One of the most popular posts on this site is a post I did a few months ago about my Top 10 London Traditions. It’s not a post that I thought would have any legs on the social media networks – it was mostly a vanity post of me sharing what I like to do when I go to London.
But then some people left some interesting comments about how they were treated the last time they were in the UK. Those comments attracted the interest of someone on Stumbleupon – this was in July. Since then, this one post has attracted nearly 10,000 hits and nearly 40 comments.
It’s the comments that keep the people coming. I’ve had several spikes of traffic to that page over the last couple months and the conversation has evolved into how Americans should behave and expect to be treated in the UK.
Capitalizing on that – I’ve decided to write a post that doesn’t sugar coat things at all. Here’s the official Anglotopia guide on how to not look or act like an idiot American in Britain.
Anyone who has traveled abroad has seem them. They’re easy to spot in the wild and don’t respond well to those around them. They’re usually spotted in large groups, not far from a giant tour bus or near a McDonalds. I’m talking about the Typical American Tourist.
They are typified, not just by their fashion sense, but by their complete lack of understanding of a country before they travel to it. Despite spending thousands of dollars to travel somewhere, at no time did they even think about learning about where they were going.
In defense of the Brits, who are continually disgusted by my American brothers, I’ve decided to write a quick guide to help Americans better deal with Britain. They may speak English, but they are completely different than you or I.
Leave Your Shorts at Home
Britain gets pretty warm in the summers, but one thing you won’t see much of is shorts. The idea of having half your legs exposed just SEEMS unBritish. What, do you think this is Thailand?
Let’s Play Spot the Gym Shoes
With practicality, we must all wear comfortable shoes when we travel abroad. But that does not mean go buy a pair of flash Nike’s to wear. An easy way to spot an American is to look for a group of people, all wearing gym shoes. Gym shoes are for the gym or similar activities not for traveling in a European country.
Fanny Pack = Fashion Victim from 1990
I’ve seen it with my own eyes, as recent as 3 years ago. People still think that Fanny Packs are still a useful travel accessory. Don’t ever wear one, ever. You’re just asking for a thief to clip it off your waist and steal your passport and money.
Yes, the Brits speak English, but it’s in a completely different way and they use words differently. Try to watch BBC America a bit before you leave, try to get an ear for the tongue. No one wants to have someone scream “What?” at them multiple times because they don’t understand. It’s really not that hard to understand a British accent. It’s linguistically similar to a Southern Accent in the US, if that helps.
Yes, I know you were still shocked to see that they do indeed drive on the other side of the road in Britain. Because they do, that means that all traffic comes from the RIGHT when you’re crossing a street, not the left. So, ALWAYS look right before you cross a street.
Speaking of right, always keep to the right when walking up stairs or an escalator. This allows people to go by you if they are in a hurry. This is very evident on the Tube, where you will always run into someone more in a hurry than you. Get out of their way.
Complaining about the Rain
Yes, it rains in Britain. Deal with it. Otherwise, why did you go there? If you want sun, go to the Bahamas. Besides it doesn’t rain nearly as much as the stereotypes say it does. Carry an umbrella – be prepared.
Complaining about Anything, really
While complaining is a British National Pastime, that does not mean it is OK for you to complain about anything about Britain. They are quite happy to NOT know your opinion on any matter. Brits are well aware of their inadequacies and don’t want to be reminded of them.
Telling the Cabbie Which Way to Go
Unlike in the US, where any immigrant off the boat can drive a Cab, in the UK it’s a trade that require YEARS of training and memorization of every street in London. Your Black Taxi London Cabbie knows how to get where you want to go better than you. Don’t insult him by thinking you know better. You don’t. Also, NEVER take a ‘mini-cab’ anywhere, they are unregulated and will most likely not know where you’re going and may rip you off.
The British do not have a Tipping culture. Never tip anyone. That means your cabbie, your waiter or bellhop. Unlike the US, Brits are paid a decent wage for their job and do not expect to be tipped. Oftentimes, they will be insulted if you do. Most wait staff in London are usually Eastern European and if you ask them about tipping, they’ll tell you that ‘Yes, you tip’ for obvious reasons. Generally there is a service charge already tacked onto your bill. It is not necessary to pay the person twice.
Talk about Politics
As an American, unless you’re someone like me, you know absolutely nothing about British Politics (and chances are American Politics as well). So, that qualifies to you to talk about nothing related to politics in Britain. The friendly bloke you just met in a pub is not really interested in what you think about the Iraq War or Gordon Brown. They don’t even really want to talk about it with other Brits. And don’t you DARE speak poorly of the National Health Service (or call is Socialist).
Stuff Your Face
Portions are smaller in the UK. Deal with it.
Americans seem to think that because we’re Americans, we deserve special treatment in the UK. We don’t. We’re foreigners just like the rest of the world. Remember, we fought a whole war over our independence, and the Brits are still a little sore about losing. Any special treatment we may have hoped for ended at the end of the Revolutionary War.
“We Saved Your Ass in the War”
The British are well aware of the role that the Americans played in World War II. Don’t remind them of it. The British are EXTREMELY proud of their war history and they were keeping Hitler at bay for YEARS before we bothered to get involved. We did not save their ass in the war. We were their ally in victory and we WORKED together. It was a TEAM effort.
Stand in the sidewalk and look at your map
If you’re lost, don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk and look at your map. Step off to the side and discretely look.
We Caused the Econopocalypse
Whether you think we caused the current economic troubles or not – the fact of the matter is that the rest of the world thinks we did. You should act accordingly and expect to be treated poorly because of this. They’ll get over it eventually, but only once things have started to recover (which they are starting to, imo). Don’t talk about it, don’t talk about how it affected you, don’t talk economic theory or implicate the Brits. Leave it alone.
Do you have any advice to American Tourists in Britain?