Britain and America – Two countries separated by a common language

In the last day or two, Scott Waters from Florida has hit the headlines after his recent stay in the U.K. with his list of generally complimentary things he has to say about our country.  I must say he makes us and Britain sound like a nice place.

Feeling in a sarcastic mood and with sarcasm being one of the things that slightly differentiates the British and Americans, I thought I would write back to his points below.  I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, heaven knows I complain about my own country enough!

* Almost everyone is very polite

Why thank-you.  Have you ever been in the London commute?

* The food is generally outstanding

It is, my tourists get so so surprised but by the end of their stay they do generally say our food is tastier, fresher, healthier and generally better.  You have to remember our country was ruined in WW2 and there was rationing for a long time afterwards.  We were poor until the 1980’s.  Our food in the 60’s and 70’s is not what we used to eat previously or what we eat now.

* There are no guns

Yay!  If people have guns then they might shoot people for no good reason.

* There are too many narrow stairs

You mean in old castles or cathedrals right?  I must admit I have never found narrow stairs to be a problem, not that I ever come across them more than once a year or so.

* Everything is just a little bit different

A bit narrower?

* The pubs close too early

They stay open all night given the slightest excuse.  Our beer is stronger so maybe you just have to start drinking early, besides no-one wants to go home in wet and cold weather at 2am in the winter.

* The reason they drive on the left is because all their cars are built backwards

Alternatively, we just copied the Romans.  We need to be on the left of the road so that we can use our sword hands when we meet trouble.   I guess if we had guns we could shoot people with either hand.

* Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms. 

Some people never ever leave the pubs.  They are too cosy.

* You’d better like peas, potatoes and sausage 

Hmm, you making me hungry.  Mushy peas are best!  Lucky we have more varieties of potatoes and sausages than we know what to do with.  Maris Piper Lincolnshire potatoes and Cumberland sausage is a nice combination.

* Refrigerators and washing machines are very small

How big do you want them to be.  We fit all our clothes for the week in one load. Same with the fridge, it lasts us for 2 or 3 weeks if needed.  Not that much food has to be in a chilled cabinet.  Our potatoes come in a brown sack and they last months and months sitting in the pantry.

* Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter

What you mean?  I’m 41, 5’9″ ok I lost about 20 lbs since July but thats the gluten and dairy diet…. oh you mean our buildings, cars, fridges etc.

* People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbors or the government

Why would we be?  Do you live in Islamic State or North Korea?  If you’re afraid of your neighbours or government then you either need to move or you either you or the government have something wrong going on.

* Their paper money makes sense, the coins don’t

Yes the paper money is cool.  We are getting our first plastic £5 notes soon.  The coins do make sense, each one has a different size, shape and weight so the elderly and blind can tell what they are handling… just like our paper money.

* Everyone has a washing machine but driers are rare 

I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a drier except for one person who has opted out of the whole electricity thing.  Most people do still prefer to dry their clothes outside, they smell fresher, it saves money and is better for the environment too.  Plus we don’t have any regulations of hanging out washing in gardens as in some places.  An Englishman’s home is his castle right?

* Hot and cold water faucets. Remember them?

Is that like Farrah Faucet?    Oh you mean taps!  They just work a lot better than a uni-tap. Besides most of our piping is older than your country… well you know what I mean.

* Pants are called “trousers”, underwear are “pants” and sweaters are “jumpers”

I don’t know what happened there as underwear are called underpants but its true we have trousers and not pants.  Jumpers and pullovers too but a few use the term sweater.

* The bathroom light is a string hanging from the ceiling

This is the law, no wall switches in a bathroom.  It makes sense too with steamy hot baths and showers and sparks in wall switches.

* “Fanny” is a naughty word, as is “shag”

I go 3 years without swearing and now you do this on my blog.  That’s shagging fantastic isn’t it?!?!

* All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.

That’s true, lots of people comment on them.  I even get told how much politer our signage is “We apologise for your delay” on motorways or baggage reclamation signs at Heathrow.

