RU Abroad with Iriss: Hello From the Other Side

Has it really been a week? Am I really living in England right now? Is it really only £5 to get to London one way? WHAT IS LIFE.

telephone booth

Each night I fall asleep thinking one or all of these things. In the morning when I wake up and look out my window to see the same cloudy sky and damp grass I think them again. The grey, windy and uninviting view reminds me that I am in a different time zone, continent and country. It feels amazing. (Plus it makes for great conversation. English weather versus Canadian weather? I’ll take this rain over below 0 temps.).

Before I go any further, let me clarify some things for the sake of being politically correct. I quickly learned from the locals what the difference is between British and English:

British – This is used when talking about the people/culture who live in Great Britain or the United Kingdom (which is composed of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

English – Refers to people (or culture) who live in England.

It’s an important distinction! We tend to generalize English culture as British culture, but this isn’t the case.

Now that we’re on the topic of cultural differences and usage of terms, let’s get to the juicy part: what are the differences between Canadian and English culture?  I have heard from Canadian exchange students and tourists that there are very few. As a Canadian born and raised in Toronto, here is my list of key similarities and differences (in no particular order):


  1. Multiculturalism – Right now I am living in a town of less than 200,000 people and I have seen more nationalities than I can count! DIVERSITY ROCKS.
  2. Punctuality – People like to be on time and expect you to be on time especially for lectures (I won’t test this – I start classes this week).
  3. Manners and courtesy – Queues (the word for line-ups) are very important here, and I would say this reigns true in Toronto as well. You are expected to line up in an orderly fashion and wait your turn! Additionally, everyone is generally polite – say thank you to the bus driver when you get off, hold the door open for your mate behind you, say sorry if you bump into someone.
  4. Independence – People have no problem making decisions that are best for them and don’t mind being alone (in fact I think alone time is savoured).Pints


  1. Pubs / Happy hour / drinking / PUBS – There is one on every block and they all serve fish and chips. This is not an exaggeration. You’ll find families enjoying a meal together or students chatting over half-price pints of cider. Drinking is a lot more common and widely acceptable. Even if alcohol isn’t your fancy you can order a glass of coke and enjoy a good conversation with new friends. The pub symbolizes the social aspect of English culture and I love it! I feel that warmth and friendliness in every pub I’ve gone to.
  2. Language – Naturally, the English use different words to refer to different things. Here’s a quick list (off the top of my head):
    • “Elevator” = “lift”
    • “Queue” = “line-up” (as I mentioned)
    • “I’m irked/annoyed” = “I’m crossed”
    • “I locked the door” = “I put it on the catch”
    • “Hi how are you?” = “Alright?” (to which you respond with ‘alright!’)
    • THE PRICE OF CERTAIN THINGS – Ok I am well aware that our dollar is in the trenches right now but I can’t believe how affordable some groceries are. For example, I can get a few litres of skim milk for under $1.60 and a litre of olive oil for under $3 CAD. (Note that I am in a small town – I wouldn’t be able to find these prices in London!) You know what else is awesome? FLIGHTS. Guess who’s going to Scotland!!!!

ryan airRyanair is a Godsend.

Also, I recently got a simcard from a company called Three.    

For £20/month (pay-as-you-go) I get 300 calling minutes, 3000 texts, unlimited data in the UK and 12GB of roaming in some EU countries. (!?) I swear I wasn’t paid to promote them, it’s just an amazing deal.

The other day my roommate and I (who is also from Ryerson and in FCAD woohoo) had a great conversation with some locals about Canadian culture. They really wanted to know if we said ‘eh’ all the time. We talked about our cultures and how they are portrayed in mainstream media. It was refreshing and also opened my eyes to how easy it is to stereotype a group of people. History tells us that perpetuating negative stereotypes can be dangerous and costly.

If you read up until this point I want to congratulate you and also apologize for writing so much (can you tell I’m a communication major?). Thanks for taking the time out of procrastinating (hardy har) to reflect with me!

One last thing though – being Canadian is awesome. The English really like us. It’s a good thing I packed all my Roots and Hudson’s Bay gear eh? #TeamCanada

Until next time,