Category Archives: Living in the UK

Living in the UK – Some thoughts on food, books and my classes

Welcome back,

Now since I had a number of deadlines this week and I was a bit sick (I had a vertigo because of a blocked ear and had therefore an ear syringing – was ok ;-)), I can’t offer you any travel reports this time but I can offer you an insight into living in the UK and everything that comes with that, like buying and eating food or searching for a new book to read. I am sure you will find some things familiar if you have been to the UK before, but I am also sure you will learn something new too and hopefully enjoy reading it! 😉

Food is obviously always a big issue, but especially if you live in a country that offers food which his mostly different from the stuff you are used to at home, you will need some time to get used to it. What I can say about British supermarkets is that you won’t believe me what kind of awesome stuff they are selling here, and the good thing about it – it is very cheap compared to food sold in Austria. That might be one reason why every time I look into my basket before paying I say to myself “well, that escalated quickly…..”

Too much sweet stuff….

Another reason for this is certainly the fact that I always find something new I want to try in the sweets section, but I have to say that now (mid-March) I have control over it. Some of the most delicious things I have tried so far are Milky Way chocolate stars, Oreo Golden cookies, mint-flavored Aero bubbles and a Maltesers bunny (Easter is coming).

‘Spread’ is one of the words I have never used before I came here but is now quite important to me because I eat it every day. It refers to the paste you put on a toast or bread, you surely know the most famous one in Austria, Nutella. Here they sell hundreds (I am exaggerating) of different peanut butter spreads, but the coolest ones I found so far are Maltesers, Bounty, Cadbury and Twix spreads. I have tried all except for the Bounty one, and they are really good.

What amazes me  most is the variety of different hot chocolate drinks, which can be made with hot water. I have tried a lot of them like White Maltesers, Milky Way, Wispa (very bubbly), some mint and orange-flavored thing, but there are still so many to try.

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The selection of teas is simply amazing, I already bought more tea that I can drink during my stay here. But not everything is good, I have not told you about the cat food yet…

Cat food

Here they offer a huge selection of cans with everything you can imagine in them, I bought a chicken soup once in case I get ill. That was a very bad idea!  I will always remember that as the ‘cat food incident’: When I opened the can I thought omg this looks and smells like cat food. But I gave it a chance and prepared it in the microwave and tried it. I cannot say if it tastes like cat food because I have never tried cat food but I will certainly never try this soup again. I think cat food tastes like that…Now I really don’t understand why cats  eat this…

Tilda

Apparently British people  like Tilda Swinton – one of their fellow Brits – so much that they even name rice after her.I did not want to take a photo myself because I guess people would stare at me if I took a photo of rice in the supermarket….

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Crisps & Waste

Those were the positive aspects. However, this variety of great things apparently comes with a price: waste culture. Let me illustrate this by showing you how crisps look like here.

If you buy a bag of crisps (“Chips” in German) – usually 2 bags because you can have 2 for 2 pounds – and you open it you won’t find crisps. You will find five six smaller bags of crisps. It is double the amount of waste you produce if you buy one pack. The one shown on the photo below is rather small, about the size of crisps bags in Austria, but there are also much bigger ones which typically contain X2 salty x2 cheese and onion 2x salt and vinegar and sometimes 2x prawn. PRAWN??!? Yes, that is not a mistake. Prawn crisps. Why do they do that to those little creatures… I guess it is artificial flavor but still, the mere idea of turning a creature into crisps is kind of disturbing…..

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By the way, Chips (“Pommes”) are eaten with vinegar. Everything is eaten with vinegar. WHY??? I don’t like vinegar. But ok, if they like it…

Books

Before I went abroad I said to myself that I won’t buy books here because it is so annoying to get them back home. I did not stick to that. At all. You might know that I love CYAL ( children’s and young adult literature) and here you find a children’s books section everywhere! Every little bookshop such as the shop in Liverpool cathedral or Chester cathedral has a children’s books section. I found one in the Football Museum’s store as well, have a look at the photo below.

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I am particularly happy that I found a Shakespeare collection for children, I really love those books and I might find them useful for teaching in the future. I would have never thought that I would end up reading Shakespeare hear…what comes next? James Joyce? Äh..maybe not. Especially if there are no children’s editions.

