661. An Englishman in Los Angeles (with Oli)

Talking to my cousin Oliver about moving to Los Angeles, working as a TV producer and how his American colleagues react to his British English.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome to episode 661. In this episode I’m talking to my cousin Oliver who you might remember if you are a long term listener of this podcast, and I mean a really long term listener.

Oli has been on the podcast quite a few times before. I’m not talking about Olly Richards the English polyglot and I’m also not talking about Oliver Gee the Australian journalist who does the Earful Tower podcast in Paris. Those are two other Olis that I have had on this podcast. 

This one is my cousin Oli Thompson who first appeared on the podcast 9 years ago in episode 76 which was all about how to use the London Underground. That was the first time Oli appeared on the podcast. He then appeared in 6 other episodes all of which, of course, are available in the archive.

Most of those appearances were in the early days when we were both living in London and used to see each other quite a lot. Since then things have changed a bit for both of us. The last time I spoke to Oli on the podcast was in 2016. He was working for the BBC as a TV producer, living in Bristol in the south West of England and he and his wife were awaiting the arrival of their first child. We talked about that and about predictions for the future.

That was episode 325 and 326.

Since then, Oli’s life has changed quite a lot, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t predict those changes in our last conversation.

The main things are that he now has 3 children, he no longer works for the BBC, he now works for Neftlix and he lives in Los Angeles (I think you’ve heard of L.A. too – yes, that big city in the USA where they have things like Hollywood and cars). 

So there are loads of things to talk about here.

In this episode

One of the main things was that I wanted his first-hand experiences of communicating with his American colleagues and how they react to his British English. 

  • UK English vs USA English
    Are the differences between British and American English significant? Do they make life difficult for him at all? What are some real examples of his experiences of communicating with people? And we talk about that but also we talk about things like
  • Oli’s Work as a TV Producer
    Details of Oli’s work.
  • Moving from Bristol to Los Angeles
    How he decided to leave his home country of the UK and move so far away to a completely different city.
  • Living in Beverly Hills
    What it feels like to live not only in Los Angeles but specifically in Beverly Hills – a location that we only ever knew from TV shows and films that we used to watch as kids in the 80s and 90s. 
  • Working In TV Production
    Also, what it’s like to work for a big TV Streaming company? We all know this company, so many of us use the service and so what’s it like on the inside? What is their working culture?
  • Oli’s Recommended Documentaries
    Which shows has Oli been involved in making? And which shows can he recommend to us?

I hope you manage to keep up with this conversation. If you’re wondering, Oli’s accent is much like mine really. He speaks standard English RP. Some people say that he speaks quite quickly, although he was quite relaxed during this conversation so his pace of speaking was not too fast. I will let you see for yourself. 

Here are some phrases to look out for. These are all phrases that Oli has used in meetings or conversations with his American colleagues and they either didn’t understand them really or found them funny. I’m not going to explain them now, I’m just saying them so you will be able to identify them when you hear them later in the conversation, and we do explain them a bit then.

  • To be on the caseDon’t worry, I’m on the case.
  • To ring-fence some moneyLet’s ring-fence that money for advertising.
  • To tidy something upWe need to tidy up our processes.
  • Chinese whispersI think it’s just a case of Chinese whispers.
  • To give someone a bell / a ringI’ll give you a bell later. I’ll give you a ring after the meeting.
  • Fancy dressA fancy dress party
  • A pantomime horse – Oli and I were dressed as a pantomime horse.

I’ve just said those now to help you notice them again later when they come up in our conversation.

All you have to do now is keep up, and hopefully enjoy finding out about Oli’s new life living and working in LA-LA Land, and here we go…


Ending

Thanks again to Oli for talking to us in this episode. I really enjoyed talking to him and catching up like that, and I hope you enjoyed getting a first-hand account of some differences between British and American English, the experience of a Brit living in LA and what it’s like behind the scenes in TV.

Check the page for this episode on the website to see things like

Culture Memo slideshare on LinkedIn

These are presentation slides which outline the internal working culture at Oli’s company, and have been viewed nearly 20 million times.

Documentaries Recommended by Oli

Also the details of those documentaries that Oli mentioned. Let me repeat them to you now, and you’ll find their titles written on the page, with links to make it easier for you to watch them.

FYRE – The Greatest Party That Never Happened

www.netflix.com/title/80220207

The Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music experience on a posh private island, but it failed spectacularly in the hands of a cocky entrepreneur.

Icarus

www.netflix.com/title/80168079

In his Oscar-winning film, an American cyclist plunges into a vast doping scandal involving a Russian scientist — Putin’s most-wanted whistleblower.

Tiger King – Murder, Mayhem & Madness

www.netflix.com/title/81115994

A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

www.netflix.com/title/80220207

A sobering docuseries filmed in association with UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program and Common Sense Media. This is one that Oli’s team worked on. A boy’s brutal murder and the public trials of his guardians and social workers prompt questions about the system’s protection of vulnerable children.

As usual you are welcome to add your thoughts, questions or comments on the website.

One suggestion regarding writing comments – if you have a comment which is specific to an episode, write it in the comment section of that episode page, not on the main page.

The main page is the front page of my website. Lots of comments get written there including general banter between regular commenters and stuff. So if you write a comment there about a specific episode, it might disappear quite quickly as other comments replace it.

But if you find the specific episode page by checking the archive (click EPISODES in the menu) and write your comment there, it will still be visible after some time, I’m more likely to see it and other people more likely to be able to respond to it.

Thank you for listening! Speak to you again soon.