Brit-speak: Tea

Ameri-speak: Dinner/Supper

Everyone loves to be invited around to someone’s house for a meal.  It means you don’t have to think about cooking (which, if you read regularly, you know I hate the thinking bit of cooking) and you get the double bonus of not having to do the dishes.  My first job in England was working with university students and I would often have someone say to me, “Oh, you must come around to tea.”  In my rookie days, I just assumed this meant that they wanted me to come to their house and drink tea with them.  And that wouldn’t be a particularly odd request in England, right?  The thing is, I’m not a tea drinker, so I’d be all, ‘Oh yeah.  Let’s do that some time,” but would never get my diary out because I’d think….

This British person is going to get their fancy teapots out and they’re going to don one of their flair-y fascinators and they’re going to want me to drink tea and enjoy it.  Schno, thanks! 

The fascinator pic was always going to be Beatrice and Eugenie, wasn't it? photo:

(I am aware that some of you dream of doing this with a British person.  I am also aware that my British readers will laugh in this face of that dream.)

But then, THEN, months, maybe years later I learnt that tea can mean dinner (or supper, depending on whether you live above or below the Mason Dixon) and I was ticked.  How many free meals had I missed out on because I actually thought these people just wanted me to drink tea?  How many nights had I arbitrarily planned meals that could have been carefully chosen and prepared for me.  It truly depresses me to even consider it.

……I’m still thinking about it.

……I bet my hands would be softer, my pockets would be fuller, and my presently too small waist would now be curvier if I had only known.



8 thoughts on “Meals

  1. Lindsay Borland

    AND to add even more confsion one may say there will be supper before an event {such as supper before a church meeting/study} and by supper they mean “a snack eaten after the evening meal and before bed” not a full meal! {thank you wikipedia for clarifying the various cultural meanings of supper – why did i not read you before moving to New Zealand??} after 3+ years i am still thrown off when everyone calls ‘dinner’ tea! what are you having for tea? why what do you mean … aren’t you having tea???

  2. Deborah

    It’s funny though because in Australia I believe I’ve also heard them call dinner tea but they also have morning and afternoon tea which are just snacks, where many people actually do drink tea, although I never saw anyone do it out of a fancy tea pot while wearing a hideously ugly hat. (Seriously Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, you go the the biggest media event of 2011 in that??? I don’t know which girl is which but the one in the horrific bow hat must be crazy!) But back to the tea comment its confusing when two of the teas they talk about are snacks while the other is a meal…. And I always would get confused about the supper thing too… I would think no I do not want supper, we just ate a big dinner why would I want another meal!

  3. farfromhomemama

    Ha, I’ve confused many people with this. In our house, we eat breakfast, lunch and tea. Sometimes my husband uses dinner instead of lunch to really throw people. I often have to specify ‘cup of’ just in case people have become familiar with my breakfast, lunch and tea routine when I actually just mean a drink. Gosh, I’m confused myself now.

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Not at all confused. I wish everyone threw the ‘cup’ in – I’m convinced that the world would be a more peaceful place – less war, less hate – if only the words for beverages and meals weren’t interchangeable.


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