Same Same . . . But Different

By , October 21, 2010 6:07 am

So, we have been here in Edinburgh for seven lovely weeks now and so many times I would find myself scratching my head and referring to a saying we heard while traveling through Asia – “Same same, but different”. That’s the only way I can describe this place.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean:


We have a fridge, but it isn’t a full size fridge like we know in the States. It is the size of a mini fridge (like in a hotel, or dorm room).

Here we have a washer/dryer combo but, because of the cost of electricity, nobody uses the drying option – so we hang everything to dry. Talk about a lesson in patience.

Here, we don’t have a “laundry room” or laundry in the bathroom. Our washer/dryer combo is in the kitchen – like everyone elses – right under the counter like a dishwasher.

Here we don’t have a central heating system. We don’t have simple baseboard heaters either. We have wall mounted storage heaters in each room, in which heat is stored through the night (when electricity is cheaper) and the heat is then released throughout the next day. This means we now have to get pretty good at predicting the weather otherwise you will be freezing your buns off or roasting them off.

In the States, the national government issued number that confirms your identity is a “Social Security Number”. The UK has something similar, but it’s called a “National Insurance number” or an “NI number”. But of course, to aid in the confusion, there is a second number needed – an NHS number “National Health Service” number . . . . confused? Yea, we were.

Here nurses do public health jobs – so much for my Master’s degree. In the UK, a “Human Services” degree is completely unknown – so much for my Bachelor’s degree (who knew a Masters of Social Work would be all the rave).

I got my “yearly” pap smear and they said, “Right-oh. Well, we’ll see you in 3 years . . .” That’s not yearly! What happened to every year getting one? In the UK, they don’t even do mammograms until you turn 50 (unlike the States when they start at age 35). Cholesterol is different here too! Our doctor actually told us not to worry about what we eat or how much we exercise, because NEITHER HAD A DIRECT AFFECT ON OUR CHOLESTEROL LEVELS!! (in the states, our doctors cited direct links between diet, exercise and cholesterol levels, and were quick to medicate if the levels went too high)

In Scotland, you can have all four seasons in one day. So far we have seen it be sunny one minute, cloudy the next, rain, and then have a beautiful sunset. All within an hour of each other – with a beautiful rainbow as well. We’ve really been prepared with our Seattlite attitude of: “. . . if it is raining, just wait 20 minutes”.

Here people buy stuff and keep the original boxes in storage (just in case). We had half a closet full of lamp boxes, a DVD player box, a telephone box, etc.

Here there are on/off switches on each of the outlets so when you aren’t using it, you can turn off the switch by the plug in (i.e. the stove, the washer, a lamp, etc.)

In Edinburgh, people play bagpipes on the street for money instead of guitars.

In the states, the big metal things you push around and put your groceries in are called “shopping carts” and the back wheels are fixed (like a car) and the front wheels turn. Here, they are called “trolleys” and all four wheels can rotate! Making it a bugger to push a cart if there is even a slight sideways incline. Even simply turning the cart is an exercise in upper body strength!

We were in the grocery store the other day and saw down the bread aisle that pancakes are sold prepackaged!! And, I don’t recall seeing any pancake mix down the baking aisle either!

Here regular mustard is English mustard (Coleman’s). If you want yellow mustard, like French’s, you have to ask for the “American Mustard”

And while we’re on the subject of grocery stores, here there aren’t any employees that bag groceries – you do it all yourself, and all the cashiers sit down while they check groceries.

The British palette for coffee is different as well. In coffee shoppes the barista coffee is so much weaker than what were used to. It’s not even worth buying a latte or a cappuccino because it will just taste like warm milk, even with extra shots.

At home we have lakes, here we have lochs (ever wonder where the “Loch Ness Monster” lives? That’s right, Loch Ness.)

Here, standard printer paper is 210mm by 297mm which in the U.S. would be 8.26″ by 11.6″ which makes it a bit interesting when my computer is not rigged up for those dimensions, or when asking someone where they keep the 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper . . .

