American perceptions on Britain from tourists.

Working with tourists every day, I often find out that they have some interesting observations or preconceptions about what it is like both in London and the rest of the U.K.  Here are a collection of very common comments that I hear on a regular basis with some slightly snide replies from myself!

* Almost everyone is very polite

^^^It’s one of our unique selling points!

* The food is generally outstanding

^^^ 95% of the time, tourists will tell me our food is better than their own, perhaps due to the lack of GM products and processed foods.  The poor food is a hangover from WW2, if you’d spent years under rationing and being bombed every day your food wouldn’t be so great for a while either.

* There are no guns

^^^ Thank heavens!

* There are too many narrow stairs

The trick here is that the narrow stairs were usually built centuries or a millennia ago, more exercise and less food usually makes the narrow stairs more manageable!

* Everything is just a little bit different and we’ve been lucky with the weather.

^^^That’s what you go overseas for surely? And you’re not lucky with the weather, this is how it is.

* The pubs close too early

^^^I guess it depends where you go.  Pubs can stay open all night if they want to.

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

^^^What?  We drive on the original Roman side of the road.

* You’d better like peas, potatoes and sausage

^^^ It is true.  Try mushy peas, they are the best!
* Refrigerators and washing machines are very small

^^^ Surely you can only eat so much and wear so much too?  All those big appliances are bad for the planet.

* Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter

^^^ That’s history for you.
* People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbours or the government

^^^This always makes me laugh.  Why on earth would you be afraid of your neighbours?  If you are then move!  And your government too?  So many American people seem paranoid about their governments.  It makes me think of Russia or North Korea.

* Their paper money makes sense,.

^^^ The colours and sizes are all different so they are easy to distinguish, particularly for visitors and older people.

* Everyone has a washing machine but driers are rare

^^^ I don’t know anyone who has a washing machine but not a drier.  Personally I try to hang my clothes out in the garden to dry as often as possible.  I’ve heard that in some American developments that would be against the rules.  An Englishmans home is his castle and if we want to hang our underwear out then we will do so!

* You have Hot and cold water faucets.

^^^ Some places have mixer style taps but I hate them!

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

^^^ It’s true, all true I tells you.

* The bathroom light is a string hanging from the ceiling

^^^ It’s illegal to have any plug or switch type device in a bathroom. This is partly due to our sockets and appliances running at a higher voltage which can be deadly with hot steamy bathrooms.
* “Fanny” is a naughty word, as is “shag”

^^^ Fanny is only naughty if you’re about 4.  Shag is about as unshocking a word as is possible for naughty words.  A bit like poo.
* All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.

^^^ I get some many comments about how polite and simple to understand all our signs are.  Many people from New York for some reason tell me the subway there has very poor signage and often none whatsoever!

* There’s no dress code

^^^We don’t always live in Downton Abbey
* Doors close by themselves, but they don’t always open

^^^It’s true, we rely on century old technology known as hinges and our hands.

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

^^^We do love our gardens
* They don’t seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they’re just neater then we are

^^^ Possibly both but no, generally people eat without making a mess.  Maybe it is related to that weird thing you do when you cut up your food and switch hands to use a fork.  I don’t own any facecloths!
* The wall outlets all have switches, some don’t do anything

^^^Another safety feature.  Most switches do something but if the house is really old, the switch may be for something in an entirely different room!
* There are hardly any cops or police cars

^^^ I get told this a lot.
* When you do see police they seem to be in male & female pairs and often smiling

^^^ Police generally go in pairs and yes, why wouldn’t they be smiling?  The British Bobby is the best!
* Black people are just people: they didn’t quite do slavery here

^^^ Yes, some people here hate poor people, others hate rich people but no one hates black or white people.  I’ve had several black Americans cry with happiness on tours this year in London when they tell me how different it feels here and the differences in the whole slavery issue.
* Everything comes with chips, which are French fries. You put vinegar on them

^^^ Salt and vinegar I’ll have you know.
* Cookies are “biscuits” and potato chips are “crisps”
* HP sauce is better then ketchup

^^^It sure is!
* Obama is considered a hero, Bush is considered an idiot.

^^^ I wouldn’t go that far.  Most people do think Bush is an idiot and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think Obama was anything less than a disappointment… though not an idiot.
* After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food

^^^ Chicken Balti with Bombay Aloo for me please.  I can also make my own very fine naan breads.
* The water controls in showers need detailed instructions

^^^ You switch the power on, press the button, move the dial to your preferred temperature.  It’s not really that hard.
* They can boil anything

^^^ Definitely.
* Folks don’t always lock their bikes

^^^ It’s true… or cars for that matter.
* It’s not unusual to see people dressed different and speaking different languages

^^^ This always makes me laugh too.
* Your electronic devices will work fine with just a plug adapter

^^^ Why wouldn’t it?
* Nearly everyone is better educated then we are

^^^ Maybe more widely read and less insular… it all starts with meeting people that are dressed differently I guess.

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

^^^ Yes, don’t be a cheapskate.
* There are no guns

^^^ Every… single… tour…. 🙂

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

^^^ Ideally with an apology thrown in somewhere.
* 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

^^^ That’s not quite true, some unruly local 3-year olds also try and eat with their fork in their right hand until they know better.
* Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks

^^^ No wonder the stairs are a problem!  Most roads are truly ancient, no-one is going to knock down every roadside house just to lower the skills of drivers
* There’s no AC

^^^ Don’t need to tell me.  It was 103 here two weeks ago and over 140 on the Underground.  Yikes!
* Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper

Yes, you don’t have to make everything easy and perfect and waste resources.  You’ll get by and save money too.
* Gas is “petrol”, it costs about $6 a gallon and is sold by the litre

^^^ I’d think the price is much higher now.
* If you speed on a motorway, you get a ticket. Period. Always

^^^ Never got one yet but some people have problems
* You don’t have to tip, really!

