British Culture: 9 things I still don’t get about Britain

When you travel to Britain for the first time, the first thing you’ll notice pretty much when you exit the aircraft is how foreign the place is. I love Britain and I love its various cultures. And while I tend to think I have a pretty good understanding of the country and their cultures, there are still a few things that completely baffle me to no end.

Disclaimer: This post is meant all in good fun and is meant to generate a good discussion. Comments will be heavily moderated to avoid racism, abuse, etc.

Here’s a list of 9 things I still don’t get about Britain.

Barley water

I bought this one time in the British section of the grocery store. I thought it was orange juice and I thought, oh how nice, British orange juice!

IT WAS NOT ORANGE JUICE.

It was probably the most disgusting liquid I ever put into my mouth.

Why does this drink exist, Britain? Why?

The Drinking

A common stereotype of Britain is that it’s a nation of drunkards. While not everyone drinks to excess in Britain, they do drink quite a bit. This is something that boggles my mind.

The problem I have when traveling to Britain is that I’m a teetotaler – I rarely drink and can’t stomach the taste of alcohol (it’s more taste over principle). This is all well and good but I’m missing out on a huge aspect of British culture because everyone hangs out at the pub after work or to close a business deal. It’s an incredibly social part of Britain and I know I’m missing out because I don’t understand it.

I don’t think I could work in the UK because I couldn’t handle constantly going to the pub with my co-workers and drinking away the sorrows of the work day. It’s just not the way I roll.

Toast as a Treat

In America, toast is the lowest on the totem pole of Breakfast importance. It’s often the last thing you really think about and is standard with breakfast everywhere. I’m not a fan of toast per se and don’t really eat it.

In Britain, toast is a treat. A lovely snack to be savored not just at breakfast but anytime throughout the day – toast is an acceptable snack any time. I challenge you to admire the ecstasy that happens watching a Brit have some toast in the afternoon. It’s hilarious.

Come on, guys, it’s toast!

Cynicism

Cynicism is basically a bed rock of British character and sometimes it’s interesting or amusing. But most of the time it infuriates me. Sometimes the British can just be so unbelievably negative that it boggles my mind.

But they would probably say the opposite about us Americans, we’re probably too optimistic and cheery for their liking.

Their cynicism can lead to some great humor, but when you experience it for a long period of time, you can’t stand being around people who are so negative. It starts to infect your own personality.

If you want an example of this, read the Daily Mail every day for a week. If you do, you’ll hate the government, immigrants, people who live on benefits, the NHS, rich people, poor people, Londoners, northerners… I could go one.

Poor Service

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten good service in Britain. I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s the prominence of Eastern Europeans in the service industry (but Brits themselves are just as bad).

Now, you’re just as likely to get bad service in the States – but generally service professionals do a better job – even the really bad ones.

Service is the worst in chain restaurants geared towards tourists. Service improves the further you get out of London, though.

Why do the British continually put up with this?

Xenophobia

This is a hard subject to write about because it straddles the line between racism and politics but it’s something that really bothers me. A large percentage of the British population can’t stand foreigners and make it quite plain. It’s all over the media, the newspapers and sometimes the way you’re treated once you open your mouth.

What’s most astonishing is the double think, they’re proud of their multi-cultural society but yet they want to close the borders and keep people out. Their immigration system is locked up so tight it’s just not possible for Americans, Canadians or others from English-speaking countries to move there unless you’re wealthy or marry a Brit.

On the one hand, they’ll be welcoming to outsiders, on the other hand they ‘tut-tut’ at being overrun with foreigners. They have a special disdain for Eastern Europeans (except the ones that work hard). What’s most confusing is the distinction between ‘good foreigners’ (i.e. white ones) and ‘bad foreigners’ (i.e. brown ones). We’re all foreigners. Britain has been continually changed by foreign influences from people coming to live there. While there are recognizable problems with integration throughout Britain, overall being open to foreigners is a GOOD THING.

Monty Python

I’m going to drop a bombshell here.

I can’t stand Monty Python.

I don’t find it funny and I just don’t get it.

