I had been learning English in school for nine years before I moved here and I was confident I’d be capable of having an everyday conversation. Turns out I was learning the wrong language the whole time. What people speak here is not English, it’s roadman.

But it’s calm, I’m slowly, but steadily becoming an expert.

After spending long hours wondering how specific phrases work, I can establish that speaking roadman is not as hard as it seems. The key for doing it right is always adding an extra word that always sounds British, but doesn’t always make sense. Some options you have: fam, bruv, lads, mate, honeyboo, babes, loves. It’s not too hard to figure out that they all refer to you, but one day I’m called fam, the other day love. Like, are we mates, are we friends, are we best friends, do you like me, do you love me? Make up your mind, mate. And the other thing is, let’s say I get a message saying “You up for a Tesco trip, babes?” I check who it is sent to. I check again. Me, only me alone. Still it says babes. In plural.

But well, allow it. Which reminds me… Anything happens, you just need to allow it. You ate two bars of chocolate? Allow it. You slept in and missed five classes? Allow it. You failed the test? Allow it. You got dropped out of uni? Allow it. You died? Allow it.

The other option to end sentences is to say innit. I had a hard time figuring out how to use this word correctly: took me way too long to realize there are absolutely no rules. I accept if you say “This was a good movie, innit”, but don’t tell me “I just had breakfast, innit”. Like what are you trying to say with that last word? Are you waiting for reassurance, are you not sure you just had breakfast, what am I even supposed to say.

Going for a “lit sesh with the squad” is what people do every week. Spoons is a good place to start your British night out. (It’s originally Wetherspoons and half of the people don’t understand what you’re talking about if you just call it Spoons, but half of the people think you’re lame if you call it its full name.) Everyone is getting bevved and there is something iconic happening every night at ‘cinos (because saying Casinos just takes too long). You will probably be told you are a peng ting. No, neither of these words ring a bell from my English lessons. I’m searching my mind for an adequate reply. I could say “thank you”, but what if it’s an insult? Maybe I should go with “you too”, but who knows what I’m calling this guy then. You better just laugh and move on.

People never run out of the things to surprise me with. Imagine me walking barefoot into the kitchen one morning, getting comfy on the couch, drinking my tea. “OMG, YOU HAVE TINGERS, ME TOO!!!” I hear my flatmate shouting. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s a rare disease we both got because of the mess in the kitchen, if she refers to one of the pieces of clothing I’m wearing, or if she’s still drunk from yesterday. Turns out tingers is a contraction of the word fingers and toes that refers to one of your toes being longer than the big toe. (I hope I got it right.) Should definitely be taught in school.

My favourite one of all is “BANTER” (pronounced as bante’ under all circumstances). You just basically shout it whenever someone says something and it’ll be fine.

I love speaking roadman, even though I have zero authenticity and people start laughing when I use one of those words. But well, this is what spending so much time with these British lads, especially Jennifer Forrest, does to you. The Jennyism - as we call it - took its toll on me.

Special thanks to everyone who helped me improve my roadman vocab, you are legit 11/10.


Being British is hard, innit? - how I became a roadman