A Year in England: First London Adventures

When we watched The King’s Speech, a lot of England memories came up (maybe triggered by the setting and phrases like “Clapham Junction” (where my agency was located)).

Inspired by Jen, I am going to re-visit my year in England here.

It all started during my internship in Albany, New York (May 2008 – I think?). I loved my experience in Albany and would love to work at a school like that (but there aren’t any in Kitchener-Waterloo area; there are similar ones in Toronto but more out in western Canada). Anyway, I remember waking up at 3-4 AM to do an interview for a school in England – can’t remember which one. It was when I realized that in September, I could be in England. This interview was unsuccessful.

A week or two before TM and I left for our “around-the-island” tour of Taiwan, I received another call for an interview. It was around 3-4 AM again, due to the bloody time difference, but it was a pleasant interview. I felt relaxed and both SM and PE seemed really nice (they were!). Although, it took me a while to fully understand that I got a job. Not just a job, but a job in England! This meant I was moving to England before September.

It’s like people moving to Japan or Taiwan to teach English, except people in England speak English. In that way, it was less intimidating because the similar language. Although, there were still a few things I had to learn:

  • Obviously, the most important one is loo = toilet.
  • Rubber = eraser (important for teaching).
  • Pencil crayons = colours (I got a bunch of weird looks when I said pencil crayons).
  • Chips = fries, Crisps = chips.
  • Fit = handsome/cute (my students asked me if my partner was fit, I was thinking to myself, “well he walks everywhere but he is not super built”… yes, that also created some confusion).
  • This is a huge one, it determines whether you are British or not, it’s maths NOT math (which actually makes sense to me, mathematics has a “s” at the end), anyway, I had to say “I am a maths teacher” instead of “math teacher”.
  • Trainers = running shoes (was quite confused during my first week of school when teachers told me to watch out for trainers; kids had to wear black dress shoes).

There is more, but these are the ones that I can remember.

Hammersmith, London, England

This was where I stayed before I settled in Medway, Kent. The agency I went with, Impact Teachers, set their teachers up in specific hostels in London.

I arrived on a weekend, so I had to figure out how to transport myself to the hostel. The first obstacle was figuring out the money (the most confusing thing for me was the shape of a 5 pence coin looked EXACTLY like a dime) and how to buy a ticket for the tube. The actual tube ride wasn’t too bad, I was amazed at the London transportation system. It was so easy to get to places and once I figured out the Oyster Card, it was even more amazing!

Street in London, near the British Museum

I felt that most of Europe was so walk-able! I didn’t feel confined in the sense that I couldn’t go anywhere, I did feel that everything was so close together and everything was smaller. (One thing both TM and I noticed when we landed in Canada – more specifically in Alberta – was the change in space; after landing in Alberta, we both felt this loosening feeling, like our bodies and minds expanding because of more space and being able to see far across the land.)

I met a fellow teacher, who was teaching through the same agency, at the hostel. It was good that we got put together. SJE and I did a lot of exploring together the first few days. It felt nice to have someone there – we got lost together, we went to McDonald’s almost everyday together because that was the only place open late that had Wi-Fi (the hostel’s Wi-Fi was down), we tried to figure out the bus system together… I wouldn’t have done as much exploring as I did if it wasn’t for SJE. It was definitely nice to have a fellow Canadian around – I was missing home especially after hearing news of my best friend’s engagement.

The British Museum, London

Museums in England were awesome! They were also free! There were so many different exhibits and you could spend days at the British Museum. My other favourite museum was the Victoria Albert Museum.

Double Faucet; One of the pictures I took the first two days in England

There were many things I enjoyed about my year in England. However, one thing I never understood was the double taps. Ok, it wasn’t that I didn’t understand it – someone did explain it to me – something about conforming to the regulations. It was just plain annoying. I like being able to create warm water with one tap!



    • More will come to me. Definitely created many funny moments.

      Oh right, they also say oregano differently. It’s more like oh-ree-gan-oh instead of “eh”-sounding e.

      Of course, “quid” was a new word for me too.

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