Two Nations Separated by a Common Language

You can't begin to imagine the wealth of everyday misunderstanding that's possible when relocating from Britain to Texas. The broad stuff — obtain dwelling, consume food, aim to subsist — that's the same. Even the language is apparently the same. The thing is, communicating with other people, that's an issue. Everything kind of goes wrong from that point. There's always a second or two of processing when I talk to someone new, while they stare at me blankly, and if, after that brief processing time, they still don't know what I've said, it can quickly degenerate into some of the most awkward interactions I've ever had. I use the wrong words, employ idioms that don't even remotely translate, and I have absolutely no knowledge of obscure American pop culture, which means I can't make cool friends (sorry, current friends). When I do make friends, they invariably do impressions of me the whole time, which I laugh at, while secretly a tiny piece of me dies. Not really. You guys can't do impressions for shit.

Read the full story: An Englishman in BBQ Sauce: an Ex-Pat Learns to Love Texas

I can't tell you how confused I was by the appearance of white gravy when I first got over here. It's thick, it's like sort of savoury double cream, and I am scared of it. It shouldn't taste how it looks.

I get a lot of funny looks. The worst I've ever had it was in a country-style diner just outside Waco when I was driving to Austin. Some guy had his shotgun leaned up against a table, everyone was wearing non-ironic cowboy hats and I couldn't understand a word anyone said.

The people at the counter stare at me with total incredulity as I'm trying to make an order. I mispronounce okra, and Richard cracks a joke ("You know, like Okra Winfrey!") and the stares we get are really bad news. "No," says the lady at the counter, firmly. Apparently, you don't make Okra Winfrey jokes here. ... I really have no idea what okra is or what it should taste like.

Imagine a British person saying "butter." I pronounce both the Ts with a hard accent. When an American says "butter," it's kind of mushed together into a "duh" noise. Budder. The lady at the counter is terrified. She has absolutely no idea what I'm saying to her. The problem is, the less I'm understood, the more I retreat into pronouncing things clearly, but clearly for a British audience. I emphasize the T more. It is a losing battle. Eventually I gesture, and she's still bemused.

I got the pie in the end. I am not sure how. I think I got it for free because she wanted me to go away and be British somewhere else.

I think the key for me not getting dishonorably fired from this job, then, is that I will just point-blank refuse to develop any technical descriptive vocabulary whatsoever, and in that way I will remain charmingly naive. I might start stammering like Hugh Grant.

(Editor's note: Gavin occasionally mentions "soccer," which apparently is a sport played in England, unless he's just making it up.) Find yourself one of these salubrious locations, see if you can locate a meat pie and wax lyrical about how money has ruined British soccer, how these fancy-dan soccer players are forever flinging themselves to the ground, or how on earth a game can end in a tie with no overtime or shoot-out deciders.

Biscuits in gravy, whatever the hell that is.

If I thought communication problems were bad before, a room full of people who sound exactly like Boomhaur from King of the Hill soon put paid to any ideas I had of finally getting the hang of Texas.

My third go at ordering from an increasingly irate man hidden behind a generous mustache was the charm, and even then my two sides were different to what I ordered. Have you ever not wanted to kick up a fuss so much that you're grateful that what you ordered was vaguely correct? Because that's how I felt.

I then considered how difficult it was for me to say the name of this particular barbecue restaurant with a straight face. A Brit saying anything remotely "street" is like Prince William covering Jay-Z while wearing a top hat. Not only does it not work, it is laughable on the scale of Piers Morgan's presenting career. I settled on "That Certainly is Good Barbecue, Sir."

I even stole (exchanged, really, I'm just working on appearing to be more of a badass so I can say the word "dat" without Americans laughing) a rib off a colleague.

But then came the final blow. The kick to the swingers.

I admit to knowing nothing about "chicken frying." It would be lovely if they got a chicken to be the chef, but I imagine the actual process is probably more painful for a chicken than just working long hours in a hot kitchen.

On to the logical fallacy of a fried pork wing — unless pigs actually can fly, I think it is safe to assume that this is a part of a pig so wrong we actually aren't allowed to know what part it is.

Read the full story: An Englishman in BBQ Sauce: an Ex-Pat Learns to Love Texas


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