Blog,  Expat Life

Same language, different ballgame

I asked at reception for a plaster. The young woman at the desk shot me a blank look and shifted uncomfortably in her chair before giving a little cough and asking if I’d like an elastic band.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his piece is for anyone who’s ever thought that speaking the same language guarantees you’ll be understood! You can find it over at Expat Quotes, a website dedicated to providing relevant information for expats and international travellers. Have a read and a laugh at my expense, and be sure to leave a comment about any misunderstandings you’ve encountered…


  • Judy

    Ha, ha! Remind me of calling to make an appointment with my family doctor when I first arrived in Canada. “What time’s surgery?” I asked in all innocence. “Surgery? You want surgery?” replied the astonished receptionist. 🙂 I’ve just finished reading “Single in the City” by Michele Gorman and she has some equally wonderful examples of linguistic misunderstandings going the other way (North America—>UK).

  • Anne O'Connell (@annethewriter)

    A plaster? That’s a new one on me! When I moved to Dubai I was surrounded by so many different cultures… including several ‘English’ speaking ones, who used some crazy words for things I thought were the same the world over. Not so! I’ll never forget the day I was chatting with a friend from Kenya who invited me for lunch. I was wearing shorts so I said, “Let me just go and get some pants on.” She looked at me puzzled and then burst out laughing. ‘Pants’ to her was ‘underwear’ and what I should have said in her vernacular was ‘trousers’. I started to go to bries instead of barbeques, wore running shoes instead of sneakers and dropped over to the neighbors (from Zimbabwe) for a ‘dop’ at happy hour. Putting things in the ‘bin’ took on a whole new meaning… and, dont’ get me started on the great Craic we had!

    Happy chatting!
    Anne 🙂

    • expatlogue

      Ever since a meeting with my eldest daughter’s teacher in which she commented on the temperature and her regret at not wearing pants, *snorts from behind tightly clamped hand* we have consistently enquired as to whether Mrs N remembered her underwear today – much to J’s weary annoyance!
      What’s a “dop”? Is it the same thing as a “drop” (of the strong stuff)?

  • petchary

    So true! I have had the same problem in Jamaica, although no longer. I used to put on a Cockney accent and call my work colleagues “mate” sometimes, for a laugh… Didn’t Churchill or someone say that the U.S. and England were two countries “divided by a common language”? When we were in Australia, it was even worse! Not so much accent, but so many funny words and expressions!!

  • Don

    I’m a bit late into this discussion. I am a Canadian and mentioned to a South African while touring in Switzerland after a busy day that “my dogs were barking”, which meant that my feet were sore. He was quite surprised when I explained it to him.

    • expatlogue

      I’ve never heard that one before! Thanks for sharing it with us. I get comments from so many Canadians in far-flung corners of the world; you guys sure love to travel but you always come home 🙂 Now, after living here for over two years, I can see why…

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