* There’s no dress code 

Is that good or bad?  You think we’re still living in Downton Abbey time aren’t you?   Actually there are still dress codes in places , so maybe you’re not mixing in the right circles 🙂

* Doors close by themselves, but they don’t always open

What, you lost use of your arms or something?

* They eat with their forks upside down

We eat with our forks properly.  Real fresh food needs to be impaled by the fork.  Get some manners why don’t you!

* The English are as crazy about their gardens as Americans are about cars

That could well be true.  Do you put gnomes on your cars instead of in gardens?

* They don’t seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they’re just less messy than we are

Possibly a bit of both.  I must be honest, I haven’t used a facecloth since I was about 4.  I just use a regular hand towel.  No, we don’t generally use serviettes at home its true.  If you used your fork properly you wouldn’t make a mess!  If we do, just go and grab some toilet paper.

* The wall outlets all have switches, some don’t do anything

The switches are a long story, we don’t explain it to outsiders.  Most of them do things, those that don’t once did so and maybe in a hundred years will be used again.

* There are hardly any cops or police cars

That’s true, we like it that way.  Narrow stairs keep people in their place and the less capable people are kept in line by taunts of proper fork protocols.

* 5,000 year ago, someone arranged a lot of rocks all over, but no one is sure why

It’s true.   We also play a lot of cricket which leaves many people similarly stumped!

* When you do see police they seem to be in male & female pairs and often smiling 

As it should be!  Whenever you’re in trouble you should go to the police.  We all learnt hat when we’re about 3 years old.   Never met a none smiley or helpful one yet.

* Black people are just people: they didn’t quite do slavery here

Of course they’re just people.  Are you in the KKK?  We did do slavery but not segregation and we were also about the first to abolish it.  Besides we were slaves our selves too.

* Everything comes with chips, which are French Fries. You put vinegar on them

Yes, proper chips not those namby pamby poor excuse for chips from the likes of McDonalds but big thick chunky chips.  Salt and vinegar and preferably lots of it and all wrapped up in newspaper to carry home.

* Cookies are “biscuits” and potato chips are “crisps”

No no no, you’re just wrong!   Crisps are crisps because they are crisp… not soggy or chewy.  Chips are chips because they are chips!  Think of carpentry or masonry, you knock off a little bit by accident, it’s a chip, not a crisp!

* HP sauce is better then catsup

What on earth is catsup?  Is it how cats greet each other instead of saying watsup?  HP Sauce is unique, lots of my tourists think it is just brown sauce or bbq sauce or spice sauce but it isn’t and its better than all of them.

* Obama is considered a hero, Bush is considered an idiot.

I think with Obama, we’re talking comparatively.  Most people over here are very disappointed in him but realise he is one man against the system.

* After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food 

My favourite is Chicken Balti, Bombay aloo, peshawar naan, rice and poppadoms.  I love all the dips, especially the mango chutney!

* The water controls in showers need detailed instructions

Hmmm! On, off and a dial for hot and cold.  If it is more simple where you live, please tell me how!

* They will boil anything

Food wise I guess.  We don’t boil iPhones or carpets.  Sometimes people if they are witches.  For food, yes we boil everything.  Its healthier for you and preserves the taste. Plus you can drain the excess water and use it as a basis for soups, stocks and other things.  You don’t have to fry anything!

* Folks don’t always lock their bikes

People don’t always lock their cars or houses either but tend to after they get robbed for the first time.

* It’s not unusual to see people dressed different and speaking different languages

Is this about the black and slavery issue again?  We’re a democracy people can dress and speak however they like.  In fact London is said to have 60% of its population as being born overseas and of the remaining 40% this includes many whose parents or grandparents were born overseas.  There is no pressure to conform… for good or bad.

* Your electronic devices will work fine with just a plug adapter

You think we are Klingons or something with an energy dampening field?  Why on earth wouldn’t they? I mean really?  Can’t you go to any country on the planet and use an electronic device?