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Another thing that is certainly very different here is teaching. I think I have already told you that I am doing five classes here, two of them being electives. Let me tell you a little bit more details about them.

English & Society

English & Society is a first-year Sociolinguistics course i have originally taken just because I had to find another course and this one was available to me and fit my schedule. You might think it is very basic and boring to me, but that is absolutely not true! While there are certainly many things I am already familiar with (and the teacher noticed that after thanking me for my active participation 😉 ), there are certain topics which are almost completely new like Language and Gender, which was very interesting and should definitely be a part of an introduction to Linguistics that features Sociolinguistics. Other issues were being discussed from a very different perspective compared to Vienna, especially since dialects have a very important status here. As David Crystal said, RP is not popular anymore, it does not even exist anymore. Another aspect is the fact that we have a 1-hour tutorial every week, which is basically a practical class – we analyze graphs and discuss certain aspects from the lecture. It is very similar to my ISL2 tutorial in Vienna, there is no repetition of content, but application of content, and now I experience it on the other side and see how very meaningful this is. For every course we have an online course on Blackboard – the Welsh Moodle – have a look at the screenshot below. It is – of course – bilingual.

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SLA and Language Teaching

SLA and Language Teaching is a course dealing with various aspects of bilingualism, language acquisition and language teaching, such as the Critical Period Hypothesis, Code-switching and native and non-native teachers of English. The session on the last mentioned topic was particularly interesting because this is such a controversial topic. The only thing I want to say about this is: Please ask yourself  if being a native-speaker of a certain language is something you decide yourself or something you are born with and cannot change….I guess you can imagine what I want to say, I am just pointing out the similarity to other discourses…problematic discourses…just saying…I won’t comment on this issue anymore because the discourse makes me a bit pissed. 🙂

Metaphor & Thought

This course mainly deals with metaphor and metonymy. At the very beginning I thought I was well informed about those because i have read so much about it, and many things were certainly familiar to me, but there are soooo many new aspects. For this course I have a tutorial every fortnight (tutorial = practical section with the teacher), where we practice the content with worksheets (as I said, very much like the ISL2 tutorial). It also inspired me to start with a certain project which I might tell you more about in the future…

Japanese

I do this course as an elective, it is taught by the ERASMUS coordinator and he is really cool! Most of the times we work with newspaper articles, we translate them in groups and then do some interactive stuff like playing out a dialogue. Yesterday I was the admin of JAXA (Japan’s NASA) talking English with a Japanese accent! But we also have more traditional lesson where we work with the book, but in general the atmosphere is rather relaxed and I feel very comfortable in the course.

Welsh

Welsh is communicative classroom, that means we are taught Welsh by the communicative method: Most of the time we learn constructions by practicing the pronunciation and using them by talking to fellow students. I really like it and I think I highly benefit from the class because I learn a lot for my own teaching. To show you what I have learned (and to show off a little bit) I write a short text about myself (without help): Alex dw i. Myfyriwr dw i. Dw i’n astudio Saesneg yn y Brifysgol ym Mangor. Dw i’n dwad o Awstria ond dw i’n byw yn Neuadd Kyffin ym Mangor. Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg yn Cymraeg i Oedolion yn Stryd y Deon. Dw i’n licio pêl-droed yn fawr! 😉

I hope you liked the blog entry, next time I will provide you with more interesting travel photos, but to finish this blog entry, have a look at the sunset I caught at the pier one week ago, it was amazing. 😉

Best wishes,

Alexandra

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Discovering Bangor & a lecture on Welsh history and culture

Welcome back!

If you have read my first entry you already know that my luggage got lost somewhere on my way from Vienna to Manchester. In this rather unpleasant situation I was forced to go shopping for toiletries and clothes mainly, but also for other stuff. That is what I basically did most of the time during my first week here, and of course discovering other parts of Bangor. I also attended a very interesting introductory lecture about Wales, I will share all insights I gained from this lecture in this blog entry as well. 🙂

Discovering Bangor

Shopping is usually a fun thing to do, but if you HAVE to do it, it becomes kind of…ok, no, to be honest it was still fun to buy everything I (thought I) needed. 😀 Thus, I got to know all the different shops in Bangor very soon, and there are a lot of them for such a small town: There are Topshop, H&M, Peacocks – sells very cool stuff, for instance Civil War pyjama pants, which I bought of course because I totally needed them…no really, I needed pyjama pants 😉 – and many more shops selling clothes. For food I went to Asda (which is very much like Interspar), Morrisons and Aldi (most of you know it as ‘Hofer’) and Lidl – It was very funny to see shops we have in Austria too, they look exactly the same but sell different products sometimes. The food is rather cheap here if you compare it to Austria, you can get a lot of stuff for just one pound (which is a bit more than one Euro) or even less.