I love British comedy but I can never sit through an episode (or movie) of Monty Python.

I know this makes me a bad Anglophile but that’s just the way it is.

Anti-Londonism

London is a shining beacon in the world. It’s a world city, a beautiful city full of life and culture.

And most British people will not hesitate to slag it off (to borrow a British term).

If one more British Person tells me to ‘get out of London’ and ‘see the real Britain’ I’m going to scream. Yes, most of us are aware that there is a whole country outside of London. We know that Britain does not equal London.

We just happen to Love London too. Many Britons have a love/hate relationship with their capital leaning towards hate – but we love it with all its flaws.

It’s really hard for tourists to leave London, renting a car is expensive and traveling by train is confusing to tourists (who come from a country pretty much without them). So, don’t be angry that many tourists like to stick to London and take advantage of everything it has to offer, at least for their first few trips. London is a thriving economic engine for the rest of Britain, whether they like it or not.

Look at the bright side, that just means less tourists and foreigners in your local villages!

Tearing Down the Successful

I’ve been watching this get worse with the advent of the world’s current economic difficulties. The British love to tear down the successful, whether it’s sneering at someone who’s gotten rich, finding ways to criticize them or tearing them down in other ways.

American is a land of optimism and opportunity and we hold the entrepreneur up with very high regard, Not so much in Britain. We admire people who take a shit life and turn it around into something better. The British are fine if people continue to wallow in their misfortune. There’s not a lot of drive to improve yourself and fix your life.

As someone who is a big believer in taking control of your life and fixing the problems in it – I just don’t understand this. Not only that, it pervades all classes and sub-cultures. People are content to be suffering and won’t do a damn thing to fix their problems or work out of it.

What don’t you get about Britain? Let us know in the comments!


Comments

  1. avatar says

    Jonathan, toast IS a treat! As you know, my mum’s family was English so I grew up with lots of English food ways. Tea and toast, eggs and toast, hot chocolate and toast, peaches (or other fruit) and toast. Lovely! And I ALWAYS use a toast rack for nice crispy toast.

      • avatarterrianne says

        I am a Native Minnesota, we eat toast, we love toast. My family background is English, Irish, Austrian and Swedish..They all loved toast. I lived in England for awhile. I married a Englishmen……….he loves toast………..English toast is dry, because the toast it, stand it in the stupid rack, bring it to you uncovered in the stand, with a cute little plate of buter and jams. So now it is dry and cold. How hard is it to make toast. Toast it, butter it, serve it. I will ad my own jam.

        • avatarMaria says

          I’m with you. I hate cold toast. I like it warm, well browned and slathered in butter, which I may or may not top with strawberry jam. I don’t have it that often though since I don’t do anything like a normal breakfast most mornings, but I have had with tea – out of desperation though when there was nothing else to be had.

        • avatarKathi Patterson says

          In one of Dorothy Sayers’ wonderful Wimsey stories, Lord Peter complains to Harriet that he cannot understand why Britons cannot make hot toast like the Americans are able to do.

      • avatarKatherine says

        I’m English and I agree with Matt more or less. However, you have to realise that London has a massive class divide. For example, travel to Tower Hamlets and you’ll see massive poverty but go to Central London and it’s full of people in suits. The working class aren’t fond of these people in suits because they see what they can’t have and it is exceedingly difficult to become wealthy when one comes from a working class background.
        Up North, where I live, the people are much friendlier. We tend to be poorer and I live in a deprived area but people will talk to you on the bus rather than sit a few seats away from you like you’re contagious.
        Don’t think of British people as xenophobic, miserable people please because though there happens to be a few of those, they’re not the majority, they just make themselves heard a great deal.

        • avatarRoy Reeves says

          I spent two years in England and have re-visited twice over these many years.
          I am a great admirer of the Brit’s. They are the most civil people on earth.
          Love their toast and eggs with tea!!!

      • avatarJohn says

        Toast only gets cold if wait an hour before eating it. Toast is a treat to be enjoyed at anytime of the day with coffee or tea.