* Nearly everyone is better educated then we are

Only when it concerns using electronic devices abroad I fear.

* If someone buys you a drink you must do the same

It’s polite to but you don’t have to.  If needed, remember it next time you meet and buy them a drink then.

* There are no guns

Aren’t  we wacky enough as we are.  Do we look like we need guns to add to the hilarity?

* Look right, walk left. Again; look right, walk left. You’re welcome. 

I have no idea what you are on about 🙂  Are you talking about crossing the road?  No jaywalking does mean you have to take responsibility for looking the correct way, it is true.  Otherwise, what are you on about?

* Avoid British wine and French beer

That is broadly true but there are nice British wines and nice French… I mean Belgian beers. Actually some bubbly white English wines are now winning awards as they taste as good or better than champagne.  You can guess what our continental neighbours think of that,

* It’s not that hard to eat with the fork in your left hand with a little practice. If you don’t, everyone knows you’re an American 

Look, if you can’t handle a fork, just use a wooden spoon like everyone did before we evolved into using forks. There’s nothing wrong with living in the past, our whole country does that.  Why even kid yourself about using a fork as a spoon in your right hand? Just use a shagging spoon!   Fine, shoot me, I’m still right.

* Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks

But still much lower accident and fatality rates.  It helps that our cars are the size of our refrigerators I guess.

* There’s no AC

You’re talking about our electrical switches again right?   No, we don’t do Air Conditioning,  we spend 6-9 months of our lives freezing cold and spend a fortune on heating.  It’s just nice to be miserable because we’re too hot for a few weeks each summer.

* Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper

That’s very true.   Why waste heating/money?  We have a system in our house.  Stop wearing shorts in September, wear Jumpers in October, put on a fleese jacket or a blanket on our laps in the evening in November.   Put on the heating as a last resort.   If you time things right you can cook your food from scratch in the oven which will warm up the downstairs for a few hours and if it is cold, dry your clothes in the drier which also warms up the house.

Honestly, young people today!!

* Gas is “petrol”, it costs about $6 a gallon and is sold by the liter

Petrol is petrol and is sold by the litre.    Gas is that gaseous thing we use for heating or cooking if people favour it over electric.    Where did you get your petrol from?  I’d love to pay just £4 a gallon.  More like £10-13 though it is currently at the lower end of that estimation.

* If you speed on a motorway, you get a ticket. Period. Always

It’s true.  Obey the laws and our narrow streets are very safe and we have about the lowest fatality rates in the world. Have some discipline man or if not then work out where the speed cameras are.

* You don’t have to tip, really!

That’s true.  Our restaurant staff are paid by their owner of the restaurant.  Why would you want to pay someones wages for them when you are eating out?  Tip them if they did a good job but not just for doing their job.  This only goes for waiting staff and drivers.   If all the waiting staff in America refused to do their job for measly wages then they would have to pay a living wage.

* Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall really are different countries

Scotland and Wales are different nations but not different countries.  There is no such place as Ireland.  The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Cornwall is a county not a country, they just think they are a country… kind of like Yorkshire, Northumbria or Texas.

* Only 14% of Americans have a passport, almost everyone in the UK does

Every one here does have a passport, except for the illegals I guess.  Funny, every American I have ever met in London does have a passport.

* You pay the price marked on products because the taxes (VAT) are built in 

What’s the point of kidding ourselves?  Why pretend that something costs $10 but the taxes are $2 on top.  Why not just put $12 on the sign… thats what the consumer is paying.

* Walking is the national pastime 

It’s true.  I’m going for an 8 mile walk after posting this blog…. just because.

* Their TV looks and sounds much better then ours

NTSC Never The Same Colour as American TV engineers used to say about American tv broadcasting standards.  Ours is PAL, maybe it just wants to be friends.

* They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven’t put them all back up yet 

We’ll get round to it when we sort out those wall switches.  If you’re lost just ask a policeman or even a stranger.

* Everyone enjoys a good joke

I’m hoping so as this blog post is clutching at straws now.