I won’t bore you with photos or stories of buying toothpaste or detergent, no worries. 😉 I bought a lot of stuff, but maybe the most important things to me – which also made me feel more comfortable here – are my Bangor dragon plushy and some Wales Football merch, have a look at the pictures below to see it. The dragon is probably the cutest plushie I have ever seen and bought, they sell it at the International Office, so I guess it’s a must for Bangor exchange students. I feel honored to be allowed to live in one of the four best soccer nations in Europe, you know that I am a big Wales (the soccer team) and Gareth Bale fan so that stuff was also a must for me. I might also have the opportunity to play soccer here, at the moment I want to rest because of my ankle but I really want to play and will make all efforts I can to do that – you will learn about university sports clubs and societies and their importance here in future posts.

After discovering the central part of the city and the area around the university building (see photos below) I can say that there are as many seagulls in Bangor as there are doves in Vienna. I prefer the seagulls however, simply because they are laughing all the time.

I also found my way to the pier together with a friend. Have a look at the photos below to get an impression of the pier, maybe one of the most beautiful places here. It was a very sunny day, usually it’s rather cloudy, but my umbrella has been staying at the bottom of my backpack since I have arrived here – no (heavy) rain so far 😉

A lecture on Welsh history and culture

During the first week, which is called “Welcome Week”, we had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by a historian about Wales’ history and culture. The professor introduced us to the region by outlining the importance of slate in Wales and telling us a little bit about Wales past. He said that the castles in the Gwynedd region – the region Bangor is part of – were built by Edward I to impress people, and they certainly do. I hope I will see as many of them as possible soon. He briefly discussed the Celtic countries/regions/ languages and I was very surprised that Welsh, which is one of them, has the most native speakers of all Celtic languages, 20% of the three million inhabitants of Wales are native speakers of Welsh. Welsh is very important here in Bangor and Gwynedd, especially in the university context – I will provide more details on that in a future entry focusing on the academic part of my adventure – and you will certainly be surprised about the omnipresence of Welsh. 🙂

The professor – unfortunately I don’t know his name, but he is a local and very nice – also talked about the relationship between England and Wales and reminded us to never say that we are in England here. Wales is not England. Short but very important geographical note: Both Wales and England are part of the United Kingdom together with Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales is also part of Great Britain, which consists of Wales, England and Scotland (GB refers to the island, Northern Ireland is therefore not part of GB). “To insult a Welshman, call him an Englishman”, he said. He also remarked that there aren’t many Union Jacks here in Wales and as far as I can remember I have only seen one on a car but that was it. The red dragon is, of course, much more present.

As you might know, the Union Jack consists of St. Andrew’s Cross (Scotland), St. George’s Cross (England) and St. Patrick’s Cross (Northern Ireland) – Wales is not part of it. He provided us with a flag on which Wales is represented by the red dragon – have a look at the picture below – which, according to him, is meant as a joke, but I actually like it a lot. I certainly understand now why the Union Jack is not very popular in Wales. In the end I asked him about the Welsh Brexit vote and his reaction told me a lot: He was shaking his head and said he did not know what happened, especially since Wales (this region in particular) heavily relies on money coming from the EU. All in all, the lecture was very interesting and insightful to me, it answered many questions I had about Wales, but there are so much more yet to be answered.

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The Union Jack featuring Wales

I hope I could give you a good impression of my first week in Wales. It was probably not an exciting adventure this time but at the very beginning of such a long period far away from home – I will be here until June – it takes some time to get used to everything and shopping and walking around certainly helps a lot. Read my next blog entry to learn about my fantastic trip to Liverpool at the end of my first week here. 🙂

Best wishes,

Alex