        • avatarFrancisca Esteva says

          I personally like my toast to be crisp.and hate it to be given it ready buttered.It goes soggy.I enjoy toast for breakfast with butter an bitter orange marmalade while doing the Telegraph’s cryptic crossword.Sheer heaven.

        • avatarCJ says

          I love toast as a treat and enjoy it pretty much daily with tea. Something about crispy toasted bread smeared with butter is just so yummy. Don’t care for jam though, as I don’t have a sweet tooth. I’m American, BTW. Some of us really enjoy our toast. :)

          • avatarMichaela Shannon says

            My nine year old daughter loves toast, she would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if she could! I’m from England myself, and I still eat beans on toast.

      • avatarPephin says

        We don’t butter our toast before serving it in a toast rack. The toast rack keeps it crisp and prevents the soggy mass on the side of the plate Americans call toast! Hope this helps.

      • avatarAnthea Prentice AKA possum says

        The Toast Rack is so that the toast stands and doesn’t get soggy. I love cold toast with the butter on top rather than sogged in lol. Who would have thought I would be discussing toast lol. I am a Brit living in Spain. No-one does bread like the UK, specially from real bakers, solid and very toastable, but sometimes too lovely to toast

    • avatar says

      Hi, I’m from the UK, Manchester, a bit futher North of London. I LOVE toast at any time of the day, cheap, easy and you can out anything onit, espically beans. Love Barley water, hate Monty Python, but my hubby, who’s a Brit loves it. We would move back tomorrow if we couls afford to, and be able to get a job. Life is a bit tough for the average Brit right now. But we keep a stiff upper lip and muddle through.

      • avatar says

        Barley Water is great, it’s to cleanse your kidney’s, and/or bladder infections, and is also a refreshing drink, diluted to the right dosage, with ice in it. Toast! Yummy, especially made the old fashioned way, on a toasting fork, in front of a coal fire, slathered with either butter and jam or, my favourite, pork or beef dripping….. Can just hear the Americans going “Eeeeuw” at that! Guess all toast is now made in a toaster, as coal fires have gone the way of the dodo bird….. (You can tell I am a “Senior Citizen” as we OAP’s are called in the States!)

        • avatarChris says

          I love beef dripping! We often had it on toast for breakfast, but none of my American friends could understand it.

    • avatarPhaedra says

      LOL It is funny how much they do like toast. My friends there are always making toast and asking me if I would like some. (And I’m confused as to why they like it so “dark” (ie: burnt).) I’ll eat a piece now and then while I’m there, but not as much as my friends! I don’t find it odd..I just politely refuse to have a piece. (“No thank you…I’m not hungry” is what I usually say.) But I love how they have it all the time!

  2. avatar says

    My darling husband, I think your statement of, “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten good service in Britain.” Is really unfair! Yes the majority of the time, especially in London we’ve had bad service, but we’ve also had excellent service too. I hate to call you out, but you know I’m right!

        • avatar says

          Let´s be honest, most of the people who works at restaurants or at any shop is foreign, which actually makes this perception wrong. Most of them are inmigrants and as a inmigrants, they are just as good or as bad as any other people who works in those places.
          Another thing why i believe this is not right is that the British “tips” are not very remarkable!!LOL

          • avatarDavid Franklin says

            Oh, stow it. More folks use ‘gotten’ in the UK than use ‘got’ for the past participle. And some Americans (certain Ivy Leaguers, I’d guess) use ‘got’.
            Get – got – gotten
            Forget – forgot – forgotten
            Bite – bit – bitten
            Break – broke – broken

            And this ain’t broken, so why pedants had to go ‘fixing’ it, beats me.

    • avatarMJ says

      Jackie, you are RIGHT to call jonathan out on this! I get AMAZING service in England, whether in town or country. Mo, my milkman, my news agent, my landlord (Earl Cadogan, I might add,) my concierge…always quickly and always politely. And…Peter Jones? Yes, I was being served!

