Paola Simoes Gomez

Language Intern 2021

Funny Language and Cultural Stories Paola Simoes Gomez

Hey there!  My name is Paola and I am from Venezuela, I came to England in 2014 and my knowledge of English  was next to zero. I never thought I would need to speak English, never mind moving to England.

Since then, I have had to forcedly learn English which have ended up helping me to create some  really funny memories (now, because at the time sometimes wasn’t).

I met my boyfriend in 2017, Daniel, who is English, and it has been funny (mainly for him) this  journey of dating someone foreign and watching my many attempts to communicate.

I’ll be sharing some language and cultural related stories that have been happening to me over time.  (And other who have been kind enough to share theirs, thank you strangers<3)

Note: All the pictures have been drawn by my sister, Pam, who have helped me to add some extra  fun to the stories. Thank You Pame!

From Paola (Me)

My first interview

Within just a few weeks of arriving to England, I had a call for my first interview ever. I was so nervous to say the least.

Anyways, I get there, they ask me to go to this meeting room with what felt like a really long table  and the manager asked me to take a sit (at the very end of it, while he sat on the other end).

He proceeds to ask me something, which I did not get at all, and my eyes popped wide open, and  he asked again.

But nope.

I didn’t understand any of it.

He asked for a third time, and I was so embarrassed, and I asked him in my super broken English  to please write it down.

He did.

When I see the question, I just wanted to disappear.

It said: “What is your name?”.

I did not get the job.

Drawn by: Pamela Simoes Gomez


A few weeks after my first interview fiasco, I found a job in a coffee shop. You must be wondering:  How in earth did she get a job after she couldn’t understand the most basic question in the world?  Maybe this can be a story for another time.

My job at the coffee shop was simply to clean tables. Take the plates, clean the table, and take the  trolly back to the kitchen.

Simple right?

As you can see this was just a few weeks after my first interview, my English wasn’t any better, and I  still couldn’t understand a word of what people said to me.

On the first day, a customer comes to me and asked me to get her a saucer. I didn’t know what a  saucer was, I didn’t want to ask anyone because I was afraid that they would realise that I couldn’t  understand a word of English and fire me.

So what did I do?

Well, I brought her ketchup, mayo, mustard, brown sauce, knives, forks, spoons, napkins, salt,  pepper, sugar, and everything you could think of.

She knew straight away that I didn’t know wtf a “saucer” was until she showed me her husband’s saucer.

Turns out that a saucer is the little plate that goes underneath the cup.

I will never forget that day.

My first date (with Daniel)

I met my now boyfriend through a dating app, Bumble, we'd been chatting for several weeks and  had finally decided to meet up. 

We met at around 1pm and after a wonderful first date I took the last train home at 9:30pm. As we  were saying goodbye I said, "I had lots of fun today" to which he responded (or I thought he did) "iPhone 2", I was obviously incredibly confused as that response had nothing to do with the current  conversation let alone anything to do with phones!

He repeated himself, a second and a third time and I still couldn't piece together what he meant.  

Finally, he slowly repeats the words "I had fun too" and surprisingly, it suddenly made much more  sense!

Little did he know that that was only the beginning.

Lizard Wizard

When I was at College, I was in my math class, with my favourite teacher, in my favourite subject.  Anyways, that day happened to be a trial lesson, where somewhere from another department was  going to inspect the teacher or something along those lines.

Anyways, at the very end of the lesson the lady asked the teacher to leave, and I am left with the  other students, and she asked us what we thought about the teacher, and one of the guys, for my  understanding, said the teacher was a lizard!

And I was like WT*?

How in earth this guy was going to call my favourite teacher a "lizard"?

I was super annoyed to say the least.

I came out of the lecture, and I told my two friends, WHAT THE ****? WHY *insert guy’s name*  called *Favourite Math’s Teacher* a LIZARD?