* There are no guns

You have a military bigger than the next 9 nations in the world combined, 7 of which are allies.  Don’t you have enough guns?   An Arab with a beard is a terrorist, a white guy with a gun is defending his constitutional rights…. I know, I know.  but things change.  The people who wrote the constitution were clever men, but just men.  Who lives their lives according to what a bunch of criminals wrote 240 years ago?  Get with the times man.   You used to have the right to do all sort of things that you now think would be crazy.

* Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere

We love our dogs.

* There are no window screens

That’s true.  I’m not sure why as our castles did/do.

* You can get on a bus and end up in Paris

You can pretty much all the way to Australia apart from the last few miles.

* Everyone knows more about our history then we do

History is our specialism in life, don’t feel bad we’ve been learning it for much longer.

* Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good

Radio is still a big deal.  The BBC is amazing, quality and no adverts.  We even have documentaries on the radio!

* The newspapers can be awful

Mostly yes.  The Times, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and FT can be quality though.  However it is the lowlife tabloids that can do the best investigations.  All the scandals only come about from them digging up dirt and good on them for that.  We have an unexpectedly large lack of respect for figures of authority.

* Everything costs the same but our money is worth less so you have to add 50% to the price to figure what you’re paying

You noticed, trust me its worse for us.  You put up with it for 2 weeks on a vacation, we have to live with it.  We know that we’re being ripped off…. Apple… Amazon…. etc

* Beer comes in large, completely filled, actual pint glasses and the closer the brewery the better the beer

True enough.  Ditch those girly Budweiser bottles for something that will put hair on your chest.  Go on a brewery tour and you can drink it fresh!

* Butter and eggs aren’t refrigerated

Hence the smaller fridges, I can see the penny is about to drop on this one.  Buy less, consume less and less space is needed to store the food.

* The beer isn’t warm, each style is served at the proper temperature

Each beer is served according to its requirements.  If beer is warm it is because the fermentation process contains live bacteria that need a degree of heat to develop and ferment the drink.  Serve it cold and you kill off the bacteria and yeast and you end up with a bottle of Bud.

* Cider (alcoholic) is quite good.

Very popular too!

* Excess cider consumption can be very painful.

Yes, often worse than beers.   Now I see why you had a problem with stairs and doors.

* The universal greeting is “Cheers” (pronounced “cheeahz” unless you are from Cornwall, in which case it’s “chairz”)

I’ve never ever heard anyone greet anyone this way.  They might say it when having a drink , a few young people use it instead of ‘thanks’ but not a greeting, ever.

* The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, £1-£2 coins and £5-£10, etc bills. There are no quarters. 

I thought you said the coins made no sense?

* Their cash makes ours look like Monopoly money

My tourists do love our money, apart from that the larger notes are too big for wallets that only store monopoly money.  I was shocked to find out a 1 dollar note is almost identical to a large denomination note.  That must cause some expensive problems if you’re not careful or at least be a bit annoying when you are in a hurry and can’t differentiate would money you have in your purse or wallet.

* Cars don’t have bumper stickers

No, we don’t.  It’s tacky.  Besides why would you want everyone to know what political party you support or what weird issue or sports team you like.  You want someone to shoot you?  No one cares that your son or daughter is a star.

* Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America

I saw a door a few weeks ago that is 1,000 years old!

* By law, there are no crappy, old cars

Specifically the law makes sure that all cars are maintained to a very high standard.  The expense of ensuring an old car meets this standard means that often it is cheaper to get a new car every 5-7 years.  Also our winters that keep going above and below freezing a hundred times a winter and lots of road salt mean especially southern European cars just don’t cut the mustard.

* When the sign says something was built in 456, they didn’t lose the “1”

I don’t know, quite a few things were built around 1456BC.  You’re mostly right though.