      • avatarSaarah says

        Even the lollypop man used to wave at my dad every morning when we went past that road on our way to primary school in the mornings ^^

    • avatarSandie V-W says

      Jackie-the reason I believe the US think the British have bad service is that as an Brit Expat living in the USA for over 20 yrs is the Americans tend to be a bit boorish and impatient. The Brits are still used to queing (or standing in line) . It’s all a sense of entitlement with them..Manners seem to have gotten lost along the wayside here.

    • avatarLucy says

      Doesn’t the way you get paid work differently in America to Britain? We don’t really tip here, so our basic wage for waiter/waitressing is higher and tips are just an added bonus. So they don’t have to work hard for the customers to get a decent wage because even if you give great service you’d probably get like a 3% tip. Why work harder than you need to, is basically the attitude.

  3. avatarJacqueline Roberts says

    Ok….how observant off you! We are a negative cynical people and I have often wondered why? Until last month. I was talking to my American friends on Facebook and they were saying how hot it it there! I said oh its been raining constantly here, they said how depressing that must be! Yes it is very depressing. Combine that with a recession and guess what you get. As for building people up and knocking them down that’s another negative we hate people who get too big for their boots, I think that’s an ingrained class thing about knowing your place. Now immigration… we are a tiny cramped country we have no room for anybody on this tiny cramped island, again island mentality is not good. Ok let’s address Monty I don’t like it too, never got it never will. And finally although we are miserable and drink to much (Research our history as to why the answer is there) we are the most generous loving people and I for one know if I was in a pub and I saw an American tourist wanting to explore the UK we would give you a lift for free. I know I would and most Brits would if we were passing.

    • avatarDiane Heath says

      Thanks for the information. We are coming for a holiday in September and have never been to the UK. We will of course be London tourists for a few days of our stay but are planning to get out of London and explore other villages to the west and north to see the real UK. We are from Seattle and I hear we have pretty similar weather, cloudy and rainy so we are prepared already. Any places you would recommend as a must visit for people like me that like to see the outlying areas aside from London?

      • avatarSus says

        I have lived in a village in the West of England for 28 years and have just driven home from a nearby city “cross country”, in other words not on the main road, to avoid a traffic hold up. I found a beautiful village I had never known existed.
        My advice for you is to turn off the main road on to the narrow side roads and discover some places for yourself. Serendipity!

        • avatarPete Day says

          I have lived in England all my 65 years, except for 15 years abroad and it still amazes me that if I go a few miles, say up to 20, from where I was born, I see villages I have never heard of, with an old castle (or remains) or a mediaeval church, Quite amazing! Though there are over 10,000 mediaeval churches in England.

      • avatarRich Ranker says

        Diane,
        I am an American who has had the priviledge of living in the UK for just over five years.
        I believe you are wise to visit London, since it has sooooo much to see, but to get a flavor of what it is to be British, you need to see the sights and meet the people of the rest of Britain. Unless your vacation is going to be a few months long, I recommend you pick a few things of interest to you, such as history, architecture, castles, the countries of GB, seashores, hiking, nature, and so forth.
        Some things I can recommend include:
        - Welsh and Scottish castles – I’ve visited over 20 and love them
        - Roman ruins, especially the baths of Bath and Hadrian’s Wall (but there are so many more….)
        - Durham cathedral (which can be combined with a stay in Durham Castle if you’re lucky!) or the spooky shell of Coventry cathedral bombed in WWII or Cartmel Priory and the home of sticky toffee pudding
        - Chester, the city whose walls are half Roman and half medieval
        - the Lake District for beautiful sights, hills and hikes, Mount Snowden in Wales, and the Trough of Bowland — but they’re nothing like Mount Ranier (I worked for a short time at Seattle U)!
        - The Cornish and Welsh coasts, or the almost deserted NW coast of Scotland
        - For the real adventurers, the Orkney Islands by ferry and the older than Stonehenge sites of Neolithic man showing thie standing stones, village (Skare Brae) or burial site that is perfectly aligned with the solstace sun (Maes Howe).
        - Small fishing villages up and down the coast.
        I could go on forever, You are facing the same sort of problem my sister and her husband are mulling over as my wife and I are trying to help them plan a visit with us in October – so much to see in so little time!
        Best of luck to you, and safe traveling!

