Recently a fellow Coloradan has been making the press here in England. This guy is an expat living in London and has been asking Londoners to (gasp!) chat on their tube commute to work. Now, if you have ever been to the UK, you should know that unless there is something noteworthy happening to the weather, you just don’t talk to strangers.
His intentions, bless him, are good. As a person who has lived in the suburbs almost all her life, I understand how nice it is to casually chat with your neighbors about their lawns/gardens, their niece Chelsea that just recently got knocked up, and how little Tommy is doing this year in the 2nd grade, etc. In England, this isn’t as common. Sure, there is a massive difference between the North and the South in terms of friendliness and habits, but overall it’s expected that we, Americans, tone the eff down. In fact, a few of my British friends have confessed that I embarrass them from time to time with my tendency to spark a conversation with a complete stranger.
I’ve lived in Hull for two years now. It was my UK anniversary last month, in fact. This has been ample time for me to make a few fun observations about my new home:
1. The Brits seriously love their tea
My roommate back in college was a Brit doing her year abroad. I thought it was just her slightly strange quirk, but she had tea all the time. She was so particular about her tea as well, that she actually brought it with her from England in some tupperware container, and would not settle for any of the American rubbish. Now that I live here, I realize it isn’t just her. This is a country full of serious tea lovers.
2. Beans are for breakfast
I like beans. I’ll occasionally even eat them at dinner. But beans for breakfast? Apparently, this is a serious breakfast staple here, and I rarely see it eaten at other times.
3. No weather is ever good enough
Brits spend a fair amount of time discussing the weather. You’ll hear the typical: “it’s bloody raining again” or “it’s feking freezing!”. But then you’ll hear them complain when the weather is actually warm and sunny. It’s either “Too hot!” or “Too cold!” or “Too wet!”. It’s ironic, considering the weather is very temperate compared to a lot of other places. The highest record temperature it’s ever been is 39º C or (101º F) and it rarely ventures to the sub-zeros. Most of the year it’s a comfortable 15-20º C (59-68º F) but it’s never good enough.
4. Introductions are awkward
When a non-Brit meets a Brit, it is almost always a cause for confusion. Many Europeans and non-Brits will lean in for kisses on the cheek or for a simple handshake, or even a hug. With a Brit, one does not know how comfortable they are with close contact, and so you lean in for a handshake, withdraw when you see they didn’t offer one, then they get flustered and realize you wanted to shake hands and offer their hand and then…. Confusion! Just shake the damn hand. God forbid you try and hug them.
5. They have lots of Do’s
When some people from work invited me to their Birthday Do, I was extremely confused. What do you do at a Do? As I later found out, do’s are basically parties. They have Leaving Do’s, Birthday Do’s, Hen Do’s (Bachelorette Party) and Stag Do’s (Bachelor Party). It’s all great fun, but extremely confusing. Sometimes includes fancy dress (or costumes) but almost always drinking is involved.
6. Cookies are Biscuits. Biscuits are muffins
To add to your confusion. Also the real tragedy is that nobody here knows what biscuits and gravy are. 🙁
7. Along those lines, fries are chips and chips are crisps
Who cares what they are called. They are life.
8. Gardens are a thing
One of the best things about living in England is you will find beautiful parks and gardens in every city. The Brits don’t mess around when it comes to shrubbery and hedges. Even Hull has a few beautiful parks and some lovely gardens.
9. Watching Bake Off is a religious activity
If you haven’t watched an episode of the Great British Bake Off, you don’t know how to live. Every Wednesday, the entire nation sits themselves down to watch Mary Berry and her gang critique and taste delicious baked goods. Every other word that comes out of her mouth is a sexual innuendo. I’m not sure that she is aware of it, but if she is, she is awesome.
10. There are no window screens
One of the things I miss about America are the window screens. In the summertime, you can leave your window open and only gnats are small enough to enter your house. Here, leave a window open, and the entire city’s population of house spiders move right on in and make themselves a cup of tea.
This goofy, lovable and often frigid country has become my new home. While I love to laugh at their quirkiness, the Brits have done nothing but welcome me here in all my Yankee splendor. It’s been a great two years! Happy Brit-anniversary to me!