* Cake is is pudding, ice cream is pudding, anything served for desert is pudding, even pudding

Pudding is pudding, desert is what you have in the Sahara.  Anyway, Yorkshire Pudding isn’t a dessert and Black Pudding definitely isn’t either…. no its not to do with slavery or racism.  It’s dried blood and its flavoursome, you eat it with a properly held fork and a pint of beer.

* BBC 4 is NPR

I’ll take your word for that.

* Everything closes by 1800 (6pm)

Why would you want to be shopping or anything after 6pm?  In the country many places close much much earlier.  There is more to life than money and consumerism.

* Very few people smoke, those who do often roll their own

I don’t know anyone who smokes.  Funnily my tourists often remark how people smoke much more in London than in the USA.  I refer them to the whole 60% of Londoners were born overseas and London is just a tiny bit of the country.

* You’re defined by your accent

That’s true.  I’m judged by mine and I judge others by theirs!  Actually I love accents and don’t really judge them.  What I do judge people on is their grammar and clear pronunciation.

* No one in Cornwall knows what the hell a Cornish Game Hen is

What the hell is a Cornish Game Hen?  What is it game for?  A game of football?  A drink? Sex?  We also don’t know what on earth an English muffin is.  While I’m at it, I’m also baffled by the terms French toast and various eggs sunny side up and over easy.  Be a bit more precise for goodness sake.

* Football is a religion, religion is a sport

Football isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s more important than that.  The words of a very famous and prominent football manager.  Not soccer, please please note.  How would you like it if we called your Baseball, glove catch or stickball?

* Europeans dress better then the British, we dress worse

That’s about right.  When I’m on holiday Germans always seem to dress like they are going to Church, Italians like they’re out clubbing and British… I try to avoid British on holiday.  Americans though, easy to spot.

* The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable

They broadly work yes.  We just expect better.

* Drinks don’t come with ice 

No they don’t generally.  Why do all drinks need to be cold or with ice?  That will mess with your tastebuds.

* There are far fewer fat English people

Maybe but I’d say most people here are fat.

* There are a lot of healthy old folks around participating in life instead of hiding at home watching tv

Definitely, isn’t it great!  Why would they shut themselves away.  They worked hard all their lives, they should make the most of there new found freedom.

* If you’re over 60, you get free tv and bus and rail passes. 

Close but your heart’s in the right place.  Also big discounts on various other things too.

* They don’t use Bose anything anywhere

Speak English to me.  Obviously Bose anything anywhere isn’t as anywhere as they think it is.  Still, bring the right plug and it will work here.

* Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste

Absolutely!  We like to stay private, no-ne needs or wants to know anything about you unless they ask.  Also, displaying wealth is very bad too.

* Every pub seems to have a pet drunk

I’m writing this from home, I’ll have you know.  Many pubs have more than one.

* Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it

The NHS works brilliantly.  I have never had anything but the very best experience with it and its nice that when you’re ill the one thing you don’t have to worry about is money.  Generally people don’t complain, it’s a certain political party and a branch of the media who support them.    Just in July I rang the doctors at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon and was being seen before 6pm in the hospital and it didn’t cost a penny.

* Cake is one of the major food groups 

It is in Cornwall at least.  I haven’t had cake for months.

* Their coffee is mediocre but the tea is wonderful

Our coffee is the same as anywhere else.  People here just prefer tea so perhaps are not so good at making coffee.  I don’t know, maybe we don’t use enough ice.  Anyway I hate coffee, I don’t even like the smell.  I’ve had two mouthfuls in my life and despise the stuff.

* There are still no guns

Look, civilised people don’t need guns.  Having them 250 years ago when you were worried a militia might show up could have been a useful idea (though we managed without it when Nazi Germany was about to invade) but now what’s the point?  People have missiles, drones, nuclear weapons, lasers.  If a foreign or your local government wants to kill you, they can and will.

I’ve never seen a gun, never heard a shot, never met anyone who even knows anyone who has been shot or who carries a gun.

* Towel warmers!

Hmmm, I like how you end this list.

* Cheers

Anytime!

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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7 Responses to Britain and America – Two countries separated by a common language

  1. Francis says:

    Really funny this one!

