Sign up for my newsletter and get a free chapter from English Lessons! Click here.

this is a page for

Category: Older Posts

Rambling, the Walking Kind: English Lesson 9

The English are expert walkers. They’re just good at it and know how to enjoy it. While we here in the States are good “power walkers,” I admire the English for their rambling: a term for a long nature walk (or that is how I’ve self-defined it), which is a common pastime for many. They put on their Hunter wellies, grab their spaniel’s leash (along with their spaniel, of course) and, rain or shine, head out for a long walk along the river, or across open farmland or through a gem…

Beans on Toast: English Lesson 8

(I’m no foodie and have no intention of making this a foodie blog, but here’s my foodie opinion on England.) I don’t know if it’s a tragedy, disappointment or just down right luck that I spent a year in England without trying the very English dish of Beans on Toast. My American roommates arrived in the country two weeks before I did and, of course, already had adventures to tell of. One was of eating an English breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal. I love all breakfast food: eggs, cereal, pancakes, french…

Beautiful Disaster, Part II: English Lesson 7

As mentioned in previous post, I have the type of hair that responds to the elements. If the elements are humid, my hair rebels against the half hour I spent straightening it with my flat iron that morning. And England was often humid, well, England was often raining which equals ultimate humidity. So riding a bike/walking everywhere meant my hair was constantly at the mercy of this wet climate. No matter how carefully I straightened it before going somewhere, it was inevitably wavy upon arrival. I found some ways to help: wearing a beanie and tucking all of my…

Beautiful Disaster: English Lesson 6

Disclaimer: the above picture was not the bike I used in Oxford (unfortunately). Somehow over the course of a full year in which I spent more time on a bike than I ever thought I would, in which my beautiful, old and used, high handle-barred blue beauty of a bike became practically one with me, somehow I managed to not take one single picture of it nor with it. A tragedy. So the above picture will have to do. This is a collapsable bike that looks cool but I heard makes finding your center of gravity very difficult and…

University Life: English Lesson 5

I was extremely nervous before my first class of graduate school. Not only was it graduate school, but it was graduate school in a foreign country. For all I knew, in England they expected their students to walk around reciting Shakespearean sonnets or give impromptu speeches in the courtyard about the parallels of Ulysses and The Odyssey. (I also assumed they would have an area on campus called the “courtyard.” I think I drew this conclusion from a scene in a Harry Potter movie.) To my relief, class at Oxford-Brookes University where I did my master&#8217…

Tea: English Lesson 4

This post will be short and simple. The English love tea. I don’t have much else to say about it, but I can’t glaze over that important and deeply ingrained tradition as I reflect on my English lessons. For a while, I insisted the English love for tea was a direct parallel to the United States’ love for coffee. It’s not. And as an outsider, the tea culture remains difficult to grasp. Some key points about tea I picked up on: It’s comforting. It’s social. It’s ritualistic…

Greeting Rituals: English Lesson 3

Last post I touched on my experience with meeting people in England, which starkly contrasted the customary greeting rituals ingrained in me during my Texas upbringing: big smiles, hearty handshakes, high-pitched voices (if you’re female) and an obligatory exchange of what your names are, what you do and where you are from. These three basic questions are just as natural as saying “hello” and “nice to meet you.” The entire ritual should be performed in a very kind and slightly bubbly manner. For weeks as I met people in various social settings, I…

Playing It Cool: English Lesson 3

In my last post I mentioned having learned to “contain myself when possible” within the first few months, probably weeks, of moving to Oxford. The English, I noted, are not a particularly loud bunch. (Kate Fox refers to English mildness as a key social characteristic in her Watching the English.) And I am not a particularly loud person. In fact, I would never characterize myself as loud period. But in England, suddenly my volume rose by 50%. Or maybe the volume around me decreased by 50%. I think the latter. I would find myself in a circle of…

Microwaves, or Lack Thereof: English Lesson 2

One of my Subway lessons taught me that these new people did not prioritize convenience in the way I did. I believe this to be the most difficult lesson for Americans in particular–a culture so focused on making things faster and easier and then a little faster and even easier–to learn when moving overseas. At least it was for me. It hit me the hardest in the form of a microwave, or lack thereof. After living in Oxford for three months, I moved into a house with two native English girls. With me, I brought a…

Subway Part II: English Lesson 1

Subway in England comforted me. During my first Oxford adventure–studying abroad for a semester in 2006–my friends and I once walked 45 minutes just to eat there and feel like we were at home. Oxford has other American chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and Burger King, but since I never go to those fast food places in the States, I didn’t get excited to see them overseas. In fact, it made my heart sink a little. Subway on the other hand was a relief to have in Oxford, or so…