They were both super confused! And one of them laughs and said to me, “Paola, he said he was a  wizard! WIZARD! As in, he was a really good teacher!”


Drawn by: Pamela Simoes Gomez


After a couple of months dating my partner, I told him I was going to go to the shop and if he wanted  anything, he asks me to get figs.

To give you some context, I didn’t really know what figs were, and sometimes for non-native  speakers we read words, but we don’t actually know how to pronounce them, or we hear words,  and we have no idea in how to write them.

Well, there I go in my shopping adventure, I go to the chicken aisle and go to get thighs, chicken thighs, because that’s how I thought you wrote figs.

Anyways, he comes home, and asks me, did you get the figs? And I was like, yeah, yeah and I gave  him the chicken, he laughed and laughed until almost crying and I did not understand what was  going on until he proceeded to tell me the difference.

And now, that is how we refer as thigs to chicken thighs.


This one more than language is about culture, I guess.

I was born and raised in Venezuela, I moved to England when I was 17.

For those who don’t know, Venezuela due many reasons, hasn’t been able to develop, in fact, it is  extremely difficult to survive there. When I lived there, there was food shortages everywhere (and  everything pretty much), making people to queue overnight outside supermarkets just to see what 

they could get. Some days we will be able to get milk, however, we might not see it again for weeks,  which made people to buy and hold products which they didn’t need at the time and made it worse  (kind of what happened at the beginning of lockdown with the “basics”). 

So, as you can imagine, going shopping was a nightmare, as we couldn’t really choose or eat what  we wanted, it was more about what it was available at the time. 

So, when I moved to England, I felt like a fckng Queen. (In fact, I spent hours in the supermarket not  queuing (for a change) but looking at all the products! (A little overwhelming tbf)

One day, my boyfriend asked me to go to the shop and get him cheese, so there I go in my shopping  adventure again. I went and picked any yellow cheese, which is how we call all the yellow cheeses in  Venezuela (Queso Amarillo) and I go home.

When I got home, he asked me why would I buy a cheese strength 3? That it was too strong and that  he didn’t like the taste of it, and I was like, are you for real? Cheese is cheese!

Well, let me tell you, apparently is not. Which made me realised how lucky I am to be able to live in  England. 

Thank you, England, for teaching me about cheeses.

Drawn by: Pamela Simoes Gomez


Well, I don’t know if this is a family, a south American or a Venezuelan thing.  But we are quite superstitious.

For example, when I was growing up, my mom would only allow me and my sister (Pame (the one  that is drawing the cool drawings)) to get haircuts in crescent moon, so that our hair would be long,  healthy and beautiful. Because if we got a haircut in waning moon, we would make our hair to stop  growing and fall off, or something along those lines. 

However, I did not really realise how crazy this was until I moved to England and I started explaining  these believes to other people.

Like: "Please don’t sweep my feet as that means that I won’t get married", or "my cake turned out horrible because I will have my period soon", or "EVERYTHING is going wrong thanks to retrograde Mercury"

There was a day my boyfriend was having a terrible day, and as a good superstitious Venezuelan I  googled to check if it was Retrograde Mercury, (WHICH IT WAS BTW!) so that would explain  everything.

(right? Hahaha.)

Anyways, I told him, oh I know why you are having a horrible day; it is because Mercury is in his  Retrograde phase.

He started laughing.

And I was like: haha, really!

He asked me, do you seriously believe this?

And kept laughing.

I didn’t actually know what to say, because I have believed those things my whole life, however,  looking at it, I know it sounds really silly.

At least I made his day a little brighter, but even though I don’t look at the calendar to see when I  can get a haircut anymore, I still run away when people are sweeping close to me and I still blame  mercury for my bad days, (it doesn’t hurt anyone I guess)

From Others: 

When two writing systems collide

I'd pass a cafe in Korea a lot, which had two names: 'Meeting' was one, a transliteration of the real  name, '미팅'. I had no idea the two names were related, or that it even described the same venue.  I'd often say to my partner 'Look! It's the DIE! shop!' and she'd look at me, confused. I had no idea  this was how to phonetically write the English word 'meeting' in Hangeul.


