Bri’ishisms and the Housing Market


One pro that people keep touting in terms of our potentially moving to the UK is that people speak English, so we wouldn’t have to learn a new language. But this is problematic on two counts:


1. I don’t see not learning a new language as a pro at all, but a flat-out con. Oh, to speak fluent Español, Français! Italiano! I would love for us all to learn to roll our tongues just so or watch a Fellini film sans subtitles.

2. I don’t understand the English of the English. I’m not just talking about the accents in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I’m talking vocab. I’ve got boot, lift, and shag down. The rest is a mystery.

To wit, here is a typical property description of a house for sale on a British real estate website:


No upward chain! No upward chain!

The details:

Five Bedroom Detached Family Home
Chain Free
Three Receptions
Off Road Parking
Rear Garden

What the heck is an upward chain, why should I be excited not to have one–or any “chains” at all? And why are they going to give me three receptions when I buy their house? My wedding reception was enough reception for a lifetime!

Also, I am so glad this house has a “fridgefreezer,” but why does it not–as none of them seem to–have a dryer? How does one dry one’s clothes in England, when no one owns a dryer, and it rains every day?

In any case, the houses cost too much for us. I’m also skeptical that they’ll give us a mortgage with no UK credit rating. If one needs a “letter of introduction” to open a bank account there, what will they require for a mortgage?? The prices for rentals look, at first glance, quite reasonable. Only £615 for a cute little bungalow? Why, that’s not bad at all–that’s about $930. Even if it’s out in the burbs, and the house is not new or beautiful, still, it has 4 bedrooms and its own personal garage (sheer luxury for us–we have never ever had our own garage). But wait–what is this “pw”? Pretty well £615? Posh washrooms included? Alas, British rentals are listed per week. £615 = closer to $4000/month for a piece of crap. Which is better than any of the listings with prices “pppw.” Don’t you know it–per person per week. At 5 of us x whatever the price is = too much money.

Oh, boy. Housing is going to be fun. I think we’re going to need a translator. IF we go, that is . . .



4 responses »

  1. Translations:

    No upward chain: It means the buyer/seller has to sell their current property before they can purchase a new one or the person they’re buying/selling from or to has to, and so on. It’s said to be broken when one of the deals in the chain falls through meaning all the other sales/purchases in the chain can’t take place.

    Three receptions: A reception room is where one receives visitors. Or, it was in old-fashioned large houses where guests/visitors rarely saw the family’s own rooms. The words are used in house advertising to cover living-rooms, sitting-rooms, day-roms – and any other rooms with names which the estate agents can group in together under this catch-all term.

    Dryer: one hangs ones clothes to dry on drying racks. It works quite well and saves you money. And the colours don’t fade on your clothing.

    As for not understanding the English: you get used to it. I find it charming. It’s like learning a new language although it won’t help you much regarding the Fellini flick.

    As for living where you might be living, I would say no. You only have one life to live and why do it there. On the other hand, I live in Edmonton, so who am I to say. And we had five amazing years in London and two more in Cambridge… but that is not where you are headed…

  2. Well, look at you with your bicultural Englishes! Thank you, Lady Linda. All good things to know! As for the “where,” we wouldn’t live in the city, which gets quite a bad rap. There is a cute suburb (a little town unto itself–not like the characterless developments of North American exurbia) with a prize-winning farmers’ market, a big folk festival, lots of cafés and restaurants and pubs, and the school I’d send the boys to, which is academically excellent and beautifully multicultural. The town looks quite liveable, actually!–although I would check it out in person before deciding for sure.

  3. The no-dryer situation has caused me some problems in damp, damp Glasgow. The clothes only dry outside in the close (in the summer) or if we leave the heating on during the winter. My boyfriend (originally from the UK) was under the impression it was perfectly fine for jeans to take four or five days to dry – I disagreed, and now we dry them over the radiators.

    As for not understanding people, I (unsurprisingly) sometimes find the Glaswegian accent and vocab both hard to understand. “In a’hint”? “Crabbit”? “Stramash”? What now?

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