My friends from home always ask me how much I like hearing British accents 24/7. I love the British accent, especially when there is a little bit of Cockney mixed in, but sometimes I get so confused because I just cannot understand what people are saying. Often I wonder if people think that I am hard of hearing because it always takes me a couple of seconds to process what my friends/the grocer/my Creative Writing professor said, and in a lot of cases, the language barrier halts me from comprehending what they were trying to say. I usually laugh off these moments in my head, but there is one situation in particular that is so funny that it has to be mentioned.
I was born in Putney, a district in south London, and moved to my current town in Virginia when I was 8 years old. My parents are both American though, so I am extremely lucky in the fact that I have dual citizenship with America and the UK. Because of this, I knew it would be relatively easy for me to apply for a job since I wouldn’t have to apply for a visa like my peers. I live about five minutes away from Kensington High Street, which has a lot of popular shops so I figured that I could easily get a job working in retail.
Oh, if that were only the case.
The third day of living in London, I eagerly made my way to Urban Outfitters to apply for a job. Urban Outfitters is an American retailer and a store that I visit frequently when I am at home. I naively assumed that my “American-ness” would result in a job being offered to me on the spot – Urban Outfitters revels in offering alternative fashions and I figured that my being American would be considered ‘alternative.’ My friend Catherine and I got to the store, and I walked straight up to the woman at the cash register to ask for a job application.
Cashier: You don’t need to fill out an application, just drop off your CV and we will check it out.
The cashier had a really strong accent, and since we had only been there a few days, I couldn’t interpret it as well as I can now (or like to think that I can, at least). On top of that, she had mentioned something called a “CV.” I felt an immense panic as I realized that I had no idea what a CV is, and I would have to broadcast this to a woman whom I was trying to get a job from.
Kendall: I’m sorry, could you repeat what you just said?
Cashier: You just need to bring in your CV!
Now I am fumbling for words and look like I have no idea how to speak. I was so panicked that I didn’t understand what a CV was, and was mentally chastising myself for not googling “how to get a job in the UK” before I ventured to Urban Outfitters. That search may not have garnered any results but hey! I would look less like an idiot than I currently did.
Kendall: A CV?
Cashier: …Yes, you need to bring a CV
Kendall: I’m sorry but I don’t know what that is…
Never in my life have I seen someone look at me with such a look of confusion and “what the heck??” on their face. On top of feeling incompetent, I was also now incredibly embarrassed. I realized that it was probably because a CV was a government issued document – something all citizens seeking employment had to fill out before physically applying for the job itself. Of course I didn’t have this document because I had only just arrived in the country and had not received such important governmental forms.
Kendall: Ohhh! Do I have to get that from a government office somewhere? Or can I just print one out online? Can YOU give it to me?
Uh oh. Whoopsies, guess it wasn’t a government issued document, and why had she looked so appalled when I asked if she could give me one to fill out?
Cashier: Ahh. Give me one second; I’ll be right back!
Alright. I stood at the register, my face getting hotter by the second as I grew more embarrassed. I could already see my friendly cashier friend talking to the other sales associates after I left, “did you see that American that came in? She had NO idea what a CV is! … What a nutcase!” She was back fairly quickly and had a stack of papers stapled together in her hands. Here it was, the moment when I, Kendall Kidder-Goshorn, would finally understand what a CV was! Full of excitement, I leaned over the counter to see the stack of papers she was showing me to see…
Kendall: A resume!! (no wonder she looked at me so weirdly when I asked if she could just give me one!)
Cashier (laughing, thank goodness): Ah, yes, that’s what your lot calls them. Well just bring one in and we will contact you if we have any openings!
I thanked her, grabbed Catherine – who was leisurely checking out the sweater display – and high-tailed it out of there before bursting into laughter on the high street. Catherine and I still joke about it even now – my first experience of a language barrier, and while I am trying to get a job at that!
P.S. I just got back from spending my fall break in Naples, Italy visiting my Uncle and his family! It was a great trip – I had a wonderful time seeing the first Greek inland settlement at Cuma, walking through the Volcano Solfatara and eating locally caught octopus (woah!) at the Bay of Pozzuoli. Something that I will always remember from this trip, though, has absolutely nothing to do with ancient ruins or active volcanoes – it has to do with a bathroom! I was going to take shower, and quickly glanced at the water knobs to see that they had a “C” and an “H” engraved on them. The “C” was on the left side; the “H” was on the right. I turned the right-handed knob to get the water all nice and hot, and then I waited. About a minute went by and the water was still freezing! After a few minutes of shivering in my towel, I turned the “H” knob to off, and turned the “C” knob so that water came out of the spigot. I thought to myself that this was pointless – that was the “C” and everyone knows C=cold, but then, the water coming out was HOT. I looked at the knobs again, and realized that I glanced too quickly at the water knobs – the “H” (which I thought stood for hot) was actually an “F.” The F stood for frigido, the Italian word for cold, and the C stood for calda, the Italian word for hot; in my haste to take a shower I forgot to consider the fact that I wasn’t in an English speaking country. I told my uncle this story the next morning over breakfast, and he enlightened me by saying that it is almost universal that the left knob is hot water, and the right knob is cold. Interesting, huh?