This week we turn the tables and ponder the habits we still adhere to from the countries of our birth:
1. My flag: I had an American flag flying from every place I lived in the States and I see no reason not to have one here. The only concession is, now that I am a dual citizen, I put up the Union Flag on Remembrance Day and replace it with the American flag on Memorial Day. My neighbors think I’m a nutter.
2. The “H” thing: Sorry, but it’s “urb” not “herb.” Herb is short for Herbert. And besides, it drives my wife potty, like when I say “a LUM in um” instead of “al u MIN i um.”
3. The “Z” thing: Whenever possible, when making an example, I say “Company XY ZEEEEE,” instead of “XY ZED,” just to let them know they say it wrong.
4. Coffee: I brought a thermal pint coffee mug over from America with me. I still use it.
5. Thanksgiving: if you’re an American, it’s in your genes; you must celebrate.
6. Rinsing the dishes: I know this tradition of leaving soapy dishes in the dish drainer is becoming out-dated, but many people—my wife included—still subscribe to this habit. To an American, it is just wrong. Consequently, I do the dishes.
7. Fruit of the Loom underwear and white tube socks: Just before I moved overseas, I went to Sam’s Club and bought a bale of each. I still have them.
8. Ketchup: The universal condiment; it goes on everything, except French toast.
9. Expecting good customer service: If we go into a restaurant and no one comes to take our order in the first ten minutes, I’m ready to walk out.
10. Driving on the right: I still drive on the right side of the road, as God intended. It keeps my passengers alert and the looks on the faces of the people in the oncoming traffic are priceless. (Note to the serious minded: I’m just kidding.)
1. Saying "Please", despite the fact that it sometimes sounds either very needy or just plain ridiculous. Now I know some Americans are going to take exception to this, so please do your own private survey. I have been taking notes on this specific point for over ten years, all over the US. I have found that Americans rarely use the word itself when making a request, although no rudeness is intended. In fact, because of the intonation, they usually sound very polite. As a Brit however, I'd be looking over my shoulder for my mother if I omitted the word.
2. Making my kids say "Please". Parents all over the UK are seen withholding treats until the magic word is heard. Despite years of doing this and role-modelling the use of the word, my kids still seem to think it's optional. Apparently they warn their friends before coming to the house, that a "please" now and then would be a good thing.
3. Spreading butter or margarine on bread when making a sandwich. I have had little 6 year olds recoil in horror when I do this (and yes, I make them another one). My question is, how do you get the ingredients to stay in there without the marg?
4. Booting my kids out of the stroller/pushchair before they start school. Living in an urban area where everyone walks, it's quite common to see young children the size of small adults, being pushed around everywhere. If they don't want to walk, get one of those plastic wagons for cryin' out loud.
5. Walking instead of driving. In the interests of time, I sometimes drive when I could easily walk, but we live about an eighth of a mile from school and I never drive them there. It would take longer to get the car out, and by the time I found a parking spot, I'd be right outside my front door. However, other parents never fail to tell me how "good" I am because I walk.
6. Hankies up the sleeve. Yes, I know it's a disgusting habit and I am getting much better at not stuffing the hankie up my sleeve, but I don't always have pockets. (OK, OK, I know.)
7. Things on toast. Beans, scrambled egg, poached egg, spaghetti hoops. You name it but most Americans don't touch it, including my kids. It's a real shame because anything on toast makes a great, quick meal. (The Little Guy will have beans next to toast, but not on it.)
8. Food pronunciations. I can say "bayzil" without much of a problem but I can't make the transition to the American "tomaydo". There's just too many letters to change in the one word. First the "a" becomes an "ay", then the "t" gets the "d" sound. No. And I pronounce "herb" with an audible "h" because, well, it's there.
9. Almost laughing when someone calls me "ma'am". When I first lived in the States I was in Texas where everyone (including other women) calls you "ma'am". (If you're female that is.) In the mid-west it's still heard and I always have to check to make sure someone's not being funny.
10. Calling myself English. I know my passport says "British" but back when I lived there we pretty much all referred to ourselves as English, Irish etc. Now, if someone asks if I'm British (as opposed to Australian and South African, which I also get) I inadvertently say "English actually".
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