How to Survive in Wales: My Vocabulary

I was sitting in a bar in Cardiff, Wales during a language exchange evening when I saw a man who’d been missing for a while.

“Have you been traveling?” — I asked the man.

“Yes, I’ve been to England.”

“Where you think we are now?”

“Well, now we are in Wales.”

Thus, during my first two months volunteering in Cardiff I noticed three things. First, that I’m apparently the only Ukrainian in the country (though Polish sometimes call me in the streets I’ve no idea what they say). Second, just like my grandma locals start to prepare for Christmas in late August. And third, that Wales is actually a country with its very own kinks, dragons and languages.

Apart from fairy-like proper Welsh (try to order a taxi to the village Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch), this place has its own set of English phrases which might make your life easier:

“Don’t Worry, Love” — expression traditionally used by bus drivers and officials. During my first days in UK it got to mean anything from “I will help you load your luggage and who cares 3 suitcases are technically forbidden by rules” to “your Ukrainian passport is so cute I’m gonna let you in our country without even looking at your criminal record and tuberculosis test results”.

Jaywalk — a special art of crossing the street at the most inconvenient and dangerous place possible. In Wales it is not a crime to cross the streets. However it is a special art which took me a while to learn. In order to do that you need to put your best “VIP” look on your face, make sure there are not many cars around, jump away from a double-decker bus that’s flying into you from the right. Take a breath after a mini-heart attack caused by the bus and proceed across the street.

“Would you like to travel abroad?” — our NGO asks people at student fairs and in 80% the answer is “no”. It either means “no, thank you, we’ve already traveled around for the past 10 centuries” or “no, thank you, we’ve just arrived here and spent too much time and money squeezing in UK with all its paperwork in the first place.”

“Look at that building, dad. Isn’t that FANCY?” — children in Wales talking like Queen Mother or characters of Charles Dickens. Mystery.

Now to a delicious topic of treats. At home (which is Kharkov, Ukraine) I was scared into thinking that I’m moving to the territory of expensive food made of plastic, machine oil and distilled whiskey.

The very first rainy September day in Cardiff disproved it all. I not only went to the Central Market and bought half a kilo of fresh strawberries for 50p, but also sat in a bar in a grand former theater building, and it cost less than Mcds.

To sum up food vocabulary:

A former theater, now pub

Wetherspoon — is a kind of pubs that usually locate in ex libraries, theaters, men clubs and other posh-like places. Offer discounts to youngish-looking people. You can sit in an armchair drinking a cup of normal (not instant like everybody’s drinking here!)coffee for 90p. Pubs don’t have music, and some people come here to study or make workshops and such.

Jacket Potato — alternative to fish&chips (which by the look of litres of magma-like oil and breadcrumbs, comes straight out of vegan’s nightmares), baked potato is less dangerous option that’s actually also served in most bars. It’s a huge potato with toppings ranging from chicken and beef mince to chili, curry, beans and cheese and vegetables and a lotus flower on the top (last one only in fancy places).

Beer — is not an actual word in Wales. Instead you should memorize:

Ale, Pale Ale, Bitter — what I call “light beer”.

Porter, Stout — looks like oily black coffee. I guess tastes the same, as after this drink most of people around me become agitated and full of energy to do ridiculous things.

Ginger Ale — either beer or cider, who knows and who cares if it’s tasty.

Pub: a place to drink and study

As for the desert:

Welsh cake — I think it is called “cake” with the purpose of disinformation of the “enemy”. Welsh cake is actually a mix between a cookie and a pancake, presumably baked with flour made by elves with addition of spices and jams.

And the last, but most important:

Cymru — means “Wales” in welsh. Although it sounds like a car model, it is an actual country and the only one in the world with a red dragon on its official flag. Like that little girl told her father “how fancy is that.”