised by the words I don’t know, but I also use certain expressions that they have never heard, so at least it’s somewhat even.

Some of my favorite new words that I’ve learned include ‘queue’, which is basically a line, for anything. The english are the world champions of queuing. Another one is ‘memory stick’ which is a flash driver. But my most favorite of the new words that I’ve learned is ‘skip’. A ‘skip’ is an industrial sized trash can mostly used for construction garbage and the conversation I had leading up to me finding that out is one of the more memorable ones I’ve had with my co-workers.

It all started when we were talking about shows to watch on Netflix. I told them I was really into the show “Love, Nina” which is an English program about an eccentric young woman how is the nanny of two mischievous boys (It’s basically “The Nanny” but more indie and Helena Bonham Carter), but that I wasn’t always understanding all the dialogue and of course they asked me to elaborate. So I told them about this seen where the mother was reminding the Nanny of a time when she let the boys do something they shouldn’t have and she referred to it as the “incident with the skip” which meant nothing to me. One guy looked at me funny and said

“Don’t you have skips in America?” to which I replied we might. Then the other guy piped in and told me what it was. Then the guy next to me piped in

“So, what do you call garbage in America?”

“Trash” I said, thinking nothing of it.

They all snickered and mocked me with a somewhat good American accent.

This story really ins’t that funny but I think it illustrates some really interesting things about cross-cultural communication. The first is that you never know what similarities and differences you will come across when talking to people from other countries. No matter how much research you do someone will say of do something that you weren’t expecting. Secondly, it shows that people can bond over the simplest things. Who would have thought a conversation about garbage could have been one of the funnier conversation or moments that I had interacting with my co-workers? This story is one I’m always going to remember.

My biggest takeaway from this story is that when you are studying or traveling aboard you will learn a lot of cool things about other places and cultures but you will also learn about your own culture. This is a simple example of a difference in expression, but before that I didn’t think any of the words Americans used were really weird or thought about why we used them and none of my English co-workers had thought about why a big dumpster is called a skip.

 

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