Over time I picked up on the pertinent UK lingo and grammar (learning to keep my mouth shut when my kids said "I have got a sister" instead of correcting them, "You have a sister."). Sometimes in class I would have those I-have-absolutely-no-idea-what-this-word-means moments when we'd come across certain British English words in the textbook. Then I would take it home and look it up.
So here are the ten differences that stuck out to me the most while teaching basic and intermediate English in Madrid:
The school subject of mathematics is pluralized in its shortened version, so I'd often hear students say simple sentences such as: "I need to study maths".
If you went to college in the states and got a Bachelor's Degree (for example), you'd best say to your European friends and students that you went to University.
8. SpannerOne day with a small class of "electronics" students, they had a matching activity in their workbook -- word to picture. I could figure most of them out by elimination, but I did not know what a freaking spanner was. It's a wrench!
7. LiftI remember my Tues/Weds teacher making a deal about this one in front of the class. It means elevator, but here's how she pointed out the two different vocabulary words. First she wrote "lift" on the board, saying how logical and simple it was, because it lifts you up to higher floors (and the word is short). Then she wrote "elevator" below, saying "I don't know why it's such a long, complicated word. Elevator. But in the United States, it's what they say". Biased much? And yes I know it comes from the verb to elevate.
6. Travelling, favourite, etc.You will come across many spelling variances between British English and American English, but since many of my students learned present progressive (am/are/is ____ing) that year, and the textbook used "travel" as one of the six verbs to practice with, I saw an awful lot of "travelling"s. Luckily the teachers recognized the American spelling as well, and accepted both spellings on exams.
5. RubbishTrash. Put it in the rubbish bins!
No, my students are not carrying around flaming torches to see at night, but rather, flashlights.
3. Have gotThe British use the verbal phrase "have got" where we Americans simply say "have". This one really sounded strange to me at first, but after two years of drilling my students, I now find myself using this verb all the time -- even back in the states! "Have you got any pens?"
2. Pet hate
There was a small section about "pet hates" in one of my school's textbooks. By context clues, I figured out it means pet peeve, but again, at first I was puzzled when the English teacher asked me what was my pet hate.
Last (first?), but certainly not least, I will never forget the day when my 8-year-old Rodrigo started talking about his rubbers. You have what in your pencil case?! They're erasers. What were you thinking?
What other British English have you picked up or been exposed to while teaching English abroad?