  4. avatarSue says

    Hi Jonathan
    “aw, how nice, British orange juice” What’s that supposed to mean?! BTW, did you dilute the Barley Water as you’re supposed to? Just checking, you never know.
    Yes, you’re right on everything- it’s very well observed. But, although we do like toast, I’ve never met anyone who eats it in the afternoon.
    I’ve just come back from NYC and my trip confirmed that the Brits and the Americans are VERY different. For my part I don’t understand all the American flags – it just becomes meaningless. Also I realised that I am not comfortable living in a country where people don’t acknowledge that life can often be a bit crap. This pessimism is just part of our national psyche and we just can’t help it. I expect you’ve read Bill Bryson “Notes from a small island”? He understands us better than we understand ourselves, I think. Thanks for the post – don’t forget though that we may be pessimistic but we are dogged too – Stay Calm and Carry On should be on HM The Queen’s coat of arms!!

    • avatarMeri says

      Sue,
      The reason there are so many flags in NYC is the events of September 11. Yes, I realize that was a decade ago, but that was part of the result. Some people hang them to show their support for the country or for our police and fire department. Some hang them because they want to show how American they are (a bit of sarcasm there). Some just because it’s the thing to do and they think maybe tourists will frequent their establishment.

      That said, hanging the flag, regardless of the intent behind the act in the first place is NEVER meaningless. While many people may walk by that flag and think nothing of it, I assure you to many of us it means a great deal.

      I don’t mean to sound snotty, I’m just serious about the issue as are many others in the US.

      • avatarSue says

        Well, as I said, we are very different nations. We are having a good stab at being patriotic here at the moment because of the jubilee, but I suspect many people feel a bit embarrassed by all the flags. We sometimes think it’s a bit vulgar (I am of course generalising here). Like Jonathan said, we like to be pessimistic and cynical and being opening patriotic doesn’t come naturally to us.

    • avatarTray says

      1. I did my 3rd year of university in Leeds. In my hall (dorm) we were given 4 slices of bread and 2 pats of butter by the kitchen every day at 4 PM. We took it back to our rooms and toasted it on the electric fire (heater), usually later that night after supper.
      2. New York does not define America anymore than London defines Britain. I am from the South of the US and feel very out of place and not particularly at home in New York.
      3. I thought Lemon Barley water was nice when I was ill.
      4. Love Monty Python. Love the silliness.
      5. Love London. Walkable, safe, beautiful, so many interesting entertaining things to see and do. Love the British coutryside too though driving is challenging…not the driving on the opposite side (as you might think) but how narrow the smaller guage roads are and how there are no shoulders to most roads.

    • avatarJack says

      Many here in the United States take much pride in being an American. To some the flag is meaningless but to others it is rather a reminder to assure hope in our nation and to give rise to the American pride. The United States was named and is known as the Most Patriotic Country in the World and the American flag serves as a reminder of all that we as a nation have gone through and what we have endured. Sometimes people need that reminder and what better way then to display the American flag.

    • avatarCJ says

      I’m an American who is inclined to be somewhat cynical and pessimistic myself. I have noticed that there seems to be very low tolerance in America for anyone who isn’t constantly looking on the “bright side” of things. There seems to be a tyranny of optimism in America that really gets under my skin. Sometimes things are just crap — why must we always try to reframe them as “opportunity”. lol

  5. avatarJacqueline Roberts says

    Btw I am a mystery shopper and the service is good and getting better in the UK, and in some respects far more genuine than some of the service I receive when I visit the US. And lets address toast you have to remember we were ravaged by 2 world war’s and bread fills you up. We were rationed till the late 1950′s so you eat satisfying cheap food and this has been passed down to us.

