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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Things I'm Looking Forward To Doing Now That I'm British: Number One [20130916|16:12]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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In order to get myself to write, I'm making a list of Things I'm Looking Forward To Doing Now That I'm British, to be posted daily.

1. Lying outrageously about distances. When a British person - especially a Londoner - says to you, "Oh, that restaurant/bar/attraction is only a five minute walk from here," you should NEVER EVER believe them. Take that number and multiply it by two. If you're not fully able-bodied and/or willing to run there, multiply by four. When I was five months pregnant, someone told me - and despite having lived in the UK for years, I believed him - that a place was "a fifteen minute walk from here". It took an hour for me get there.

So I apologise in advance to all the people who are about to get royally cheesed off with me when I tell them that Piccadilly Circus is "a ten minute walk" from South Kensington. Because no, no it isn't. Not unless you're fucking flying.

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/891445.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.

[User Picture]From: dizzykj
2013-09-16 15:58 (UTC)
It is also important to give these incorrect times based on a genuine misunderstanding of distance - you have to *believe* that it is only a quarter mile from Elephant to Borough.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2013-09-16 18:37 (UTC)
AHAHAAA. I'm afraid I won't be able to feign that in London. Birmingham, however, provides a fresh playing ground for misperceived distances!
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[User Picture]From: dizzykj
2013-09-17 01:49 (UTC)
I really did think this was true until nanila called me on my "about a quarter-mile" descriptions about a year ago. (I then looked up my apartment to Borough Market and it was about a mile and quarter... I learnt never to question nanila's judgment again.)
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[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2013-09-16 17:24 (UTC)


Also, you will have to say the words "you go along" in directions giving. You go along (the road that splits/ changes names/ curves back on itself/ whatever) and then in five minutes' walk you...

And you will have to know what that means! As if I would know what that would mean!

My Scottish BFF came to Chicago once, and said she could not understand how we know where anything is based on the grid/block system. I was like... you know the E/W N/S street system and you... count? the blocks? She looked bemused. I also pointed out in Chicago you also know which way the lake is, and the Sears Tower, and you know where you are... she still looked confused.

It reminds me of a great article I read where the authir argued that Plains Indian Sign Language never really died out when English was introduced as a trade language. It remains in use in things like direction giving. But if you haven't been raised to understand the habits of direction giving, you don't know gestures have meaning in them that is important. So you might miss information about distances and turns and things. And if you do know it, you don't realize other people really don't know it, so you go around giving visiting people directions that they can only half follow.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2013-09-16 18:41 (UTC)
And then when you arrive at the seven-street intersection on the roundabout that you can't cross on foot, you burst into tears! AUGH.

Trying to understand my directions without the benefit of seeing all my hand gestures must be absolutely impossible. I'm halfway to full Brit obfuscation already.
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[User Picture]From: alice_mccoy
2013-09-16 21:13 (UTC)
You want to go where?... ohhh well you don't want to start from here. :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2013-09-17 09:23 (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2013-09-16 21:24 (UTC)
This also happens in New Zealand, generally with regard to nature walks or hikes. If someone tells you it's just a short hike, really, no trouble at all, your parents with severe back problems can definitely do it no problem? It is 4 miles each way up an extremely steep grade and may god have mercy on your soul.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2013-09-17 09:34 (UTC)
*nods* It's the same with Tube journeys here. It can be an absolute nightmare getting in/out of Tube stations especially during busy times, and a journey that an able-bodied person would consider easy can be terribly draining and painful for a person who isn't.
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[User Picture]From: thekumquat
2013-09-18 12:56 (UTC)
I find that it hugely varies - people who walk most places (many seasoned Londoners. Not many others) will be accurate to the half-minute.

People who drive most of the time have no bloody clue, or worse, assume you're driving so assure you something will only be two minutes away as it never occured to them one might work. I've learnt to check for that one as soon as I venture out of zone 2...

IME, same problem in America - New Yorkers will generally be accurate for walking, everyone else assumes you are driving. To be fair, the guy in Austin who assured us our hotel complex was only 10 minutes walk from the rare books depository was correct - it just then took 45 minutes to cross the road!

To be properly English, though, you need to give directions in terms of no-longer-existent landmarks, like the Nag's Head roundabout in North London, branches of Woolworths, and where Auntie Mabel had a funny turn that time (Auntie Mabel being 30 years deceased). Though older people seem to do that everywhere.
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