First day at school

Coming to this country I was nervous to start school, so when I was asked about pronouncing my  name which is Yelena, I changed it to Elena thinking it would be easier to pronounce. Little did I  know that in England there are also 5 different ways to pronounce Elena, so the frustration of  teachers and peers getting my name correct continued on for 15 years.






Drawn by: Pamela Simoes Gomez

A Cup of Tea, Please

Giuseppe lives in the Apeninnes around Bologna in Italy. His very English friend Pete from Sheffield  sometimes comes to visit. One evening while sitting on the terrace looking out onto the mountains  beyond and the street-lit town below with the 1000s of stars above, Giuseppe asked his friend if he  would like a 'copertina' (blanket) as it was getting a bit chilly. Pete in a flash replied, "A cup of tea? 

Yes, that would be lovely!"


Creative Spelling

I had just moved to the UK and I had to spell a security code, a complicated sequence of letters and  numbers, to a government official over the phone. I had to make sure they understood it perfectly,  so after saying each letter I also stated a word starting with it. When it came to the letter R, I  panicked as I couldn't think of anything... The first thing that came to mind after a few seconds was  "R like... Rambo". It did the job.


Mike’s Girlfriend

I was dating a guy called “Tony”. After months dating tony, he said: “Oh, btw, this weekend I am  going to my ex’s birthday party”. I was astonished, how in earth was he going to tell me he was going  to see his ex-girlfriend? I did not know what to say because 1- I didn’t know he had an ex-girlfriend,  2- couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Anyways, I didn’t want him to think that I was jealous or  whatsoever. After days of thinking and thinking, I figured out what he said, he said he was going to  mike’s girlfriend’s birthday, not his ex.

Mike was the name of his best friend.



I was on a second date with a guy I found to be very smart and handsome. We are both students in  the same university. I live on campus (which is enormous) and he doesn't, so we decided to go for a  walk around it with me as a tour guide. One of the societies I was interested in joining was the  Environmental Sustainability society. One of their activities is to plant fruits and vegetables in a field  on campus. So back to de date, we were walking around, and I took him to this field, excited to show  him one of my interests. We didn't take the main entrance because it was a bit far from where we  were at the moment. Instead, we took a small path between some bushes, which added creepiness to the situation, I think. So, in the society, they cover the plants with white fleece to keep them  warm, it looks like with fabric covering something long.

We got to the deserted place, it was night-time, and I say: so, here are the corpses! with a smile on  my face. His face expression immediately changed to sheer horror, but that didn't light a bulb in my  head, I just kept looking at him dead in the eye, nodding, smiling, and saying yeah…

Corpses? He asked in a worried tone. I said: yes, they plant them here, they are below the white  fabric. AND that's when it hit me! I was confusing corpses with crops. After noticing my mistake, I

proceed to laugh very loudly (again, it looked somewhat creepy because he was dead serious) and  corrected my mistake. We both laughed and made out in between the corpses, I mean… the crops. 

Happy ending.

-Panda-Pantsu from Reddit


When I moved to England, I met my amazing Venezuelan friend Cris and she is married to Kev, who  is English. When I met Cris, she told me hundreds of crazy stories that have happened to her over  the years. She grew in Venezuela, but after finishing university she lived in Spain, Saudi Arabia  (where she met Kev) and then finally moved to the UK. As you might think, she MUST have some  crazy stories related to culture and language, (and let me tell you, she does). 

However, when I started working in this project, I also wanted to know about what things Kev  thought about our Venezuelan culture, as when you are from the inside, you do not really know  what stands out for other people. 

He said 3 things:

1- We are loud

2- We are always late

3- Family is really important to us. 

(Daniel agrees with the first 2)