    • avatarLaurel Kahak says

      re: toast and WWII
      Jacqueline, we Americans had bread, but all things to go on it were rationed: butter was replaced by Oleomargarine-when you could get it. Sugar (and jams) went out of existence, those who lived near Maple Sap harvestors/farmers had sweet maple syrup available. Mass availability was limited because of fuel rationing & curtailed shipping of non-military supplies. Even glass jars were a treasure to own for canning. Others had honey if that was local, some had molasses and some had corn syrup . You made it to your particular honey supplier with an empty jar in hand! Beans were a staple and often went on the bread, there was seldom meat or poultry or any cheese.
      Toast was common because after the first day bread was too hard for eating in a plain sandwich. My family toasted bread using a tent-like gizmo that held two slices and sat on the gas stove burner. There was hell to pay if the bread burnt before it was was not manually changed around to brown both sides. Scraped toast to scratch off the blackened parts was my early introduction to toast. ( I was a tiny tot, born after the USA entered the war, from the attack at Pearl Harbor. )
      There had been metal breadboxes in which to store & preserve bread but they went to the scap metal efforts by everyone who could spare pot&pans, newsparer, etc. for the frequent drives sponsored by patriotic groups. You might want to know that our American expression “That’s Better Than Sliced Bread” came after the return of slicing machinery to bakeries, post war. The bread slicers and wrapping machines were scrapped, by law, to go to the war effort. ( These laws were said to reinforce the spirit of homeland sacrifice as the US men fought in two theaters of war, Pacific and Atlantic.)
      Toast was a treat, as were so many foods. It was a “big” person’s job to make it, so even the age restraint due to the open flame of the stove burner, enhanced the food experience!

      • avatarRich Ranker says

        Laurel,
        I believe that Jacqueline’s point is that the UK had rationing until 1954, They were repaying a huge war debt and had to re-build most of their major cities, while supporting troops dispersed throughout Europe and trying to feed the people who lived in those British-controlled areas (remember, most of Europe was bombed out and their economies were basically whiped out, as was much of their food production).
        If my history serves me correctly, rationing ended in the US in 1946 while the UK only phased it out in the 1950s, with meat rationing the last to go on 4 July 1954.
        By the way, bread rationing in the UK didn’t go until 1948, so even toast was not easily available in the UK until then.
        I believe that rationing had a significant effect on the Brits that lasted almost a generation longer that we in the US felt. I know that a generation is generally considered to be about 20 years, but I also know that most of the Brits who are my age – baby boomers – felt the deprivation of rationing which I did not have (thankfully).

  6. avatarValarie says

    I agree whole-heartedly with some of this (the drinking, cynicism and tearing down the successful bits), but I do love Monty Python (although I can see how it’s an acquired taste). I would add a couple of other things to this list: the obsession with darts (even Stephen Fry tweets about it) and women’s hats at society functions.

  7. avatar says

    Hi Jonathan
    OK, I was kind of with you right up until Monty Python!! As an American in England I think you’ve done extremely well in embracing all things culturally English…but Monty Python?? I challenge you to watch it again, just remember – it’s DRY British humour at its best!

    By the way – toast is lovely, especially fresh breat with butter ! Can’t beat it.

  8. avatarMatthew says

    Love this post. My wife and I were in London last year and loved the whole experience. We had plans to get outside of London but they fell through at the last minute. We would love to move there, but as you said it is pretty much impossible now. Unless I can convince my company to transfer me there. Which would be tough.

    Thanks for such a wonderful site. I’ve been a massive fan since we were planning our trip.

  9. avatarRicky says

    I think you should travel elsewhere and associate with non-Brits to make you happy. I only agree with you on barley water. OK more words…every penny spent on renting a car in the UK is worth it. I have been there maybe 40 times, haven’t seen remotely everything and will return to London and the rest.

    • avatarBrenda says

      I really don’t think you are an Anglophile. There is just too much about Britain you appear to dislike, not love. If you want everything to be like the USA, then just stay here. I relish the things about the UK which are different and have found people to be welcoming and helpful. I get out of London on the trains and buses and yes, have made a blunder or two, but nothing that couldn’t be corrected.Anyone smart enough to handle a website, can easily master train travel. I love the public transport available all over the UK.

      • avatar says

        Do not question my Anglophilia. I love Britain. I want to live there and become a citizen. I merely put together a list of things that still befuddle me and judging by the comments – I’m not the only one!