^^^Most jobs are fairly paid.
* Only 14% of Americans have a passport, everyone in the UK does

^^^ I don’t know the exact percentage but yes the reputation is there.
* You pay the price marked on products because the taxes (VAT) are built in

^^^ I’ve only seen the American prices on TV, it sounds a bit crazy not to just put the total price in.
* Walking is the national pastime

^^^ 17 miles yesterday for me!
* Their TV looks and sounds much better then ours

^^^ No adverts on the BBC.
* They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven’t put them all back up yet

^^^ I guess there may be one or two but most were back up decades ago.
* There are no guns

^^^ Yes.
* Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere

^^^ I love dogs and used to have a beagle.
* There are no window screens

^^^ What you on about?
* You can get on a bus and end up in Paris

^^^ You used to be able to get on a bus to Australia just 3 or 4 years ago.  I’m pretty sure you can still go by bus most of the way to China or Singapore.
* Everyone knows more about our history then we do

^^^ I can’t comment, I’m a historian.
* Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good

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

^^^ Broadly speaking yes.
* Butter and eggs aren’t refrigerated

^^^ Americans are always so surprised by this.  Not everything has to be freezing cold… whether eggs, beer, diet coke, room temperature.
* The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, then-£1-£2-£5-£10, etc bills. There are no quarters.

^^^ All the coins are actually different shapes and sizes so old and blind people can pick out the correct change.
* Their cash makes ours look like Monopoly money

^^^ We do sometimes call it that… or Mickey Mouse money.
* Cars don’t have bumper stickers

^^^ No-one does that, it’s so juvenile 🙂 Why would you want the car behind you to know your opinion on something.  You’re not that important for anyone to care and if they do, they might just take aggressive action.  Also why ruin a $40,000 car with a 99 cent sticker?  Would you put a sticker on a diamond ring or an expensive handbag?

* By law, there are no crappy, old cars

^^^ It’s not quite the law but certainly the side effect of various vehicle safety laws.
* Cake is is pudding, ice cream is pudding, anything served for desert is pudding, even pudding

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

Apparently smoking is due to become extinct in Britain in the next few years.
* You’re defined by your accent

Definitely.  Though personally I love all accents, I just hate people who don’t annunciate properly or use good grammar.
* No one in Cornwall knows what the hell a Cornish Game Hen is

No idea what you’re on about.
* Soccer is a religion, religion is a sport.

^^^ You mean football?  Yes, it drives me mad.  (How football sounds to people that just don’t care) American people seem very very religious for a state that is meant to differentiate religion and government. British people are much less religious by and large but do try to be nice to every one in every day life.  We are also sorry about everything.
* Europeans dress better then the British, we dress worse

^^^ Yes it’s all true.
* The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable

Three minutes is rather shoddy in London, we can’t rely on a service that is 3 minutes late.  We have places to go, people to see.
* Drinks don’t come with ice

^^^ No, we savour the actual flavour of the drink.  Ice takes that away.
* There are far fewer fat British people

^^^ True but not few enough.
* There are a lot of healthy old folks around participating in life instead of hiding at home watching tv

^^^ This makes me laugh too, it sounds like a terrible way to live.
* If you’re over 60, you get free tv and bus and rail passes.

^^^ I guess that helps… One of the good things about public transport.  We have chauffeurs to drive us everywhere; you might call them bus and train drivers.
* They don’t use Bose anything anywhere

^^^ I have absolutely no idea what this is.
* Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste

^^^ Definitely, and more so on car stickers.
* Every pub has a pet drunk

^^^ Hey, I have a name thank you very much.
* Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it

^^^ Because it could be even better.

 

* There are still no guns

^^^ This list could go on all day and that wouldn’t change.

 

* Towel warmers!

^^^ Hhhmmmm, towel warmers.

 

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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!
This entry was posted in Cool Britannia, Funny & Humour, Life, London, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to American perceptions on Britain from tourists.

  1. Ankur Mithal says:

    Eye opening. Even though the comments are about Britain, I think they reveal a lot more about Americans. And, just back after three weeks in the US, I can empathise. Americans in general don’t understand small, narrow, less.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sarahlong00 says:

    I’m an American currently living in London, and all of this was is too true. Side note: thank you for enlightening me on the electrical switch situation in bathrooms – I’ve been here for almost two years and never knew that was an actual law!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn Allan says:

    Oh my…..I have a lot of comments! I guess it all boils down to the way you were brought up, where and how you were educated, where you lived, etc.! I could go on and on!! I wonder about some of your tourists, too!! I still wish you would come here for a visit and see and actually experience the other side! It sort of depresses me what I just read!! No offense against you….I just think there is a lot you “don’t get” or understand about the USA….I think a lot of Europeans don’t! Makes me sad! We probably have misconceptions too over here! Wish it all weren’t the case! Marilyn

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was thinking of you actually when I wrote this earlier today and wondering what you’d make of it. At least the most recent weird tourists were Australians who complained to the travel agency that it was too hot…. like that is my fault! I can’t wait to visit one day 🙂

      Like

  4. runsewread says:

    I love celebrating the differences in our cultures and regions. There are little annoyances, yes, but the key word is celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marilyn Allan says:

    I want to clarify something….don’t want you to think I am talking about you!! When I say “you”….I mean anyone….we all have different life experiences! Marilyn

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As an American, this post made me laugh. Very entertaining (and accurate)….love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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