Sunday, October 18, 2009

And finally - The Ten Things We Lurrvve About Our Host Culture

To round out our “Ten Things” season, we are listing the habits, customs or general idiosyncrasies of our host culture that we have readily adopted as our own.


1. The fabulous hose attachment on my kitchen sink. I know this makes me look like a saddo, but until you’ve used one, well, you’ve no idea. It’s great for rinsing dishes (see previous post), washing the sink down, blasting food off things that don’t fit in the dishwasher, and squirting small children when they get on your nerves.

2. The casual dress code to most things. In general, (and that means there will be exceptions) whether it’s a meal out, a sports game or a shopping trip, Americans dress fairly casually. This only serves to make me look slightly well-groomed when I put the effort in.

3. The atmosphere at sports games. I’m a baseball fan, but this applies to most sports I’ve been to – everyone’s in a good mood. Grannies, small children and anyone in between feel comfortable in going to such events. Heck – they even come down the aisles serving beer.

4. The fact that I can swear at liberty and be told that it “sounds so much better”. Not that I do, but I could. I can also say whatever the hell I want to, even when sober, because everyone thinks we “Europeans” are a little bit different. When everyone else is holding back and biting their tongues, I can be the one to come out and name that elephant in the room.

5. I’m easy to remember because I’m “the English woman”. When I’m not trying to look fabulous, (see point 2) I can look like any other harried 40-something mother, but people remember me as soon as I open my mouth, which can come in handy.

6. My phone system, which may be available in England but I haven't heard anyone raving about it. Because I have phone, Internet and TV all with the same company, I can see who's calling on my TV screen. Which means it's even better than Caller ID. I don't even have to get up to see whether or not I want to answer the phone. I'll admit, the first time it happened I was a little freaked out as I was watching Wimbledon tennis and my neighbour's name came up on the screen. Very weird.

7. When you knock something over or break something in a shop, you’re not in danger of being hauled off to prison. No signs saying “You Break it, you bought it”; in fact, the sales assistants usually apologize and tell you not to worry about cleaning up.

8. You can use the loo in shops, restaurants and bars without having to buy something. OK, so I still have to look over my shoulder to make sure the manager hasn’t followed me in but it’s good to know that when I get desperate I can avail myself of their facilities.

9. When you want to go out for a "quick bite" it's very easy. Sometimes it really annoys me because I don't always want to give myself indigestion, but when I need to be in and out of somewhere in half an hour, by god you can rely on American restaurants to deliver. (So to speak.)

10. Americans’ glasses are always half full. Every so often I want someone to moan along with me, but in this part of the country at least, it’s always Sunday, every day’s a new day, and there’s always someone else worse off. Sure it gets right on your ta-ta’s, but it puts things in perspective


1. The three B’s: Bloody, Bollocks and Brilliant. I may not be able to say “Mate” or use “Cheers” in the appropriate manner, but I have adopted much of the local idioms and sayings, and I use them in general conversation, not just to take the piss.

2. The food. Where do I begin—haggis, steak and kidney pudding, custard, sticky toffee pudding, beans on toast, full English breakfast, black pudding, Cornish pasty, curry, scones (plain), steak and ale pie, suet dumplings—where do I stop?

3. No ATM fees. You can get money out of ATM machines (hole-in-the-wall) and the bank doesn’t ding you £2.50. They tried instituting fees a while back and everyone screamed blue murder and they had to back down. C’mon you Americans, get some backbone, make those thieving bastards stop charging you.

4. The sense of history. Anytime I visit any town or area or street or hillock in the middle of a pasture, someone will tell me about something of great significance that happened there, oh, a very long time ago. And there are all these castles and Roman ruins and Iron Age hill forts all over the place. Perfect for a history anorak like me.

5. The beer. Confession time; I didn’t really move over here to get married, I just liked the beer so much I came over so I could be closer to the source.

6. Public transportation. The worst in the EU, but far better than anything the US has to offer. I travel for work, to Wales, Nottingham, Devon, Suffolk, et al, and I always take the train. On a more pedestrian note, I just returned from a six-hour “meeting” at The Dorset Arms in Lewes and didn’t have to worry about getting arrested for driving home drunk because I took a train.

7. The accents. Even after seven years, I still like the sound of all the different dialects and regional accents.

8. The comedy. I love the British humor; they are sharp and quick-witted and do irony very well.

9. The weather. If you’re from southern California or Florida, you may find it a bit cloudy, drizzly and cool during the winter, but spend 46 years in upstate New York and this weather will seem like paradise in comparison.

10. It’s so pretty. It’s hard to put into words just how beautiful the countryside is over here; you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

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


  1. You know I have always thought I might enjoy English weather. Sure the lack of sun could be irritating, but I could do with some mild weather all the time. And a gradual change of seasons might be really nice. It's probably one of those 'the grass is always greener situations' but seriously how could it not be when over there the grass can stay green all year.

    Probably what would really happen if I moved to England is that I'd be become really obnoxious about the weather. Any time anyone would complain about the cold/heat/rain I'd say something about how it never gets cold/hot/snowy in England as compared to home. Heck it even rains more out here. It would be a contest of weather one-up-man-ship.

  2. Interesting to read Toni's list! It makes me miss some things from home, like the hose attachment on my sink or the glass-half-full attitude, or the abiity to step out and grab a quick bite.

    And I agree completely with all of Mikes! I do wish the weather was a bit warmer for a bit longer in the summers, but after living in Northern Minnesota I really do enjoy the green grass all winter long in the UK, so I'll not moan too loudly about the weather here.

  3. Toni, your comment about the phone number popping up on the TV made me chuckle - I couldn't believe it either when it first happened here! And agree on going out for a quick meal - restaurants here are so efficient. I love the way Americans are so enthusiastic about everything, too - Brits are so much more low key.

  4. English beer is something I sorely miss. Luckily, we have a small English pub up the road, but we don't make it there often enough.

  5. Great post and l can relate to both of you, having lived on both sides of the pond, twice!!

    I always felt like a bit of a tart when I dressed up, so perhaps that's why I got some of the offers I did! the first party I went to, was so dressed down...well l can't tell you.... it looked something out of wife swap.

    Every time I have a meal out, I HATE l have to ask for a glass of water, and get charged for it even tap water. I always ask for it to be taken off the bill. MAybe thats why l dont get taken out much.

    The way you are treated and served in shops in the states is FAB, customer was still king, here in uk all you get is detailed info on their night out with fella night before.

    I too l've lived in upstate NY too, Watkins Glen in fact and now I live in Cumbria, the wettest part of UK, bar the scottish borders west side..

    it sure is a mix

  6. Toni - agree!
    Mike - ohhhhhh you made me terribly homesick

  7. FFF: You lived in Watkins Glen? Gosh, we were almost neighbors ;) And, yeah, I miss the free ice water, too, but then they make up for it with universal health coverage.

  8. 6 degrees of separation. You guys probably know the same people.
    Pond Parleys - bringing people together!


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