        • avatar says

          Jonathon, You claim to love Britain and want to live there BUT you want it to be like America and Brits to be like Americans. What’s the point of that?! I found the tone of your list offensive. I am an American, a true Anglophile who has spent 3 weeks of every summer for the last 17 years in England. I don’t think you have spent enough time in Britain to be an expert on the Brits. So there!!

          • avatarRenee says

            I agree with this post. You cannot profess to be an Anglophile, but want to change a slew of things that are deeply cut into the British psyche. I live in the USA (not by choice) and the false sincerity of the so-called “good customer service”, the continual attempting to put a positive spin on everything and the Puritanical beliefs about drinking (in a country where binge drinking is a way of life for many people) drive me insane. The USA is a massive country and can afford to be magnanimous about immigrants because there is land to spare. Also, it is a nation founded on immigration by immigrants, so there is possibly a slightly greater degree of tolerance – but it is really only marginal if you look at some of the legislation that has been pushed through or is slated to be.

          • avatarWK says

            Jeez people, he didn’t say he wanted to change these things, they just confuse him. Even if he did want to change them, Britain isn’t perfect by anybody’s standards. Nor is the US, nor anywhere else in the world. He would be perfectly within his rights to call himself an Anglophile and say he wanted to change 9 things about it, or 15 things or 50 things. But he didn’t even say he wanted to change these things; he said he doesn’t understand them. What a bunch of prats :p

          • avatarJamie Turner says

            Ace, is competitive Anglophobia a thing? So an Anglophile that likes Marmite AND muttering darkly about the weather will outrank one that doesn’t understand the correct amount to tip after buying a pint of real ale in a Northern old man’s pub? Sounds almost Pythonesque…

            Ironically, not liking stuff is one of the main elements of Britishness. If you ever manage to move here, the new citizenship test will require you to hate everything and everybody around you, while demonstrating that you live in a permanent state of simmering post-empirical resentment. This will help when trying to develop a drinking problem.

  10. avatar says

    I was born in Scotland. I still consider toast a treat, it’s a nice light snack at nighttime. Not to mention beans on toast…yum.

    I love Monty Python but the first time I saw The Holy Grail I did not like it at all, but I came to love it. I do find though that some things I used to find funny about it don’t make me laugh much any more, but the might just be because I’ve seen it so often. I do however love The Life of Brian still…

  11. avatarLeigh Ann says

    sounds to me like I would fit right in across the pond. I love toast at all times, love Monty Python, love to go to the bar after work, love to be sarcastic, hate tourists and wish that America would stop letting every body and their brother come here and stay and never go home…i suppose considering my ancestors were from various parts of the UK, it would be fitting that I like all of those things! Altho I do believe I’ll take your word for the barley water and steer clear.

  12. avatarMary says

    You didn’t mention baked beans. I realize that perhaps during WWII, beans were an important source of protein in a diet, but really, baked beans for breakfast is very off-putting.

    I wonder if the weather has anything to do with the cynicism that you list. I have been very lucky during my visits to usually have decent weather, but I have read tales of long stretches of dismal weather.

    As to barley water, I’ve never tried it, but in “Mary Poppins”, the movie musical, Jane & Michael put it on the list of things they don’t want a nanny to give them.

    • avatarEmily says

      Beans on toast bloody yummy on on cold wet morning, and it’s kind of a go meal if you can’t be bothered to cook proper food. We eat it any time of the day where i’m from (Midlands).

      Do you not eat beans in America?

          • avatarCJ says

            In a bowl. Straight from the can, or as part of a soup or chili. Beans on toast I just don’t understand. I love both — just not together.

    • avatarJo says

      Jane and Michael Banks wanted a nanny who would never smell of barley water, not give it to them to drink. I’m not a fan of orange barley water but the lemon barley is delish! I’m an ex-pat Brit living in Georgia and our local Publix has a small selection of British food at outrageous prices but I have to indulge now and then. Marmite, Birds Custard Powder, Jaffa Cakes Lemon Barley Water and Jamaican Ginger cake…mmmm.