“Mate” here means friend in Britain, back home it’s used as a verb.

Back home we say “cheers” when toasting a special occasion, here it is used to say “good-bye” or “thank you”.

In Britain, gas is petrol and is sold by the litre, not the gallon. It’s quite deceiving at 1.22GBP per litre. If you do the math, that is $7.27 USD per gallon – I would love to see the uprising in the states if we were to pay that much. But that’s not really a big deal, because in the UK, compact cars get an advertised average of 65 miles to the gallon!

When you apply for a job at home, you send a resume and cover letter, here you need to fill out a long application and do 1 to 2 essays on why you 1) think you will be the right person for the position and 2) what skills you possess with examples (which doesn’t make much sense since you just listed all of your skills in the application). Needless to say, applying for a job is quite tedious.

There aren’t any English muffins in England . . . go figure.

Here “Tea” can mean “a drink” as well as the evening meal. It’s very confusing to hear that someone finished having pasta, sausages or even a roast for “Tea”.

In the States, you have “Bars”. In the UK, we have “pubs”.

Speaking of pubs, there are no “happy hours” here. We’ve asked when happy hour is, only to be met with a blank stare and a look of confusion like we have lobsters coming out of our noses.

Here the malls close by 6 p.m. where at home it’s 9 p.m. Even pubs will close early (around 10 or 11 p.m.). I notice that a lot of places close when they feel like it and often there aren’t hours posted on the door. Even grocery stores close around 10 or 11 p.m. whereas they are all open 24 hour in the US.

At home it’s 6pm, or six o’clock. Here it’s 18:00. Americans call it “Military Time”, British (and most of the rest of the world) call it normal, and again, look at you with confusion.

Back home, everyone can join Costco. Here, you can’t go into Costco and just get a simple personal membership, you have to work for a qualifying company to buy a membership.

Here the pedestrian does not have the right away and you had better know that before you try to jay walk.

Here the emergency number is 999, and 112 for the police. Whereas in the States it’s 911 – jeez, I sure hope I can remember that if i need help.

This goes without saying, but they do drive on the wrong side of the road here if you ask me.

It’s true, most of the buses are indeed double decker, and I love riding on the 2nd level in the front seat.

In the states you enter a building on the first floor, go up a flight of stairs to the second floor, and so on. In Britain, you enter the building on the ground floor, then take the stairs to the first floor, and so on. It was ery confusing at first and sometimes I still don’t know what floor we actually live on.

Well, I think you get the idea. I will end by telling you another thing I find myself saying is, “there is no place like home”. Although we miss Seattle terribly – our friends, the city, the mountains and water, activities we love, jobs, we are making a go of it here. It’s really is “same same, but different”! But hey, we expected it to be, right?? We are still on our adventure and although it reminds us of home in so many ways, it is definitely a stunning and amazing city in it’s own right. We are looking forward to getting jobs and feeling more settled.

And we’re especially excited to start having visitors again . . . so if you find yourself heading to or through Scotland, do let us know, and we’ll show you the daily quirks in person!

4 Responses to “Same Same . . . But Different”

  1. Gillian says:

    It must be interesting figuring out what everything means! I’m sure you’ll sound like a local in no time. Cheers!

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Gillian – I’m glad you liked the post. I hope that you and Jason are doing well in Victoria and settling in to your own new adventures.

  3. Kenna says:

    Funny to read this…because Canada is a bit of a mash-up of the two!!

    I couldn’t live with the tiny fridge though…wow. We have far too many condiments and sauces for that. When I lived in france, we had a washer in the kitchen like that, so I remember doing my laundry that way and hanging EVERYTHING to dry.

    Glad petrol is expensive…it will discourage people from driving (we are far too spoiled in North America!)

    Take care!
    Kenna

  4. Brian says:

    Seeing all of that brings me back to the few years I spent in Germany. We always planned our shopping because there is no one stop shopping; the bakery, the meat shop, the market, the pharmacy, all in different shops. Here it’s all at the grocery store.

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