Back with some more American English vs British English confusion I’ve encountered since moving to England.
Do you know what I mean when I talk about breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Just in case you don’t, in the correct order, I mean the morning meal, the midday meal, and the evening meal. Pretty basic English, right? Actually, I often find these exact words adopted in other languages to mean the same thing, so it seems pretty universal. Or so I thought until I moved to England. Here they call the midday meal ‘dinner’ and the evening meal ‘tea’. Breakfast is still breakfast, phew at least I got that right.
Whenever we try to arrange who gets what lunch hour at work, my coworkers are always talking about their ‘dinner’. They will ask if I had had my ‘dinner’ yet. Which is just so strange if dinner exclusively means evening meal in your head, and it’s only 12:30 in the afternoon. I had a contractor on the phone once, who needed to come to the bank to fix something and he asked if it was ok if he came around dinner time. Since the bank closes before 5 pm, obviously I told him that that would be too late, since we never open in the evenings. After he understood my confusion he told me he meant 12 in the afternoon…
During one of my work training sessions, when we first moved here, we would play warm-up games. To sort us into groups the trainer told us to stand in alphabetical order of some topic, for example your favorite color or vacation spot. At one point, the topic was whatever tea we were going to have that night. Now, I am quite used to flavored tea, we have quite a large variety of tea flavors in the Netherlands. Most of them fruity. My favorite cactus flavor is actually a bit exotic and unusual. But not nearly as unusual as the flavors my English fellow trainees were coming up there and then: pizza, fish and chips, and soup?! What the…? I was thoroughly confused and disgusted. Took me a while to figure out that ‘tea’ meant dinner. And no, I was not going to have strawberry tea for dinner, seems I had confused them as well with my answer.
Of course, after a while you get more used to these differences, but I don’t think I’ll ever start calling lunch ‘dinner’, nor dinner ‘tea’.