Sunday, October 4, 2009

10 Things We Haven't Succumbed to

This week we ponder the habits we haven't adopted in our host countries.


1. Not saying “Please”.

2. Baseball caps on a bad hair day. My ears stick out and it looks generally, well, ridiculous. I also don’t do the pony tail thing so I basically have to make sure my hair is somewhat clean!

3. Green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. Green beans, canned onion rings smothered in canned mushroom soup, or something like that. Yuck!

4. Walking around with a pint size cup of coffee. Who needs that much caffeine?

5. Walking through my front door straight into the living room. I have three noisy kids. I need walls and doors as a buffer.

6. Wearing seasonal clothes. OK so not everyone does this, but I will never wear a leafy sweater in the autumn/fall, red and green at Xmas, or red hearts on Valentine’s Day. Unless it’s a school-enforced thing, and even then I won’t be happy.

7. (American) football. No clue. Nor do I enjoy the beer and cheesy nachos that seem to be de rigeur when viewing.

8. Interspersing my sentences with “I was like…” to describe my emotions.

9. Cutting all the food on my plate into bite size chunks then eating it with my fork. I always serve a knife and fork even when people claim not to need the knife. Ever seen someone trying to cut lettuce with a fork?

10. Maple syrup drenching everything on my breakfast plate. I don’t have a sweet tooth anyway but maple syrup touching my sausages? Yuck!


1. Saying “Cheers”: This is a shame, because it is such a handy word. It can be used for “Hell-o,” “Thanks” or as the closing in a letter or e-mail. But to my ears, when I say it, it sounds out of place, except if I’m clinking pint glasses with others in a pub.

2. Brown Sauce: This is something you need to grow up with, otherwise it simply tastes awful.

3. Kebabs: This is a food not meant to be eaten sober, and I rarely get drunk enough these days to appreciate the nuances of flavour and texture one provides.

4. Layers: To cope with this changeable climate, you learn to wear layers that you can take off and put on to keep yourself comfortable. Well, some people do.

5. Coffee: I’ve gone through half a dozen coffee makers and none of them can brew a decent cup of coffee. I have, therefore, made my peace with instant.

6. Glassing: This charming hobby involves smashing your pint glass against the bar and shoving the jagged edges into the face of the guy (or girl) who disagreed with you, looked at you funny or just happened to be standing nearby when the mood struck. I cannot claim to have ever seen this happen in real life, but it is reportedly so prevalent in places that they are considering banning pint glasses and making the patrons drink from plastic cups. Apparently I don’t visit the right pubs.

7. Pounds and pence: I don’t have any trouble in shops or in doing the conversion in my head, but whenever I start talking about money—what someone paid for a new house, what it cost to fix the car, things like that—I always revert to dollars and cents.

8. Tipping: Much to my wife’s chagrin, I still tip like an American.

9. Eating left handed with the fork held upside down: What is up with that?

10. Ketchup on French toast: That’s what maple syrup is for.

Care to Add yours?

Got something you want us to address? E-mail your suggestion to us or just pop it into the comment box.


  1. I am an American living in Britain because I married a Brit...Ketchup on French Toast? Who does that? I also can't get away with allowing myself to say "cheers" and I have yet to develop an accent because I feel I sound incredibly stupid (I have lived here for 4 years and still sound like I am from Seattle, which I can now recognize as it's own accent).
    However, I have never cut my food up into little bits before eating them, I somehow picked up the British way of eating as a child (which is strange because no one in my family eats that way).

  2. My sister heard me say "cheers" once when she was visiting and told me never to do it again.

    Have you tried Nespresso coffee? Absolutely the best and simplest decent coffee I've ever had at home.

  3. 1) Putting strawberries in a green salad.

    2) Loading my plate at a buffet with both savoury and sweet at the same time.

  4. Bullajabber: My wife puts ketchup on her french toast and, while I assume her to be in the minority, I cannot fault her logic. If I have scrambled eggs on toast (one of the many local habits I have willingly accepted) I put ketchup on it. But if I soak the bread in scrambled eggs and fry it, I put maple syrup on it. Put that way, it does sound reasonable. All I can say is, years of habit preclude me from doing otherwise.

    NFAH: I have never heard of Nespresso, but I'll keep an eye out for it.

  5. Ha! My husband complains that he can't find a decent cup of coffee in America as all the coffee makers 'make it too weak'......clearly very different palates.

    And Toni, I'm, like, amazed that you question who needs that much caffiene - surely it's mostly frothy milk?

    My dad has just been here and said was really refreshing not getting called 'mate' all the time....

  6. Cheers: I do this if Im trying to sound local. Probably totally transparent.

    Brown sauce: I kind of like this stuff. (?!)

    Kebabs: ditto. Bleh.

    Layers: I come from Minnesota. I know all about layers!

    Coffee: Im with NFAH. An alternative I have found is a really excellent instant called Nescafe Suraya.

    Glassing: not really tried that yet! Probably not for me though...

    Pounds and Pence: Ive lost the conversion-in-my-head thing. Too much trouble!

    Tipping: I feel anxious about tipping too little.

