Though the US and Britain share a common language, at times you’ll still feel like a foreigner when you’re abroad. Even three months into my stay in London, I had difficulty following a fast talking comedian. Over time, you do pick up the lingo and soon you’ll start speaking it back at home. Here are some of the most common phrases that cause confusion to American study abroad students.

  • “You alright?”- the equivalent of “What’s up?” or “How are you” in the US. You’ll usually hear it when you’re shopping and checking out. It’s their way of asking, “How is everything, do you need any help?” Most unaware foreigners usually begin to think they’re growing some kind of mole on their face after awhile.
  • “Top-up”- the equivalent of “refilling.” Most often used for “topping up an Oyster Card” but also for SIM cards, gift cards, etc…
  • “Pudding”- most people think of the gooey dessert whenever a server asks you if you want pudding, but it’s the British way of saying dessert!
  • “Tube”- the London Underground aka Subway in NYC or Metro in European cities. You’ll usually hear people refer to it as the Tube or the Underground.
  • “Biscuits”- they’re not the usual buttery bread sides that you get in southern cuisine; they’re actually the equivalent of cookies in the US! The most common biscuits in England are Rich Tea Biscuits (my favorite). Grab a roll the next time you’re in a supermarket. They’re really cheap.
  • “Loo”- this is one of the first words most Americans recognize, but if you’re not most, it means bathroom. By the way, nobody says bathroom in England; they say loo or toilet.
  • “To Let”- this brings back a really funny memory. We saw signs of “To Let” along the streets everywhere and my friend said, “Look! They’re so nice here, they let you know where the toilets are!” Actually, it means to rent.
  • “Coach” v. “Bus”- the British like to distinguish their larger transportation vehicles. The bus is the public transportation (the one you pay 90 pence for) whereas a coach is a private form of transportation. So those “buses” that people tour on are called coaches.
  • “Queue”- a line, such as waiting to check out. In London, there is usually one general queue. Let’s say you have two cash registers across from each other. Unlike in the States where each register has its own line, there’ll be only one queue to prevent jockeying (people switching lines).
  • “Take away”- aka “to go” in the US. If you ask for, say, coffee “to go,” they won’t understand you.
  • “Chips”- french fries! Potato chips are called crisps in England.
  • “Bloke”- a man
  • “Rubbish Bin”- a garbage can
Different Pronunciations:
  1. Aluminum: “al-loo-min-ee-um”