    Like

  2. Diane Tibert says:

    Thanks for the chuckle. I had to really think with the comment about the fork being used upside down. The image that popped into my head was that he was using the handle and not the prong end. I suppose Waters must always scoop with his fork. In that case, he should be using a spoon. Forks are made for stabbing.

    Guns: I grew up with guns in the house. Almost everyone in my family has shot one at some time, including me. My father and brothers were hunters. They respected guns. They stored them properly and used them only for hunting. I believe they had only a shot gun and a 22. I know people who have guns to shoot coyotes that might run off with their livestock (chickens, goats, sheep). There’s a purpose for the gun.

    Gun rules are stricter in Canada than the United States. We need permits to handle a gun and one to own one. Guns can not be transported loaded. When you get to your hunting spot, that’s when you load. Guns cannot be carried on your person while you’re buying food, taking in a movie or at a pub. Makes perfect sense to me.

    What baffles me is that in the US, you are allowed to carry a loaded weapon wherever you go. Who do they expect to meet in the line-up to buy ice cream?

    I’m not sure about types of guns, but I believe in Canada, we can’t own hand guns or semi-automatic weapons. No machine guns allowed. Makes sense to me. In the US, I don’t think there are many restrictions on the types of guns. Their love affair with guns is confusing. I wonder what type and size massacre will have to take place for them to finally give them up. The killing of 20 elementary kids and 6 teachers didn’t do it. I’m afraid to think what will.

    Regarding crappy cars: it makes me wonder if the US has mandatory vehicle inspections. In Canada, we have to get our vehicles inspected every two years. If they don’t pass, we either fix them or take them off the road.

    This post made me think of the differences between Canada and the US, as well as Canada and Britain. I’d say we Canadians are still stuck midway.

    Like

    • I entirely agree with you about forks. If you don’t hold it properly or don’t require it, just use a spoon. I’m not going to think any worse for them doing so, not compared to scooping with a fork.

      I think the gun rules in Canada must be much more similar to the U.K. Our rules used to be comparable to Canadian standards until the Hungerford Massacre in the 1980’s brought a tightening and then the Dunblane school massacre in the late 1990’s after which there was a total clampdown as I believe occurred in Australia too after just one or two incidents.

      You can have a gun here but only if you are a farmer, hunter or sportsman but the rules are so tough that even Olympic shooters find it hard to train. Here those few people who do have a gun licence have to store them in a secure safe with limited ammunition available and all of this is checked by the police regularly. You can’t just have a gun even if you live in the mountains, you need a reason.

      I can see though why people in Canada may need a gun if they live where bears or wolves might be nearby or coyotes just as farmers here have guns for shooting foxes that kill chickens or people who go hunting for fun (not that I ever would) but not a suburban family in Ottawa, London or Chicago.

      If everyone primarily has a gun just incase someone else with a gun might shoot you then why not just get rid of all guns? Sometimes you have to give up rights for the wellbeing of everyone. Maybe for a few years or even decades innocent people will get shot and not be able to defend themselves but eventually guns will vanish and everyone will be safe. As it is these days, lots of people have guns and it doesn’t seem to be stopping gun crime… rather obviously I would think.

      I just checked and according to the latest records on Wikipedia .26 people per 100,000 are killed in Britain, 2.22 for Canada and 10.64 in the USA

      As for cars, a new car doesn’t need to be tested for 3 years but after that it is tested every year on 40 or 50 aspects and you have a few weeks to get it up to standard or else you can’t drive it.

      Yes I think you’re right about Canada. It has a British heritage but more day to day interaction with the USA.

      Like

    • BTW Diane, you might enjoy this Australian comedians take on gun control. It is very funny but makes great points. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHY48Q2UBVk

      Like

  3. Ha, ha! Great stuff, very witty! 🙂

    Like

  4. Maureen says:

    and when I order books from England they say ‘Thank you ever so much for your order’… Love it

    Liked by 1 person

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