Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An American's Guide to 'Speaking British'

As I get ready for my upcoming trip to London, I've started brushing up on my British English language skills. "What? British English language skills? Don't the Brits speak English?" While the Brits do in fact speak English, you'll find that it's not quite the same English that we speak here in the States.

So before you pack up your briefcases, suitcases and backpacks, take the time to review some of these popular British words, phrases and slang or else risk making an arse out of yourself across the pond.

  • 24 Hour Clock: Americans know it as "military time", but don't refer to it that way in the UK. This is particularly useful when navigating public transportation as well as hours of operation for tours, museums and shops.
  • Bank Holiday: Make sure you aren't out and about during a "bank holiday." Banks of course, and most businesses are going to be closed. Bank holidays include New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, two Bank Holidays in May, one in August, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
  • Big Issue: If a homeless person comes up to you shouting "Big Issue!", don't fret. "Big Issue" is the UK equivalent to the "Spare Change" newspaper, which discusses the issues surrounding homelessness. The homeless people generally make about a quarter for each issue they sell, so don't be afraid to help them out.
  • "Last Orders Please!": "Last Call" in a bar. Order your last beverage now! The bartender will then shout "Time!", which means that it's too late to order another drink. You now have about 20 minutes to finish your drink. This time period is known as "drinking up time."
  • Fag: Cigarettes.
  • Cinema/Film: If you want to go and see a movie at the movie theater...you really want to go see a film at the cinema.
  • Fruit Machine: Slot machine.
  • Cashpoint Machine/Hole In The Wall: ATM
  • Holiday: Once you arrive in customs, the customs agent might ask you the purpose of your visit. If you're on vacation, avoid confusion and say that you're on "holiday."
  • Lift: If you're looking for an elevator, you should probably ask where the "lifts" are instead.
  • Mobile: Cellular phones
  • Notes: Bills (paper money) are referred to as "notes".
  • Post: In the UK, the mail is known as "the post." The post arrives in the morning. You can drop it off in a postbox located on the street corner.
  • Pub: The pub is the cornerstone of British social life. Every town has at least one. Locals frequent their neighborhood pub for a pint and a pie.
  • Queue: In the UK you never "stand in line." Instead you "queue."
  • Reception: Need fresh towels brought up to your hotel room? Don't bother looking for the number to the lobby. You're far more likely to find the number to "reception."
  • Shopping Trolley: Shopping cart
  • Tube: In London, the subway is referred to as "the tube" or simply as "the underground."
  • Way Out: Don't freak out if you can't find "the exit." Look for signs that say "way out," and you'll be just fine.
  • Loo: Looking for the bathroom? Ask where you can find "the loo," toilet or restroom. You might see signs that say "WC" or "water closet."

Knowing these basic British words and phrases will help you get by on your trip to the UK. Don't worry if you can't remember all of them. Chances are, someone will know what you're getting at if you mistakenly ask where the "bathroom" is. Just be prepared for a funny look or raised eyebrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Troop Goes On, Man.

Planning for the next extended troop has begun!

Destination: Austria, Czech Republic, and London
Departure Date: May 25th (T-minus 47 days)
Preparedness Level: Extremely Low (plane tickets purchased)
Excitement Level: Bipolar?

I'm not quite sure what is wrong with my troopin lil' self! I should be over the moon with anticipation and excitement. When I purchased my plane tickets, I almost started doing cartwheels through my office, whilst yelling at the top of my lungs: "See you later SUCKERS! I'm going to PRAGUE.  That is a Czech word for I won't have to work for over a week and a half!"

I'm in the lull right now. That ugly, dark place that every pre-traveler experiences, where the booking high has diminished, and you still have T-minus 47 days until you can actually do cartwheels around your office.

For the more seasoned traveler, this also seems to be when the conflict begins: to plan or not to plan? Past experience tells me the planning will help me maximize the number of sites, towns, and countries I will be able to see. It will keep my blood pressure down - that's right I'm an old 27 year old. Finally, it will also ensure that I don't have to sleep in a bed with questionable stains on the sheets (true story from one night in Barcelona - GOD BLESS DreamSacks and liquor).

On the other hand, not planning has led to some of my truly great travel experiences. I have also found that accommodations found on location can be higher quality and cheaper. Compared to anything found through TripAdvisor.com, hotels.com or the Lonely Planet guidebook - I mock, but they are actually a decent resource/starting point.  And haven't always led me astray. 

For those with unlimited monetary resources, it is very unlikely that this is a concern, but for the budget traveler, the question remains: Plan or No Plan?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Traveling with Cash or Credit?

Ah, one of the age old questions when it comes to traveling; a quandary as perplexing as the chicken or the egg… okay, maybe not age old, but certainly an issue worth addressing.

To be fair, and to be honest, there is not one right answer to this question. Traveling with cash boasts advantages and disadvantages, depending upon where you are. When traveling internationally, we have all been warned to keep personal belongings protected and in the line of sight. While this warning should truly be heeded anywhere, traveling with cash will serve you well in many foreign countries. For example, in many parts of Africa local currency is the monetary measure that will reward you with the most lucrative deals.

However, traveling with credit cards in your possession is generally always a smart idea. Unfortunately, you could become one of the unlucky souls that is blindly robbed of all of your cash. When I was abroad in Paris, I sadly encountered such an experience in an Internet café. I never even realized that anything had been snatched from directly beneath my nose until a couple of hours later… so much for booking that trip to Italy! Yet, I was saved by the backup credit cards that I had brought along with me until I could re-establish the source of my cash flow.

Filling out credit card applications can help you to determine which card may most optimally benefit your traveling needs. As there are a variety of credit card options available today, including those boasting low APR, rewards, and balance transfers, it can be difficult to decide which card will be most suitable for your unique situation. Allow yourself the opportunity of traveling affordably and of benefitting from your adventures by taking the time to fill out a credit card application.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dominican Dreaming

Last week, I experienced my first island adventure.. well, other than Nantucket and Coronado. No offense to either as they are both absolutely beautiful and unique places, but the Dominican Republic represented my first trip to white sand beaches and clear blue waters. I felt like I was in a Corona commercial.. except the beach buzz was fueled by banana daiquiris and Presidente beers. While we weren't exactly roughing it or participating in a true sense of travel, it was still nothing short of amazing. I'm not one for swimming, but I am definitely one for appreciating the beauty of natural scenery.

I won't babble on about my experiences in this post, but will leave you with some captivating imagery instead.. enjoy!

Ocean view at Paradisus Palma Real
Beach at Paradisus Palma Real
Beach tents at Paradisus Palma Real
Hidden beach bed at Paradisus Palma Real