The US vs UK Motorhome Glossary - Two Countries Divided by a Common Language
We are used to the idea that the US and UK have different words for the same thing. When we moved to The States 19 years ago we had to learn a whole new vocabulary. Ask any British person about their first time buying bed sheets in Bed, Bath and Beyond and they'll tell you what a humbling experience it was.
Well the same goes for motorhoming/camping or whatever you call this thing we are doing around Europe. We have a minor advantage to most Americans that visit the UK to tour in a motorhome. We are also British and already know what a bacon sarnie is. But we have never camped or motorhomed here before so, once again, we are embarking on a new linguistic journey of discovery. Here's what we have learned so far.
Campsite: In the US this normally refers to the actual spot where you park your rig. But in the UK a campsite is the field or facility where everyone parks; what we in the US might call the campground. The actual spot that you park your rig on is called a pitch.
There are lots of different types of pitches. A serviced pitch has water and maybe a drain in addition to power. This is similar to what in the US we might call full hookups, except you don't usually get a sewer outlet. You also see the term touring pitch used frequently in the UK. It took me a while to work that one out but it seems to mean that you can stay on site for a short period of time. This is in contrast to a seasonal pitch which indicates someone has their caravan (I haven't seen a motorhome) parked up in one place for the season. It could be for the summer or even for a whole year. They don't usually stay in it full-time but instead visit for weekends or longer vacations. Some caravan parks also have only static caravans or park homes that are not designed to move at all. These are more like what we would call mobile homes in the US. Some sites have a combination of all of these.
No-one in the UK seems to call their motorhome, caravan or home on wheels "a rig" or an RV for that matter. If you say RV around here people assume you are one of the rare people who have imported a forty foot beast from the US. Instead they are simply referred to as motorhomes, caravans, campervans or van conversions. So far I have not found a collective term, like rig, that encompasses all forms of a traveling home. Can anyone enlighten me?
What we would call a Class A motorhome in the US is called an A Class motorhome in the UK. What! I hear you cry - that's just too easy. Well yes it is, that's why in the rest of Europe they call it an integrated motorhome. What we describe as a Class C in the US is called a Coachbuilt motorhome in the UK. If there is no bubble (or alcove) over the cab for sleeping in then it is referred to as a low-profile model, or if you are in the rest of Europe these are called semi-integrated. Phew!
A caravan is not a group of rigs that travel together, it is what they call a trailer. What we would call a Class B in the US, here is called a van conversion. Campervans, cute little VWs or similar, are also called campervans. Fifth wheels are rare here, but occasionally you see them, they are called... wait for it... fifth wheels.
You got all that? Some other differences:
Grey water is just called waste water. The term black water is not used, as most people use cassette toilets. More on that in my upcoming post about the difference between US and UK rigs. By the way it's perfectly polite to use the term toilet in the UK. If you ask for the bathroom or restroom people will think you are wanting to take a shower or have a sleep. The Brits are however much too civilized to use the word "dump". A motorhome service point is a specific place where you can fill up with water and "dump" your waste water. The contents of your cassette toilet can be disposed of at a Chemical Disposal Point (CDP) or an Elsan point.
When you park up your motorhome and the pitch is not level, you don't use levelers (or even levellers with two 'ls') you use ramps or chocks. Confused - yes we are! The true definition for a chock is the wedge that stops your wheel from moving but we have noticed here that many people refer to leveling as chocking. We are still waiting for an explanation on this one.
Awning, that's an easy one right. Wrong! An awning here tends to commonly refer to a tent that is attached to the side of your caravan or motorhome, like an extra room. Many pitches you book are referred to as "with" or "without awning", because you essentially need a pitch twice as wide if you use one. The shade that rolls out from your motorhome also sometimes seems to be called an awning but we have also seen it referred to a canopy to distinguish it from the tent version!
Wild camping may conjure up parking in the boonies. Something like National Forest Land for those used to travelling in the US. Here, it might be parking in a back street hoping the police don't move you on. Essentially, it seems to mean not paying or plugging in. More about that in my post about the types of spots here in England.
I am sure there are other words that people are saying to us that we haven't even realized we don't know yet. And next month we will head over the Channel to Continental Europe to learn even more words that are actually in a different language. Every day is a school day for us right now!