    Eating with fork upside down: much, much easier!

    Ketchup on French toast: What the...?

    Great posts!! Ive replied to Toni on her blog.

  7. I can not and will not EVER say "bloody". Not that it is a bad word, it just sounds ridiculous coming out with an American accent.

  8. I think I agree with 99% of yours, Mike. I've answered Toni's - over on her blog. Basically -it is that I like a decent coffee (not bucket sized or "regular"). Glad to hear that it is just as hard to track down lovely coffee in the metropolis as it is out in the wilds of Haltwhistle and beyond!

  9. Kat: As a long-time Python fan, I picked up "Bloody hell!" long, long ago. So it was just natural to keep it up once I moved here.

    The one I have adopted sinc eI arrived, and which I have a real fondness for, is "Bollocks!"

  10. The best word - "Sodding" doesn't really sound good coming from an American either. On the other hand, I find that when I say asshole (excuse the French) it sounds ridiculous - so I refrain.
    As for the French toast - I have just figured out the weird ketchup habit. In England, when you do French Toast, it's really just eggy bread. Bread dragged through egg then fried. So why wouldn't you put ketchup on it. As who are all disgusted, are probably thinking of the American French toast which is usually covered in Icing/confectioner's sugar and piled with fruit. Hence the syrup.

  11. That second last sentence should be "WE who are all disgusted...". I was trying to type without looking at the keys. The WE keys are on the row above the AS. What an idiot.

  12. Are you calling Fried Bread French Toast? If yes then of course, if not then Yuk!

    I think you need to mature a few more years yet Mike, to a nicely rounded out Brit!

  13. My french toast has cinnamon in it, so yuk.

  14. The French toast my wife and I have is what has been referred to above as Eggy Bread, so, yeah, ketchup isn't really out of the question.

  15. Ah, the work of Pond Parleys is done. We have reached common ground about the ketchup/French toast issue. Now what's next to tackle?

  16. I have never really eaten french toast.eggy bread it will always be in my head- We call it French toast in the Mike household for easy of translation . The wife.

  17. This was a great read. I'm an American and I can't pull off a baseball cap.

    My mother always wore seasonal shirts. I shudder now, just thinking about it.

    I do cut up all my food first, and and my new DH and 2 step children still stare at me when I do it.

    I was looking forward to having (and cooking) our first English Thanksgiving Dinner next month, until we found out one of the children will be gone that day. I've been sad about the green bean casserole for days now! lol :)

    Maple syrup on all breakfast foods on the plate is the only way to go! Though the longer I'm in England, the more things I do put ketchup on...

    I do enjoy brown sauce, but can't stand salad cream. What is that stuff, anyway?

    I've gotten the hang of the money here, as inconvenient as it is to carry all those coins around with me is, but I do say dollars and cents when having a conversation. I figure in my limited circles, they know I mean pounds and pence.

    I WILL NOT say bollocks. My husband was on a mission to get me to say it, only reinforcing my desire not to say it. I understand that he thinks it doesn't mean testicles, but really, it does. Sorry. Not gonna use it in casual conversation.

    I still have a hard time with the obsession (amongst our friends) to label things savory or sweet. Who cares what type of food it is, if it's good, eat it, even if it mixes the two together.

  18. The chip butty. Like each individually. But together, not so much. And with salad cream or ketchup? Blech. No way.

    As for coffee - have you tried a one-cupper? No mechanics involved! Just get some filters (and attempt to find some decent coffee) and boil the water in the kettle...I've found this to be an extremely useful little gadget in the land of tea.

    I'm working on using the British dining style...hard to break years of strictly enforced dinner table etiquette! (and to use the fork in the left hand!)

  19. Jenny...doing Thanksgiving dinner in England for British friends is excellent...they get a little jealous that we get to have "Christmas" dinner twice. I hardly ever get to do Thanksgiving on the actual day and it still feels meaningful.

    I encourage American's to try yelling out "Oi!" in a hateful fashion to is so much more fulfilling than "Hey!" I live in Bradford and have to use it often.

  20. I've just found this blog by chance and it's wonderful! So sorry I didn't find it before - would have loved to debate some of the past postings. I'm an American from the mid-west who has lived in the UK for the past 11 years and recently obtained my British citizenship. I've not yet succumbed to black pudding (ok or glassing!) but love brown sauce and chicken kebabs (but not the horrible donar things YUK!). I sure do miss good Mexican food though - have taught myself how to make most of the dishes from scratch.

  21. I can't figure out the upside down fork thing either. It's just never going to happen.

    I still tip like an American too, and am horrified that some of my British friends think of tipping as an optional thing. Even if the waiter spit in my food, called me fat and kicked me in the shins, I'd probably still leave at least a 10 percent tip.

  22. No, no, tipping should only be for when the service is actually good. And as that rarely happens in Britain, we want to keep the evil practice at bay as much as possible - after all, the food costs so bloody much to start with! (there, that's how to use 'bloody'. It does need a British accent, doesn't it?)

    Hello, by the way. I've just come across this blog via about 7 links from Alpha Mummy of the Times. It's made me laugh a lot.


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