      • avatarJanis says

        Lemon Barley (diluted, no ice) is wonderful for the kidneys. Marmite (an acquired taste) is great spread sparingly on hot buttered toast, Birds Custard, Jaffa cakes, Jamaican Ginger cake…..yum but also pickled onions, British bread, British Pork sausages, Branston pickle (with cheese in a sandwich) British chocolate (more cocoa less wax) Pork pies, Cornish Pasties, Bovril or Oxo and Bisto gravy, Scottish Shortbread, British or Danish Back bacon …… and so much more, these are items most Brits love. British bread is best especially for toast!

      • avatarCJ says

        Don’t you have a Cost Plus World Market in Georgia? Surely there must be at least one, as the company has nearly 300 stores across the U.S. If not, you can order online from their website. Anyway, they have a huge British food section at very reasonable prices, as imports go.

        • avatarMaureen says

          Do you live in Atlanta. Taste of Britain in Norcross has everything you miss! Pricey but essential.

    • avatarCJ says

      I could do with a nice long stretch of really dismal weather. I adore rain, fog, and overall gloomy weather. I’m from California where most days are bright and sunny and it can get so monotonous. Too much bright light all the time! Maybe that’s why I’m so cynical and pessimistic. lol I sometimes wonder if I suffer from the polar opposite of SAD, as I tend to be much happier and have more energy in gloomy weather.

  13. avatarKimberlee Wood says

    Jonathan, as someone who is married to an Englushman and spends time in both locations, I think I have some answers. Barley water: this is a curative drink – it’s fabulous for kidney stones and gall stones, indigestion. It’s more of a medicine than beverage. Toast: English bread is miles beyond American bread in freshness and quality. Hence, it is a treat. Their butter is great too – personally, I watched my son toast and eat an entire loaf of English bread. He’d never do that in U.S. Cynicism: yup – it’s a problem. My whole English family are barking cynics – and going right along with this – intellectual battlers. They don’t get American’s lack of same – it’s why we have more Nobel Prizes for Physics and whatnot – we’re not hiding behind cynicism fir fear of failure. Drinking: yeah – they drink – alot. It’s considered a badge of honor to ‘drink half a vineyard’ – I think it’s just so very much part of the caste-like culture – drink and moan about ‘your betters.’ Any rate, at least they can walk home! Service: never really had BAD SERVICE….snooty service – yes..but not bad. In England, ‘going out for a meal’ Ie., dinner – is a leisurely experience. It is meant to last all night – not a quick in and out. That might be the reason you think service is bad. London: is the beat city in the world IMO but it’s definitely not enough to give you the ‘flavor’ of England. So, I agree w the ‘get out’ – just ride the bus to the coast and back- big difference. Hope this helped!! Cheers!!

    • avatarGale says

      I don’t know… I’ve had some pretty bad dried out, hard, cold toast in English tea rooms and B&Bs. If I’d gotten that in a US restaurant I’d have sent it back to the kitchen.

      Maybe they weren’t using the ‘good’ bread. :D

    • avatar says

      Agreed on the bread – even the packaged white stuff here gets a lovely crisp to it when toasted that you don’t find in America. Not sure why.

  14. avatarJohn Sweeney says

    Fun article, JOnathan!

    I don’t know if I agree with everything you say, but you are DEAD ON with the orange juice! Blech!

    But as far as toast is concerned, I think you’re WAY off! LOL

    To quote chef Nigel Slater: “It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. ”

    • avatarChris says

      You’re buying the wrong orange juice. I assume we mean trying to get the stuff that’s as close as possible to juiced oranges? Tropicana, Sainsbury’s or Co-op or M&S proper orange juice, preferable with the ‘bits’ in, is terrific.

  15. avatarRay Hitchmough says

    I can see a few good points in your’diatribe’. However there are one or two misnomers too.

    Regarding the ‘Drinking’ problem. Agreed, a lot of Socialising in England revolves around the pub, but as you stated, its a way of socialising. Alcohol need not be imbibed as most of the ‘fun’ of being in a pub isn’t to get ‘bladdered’ as we so delightfully put it, but to be social. I know a lot of tee-totallers who regularly go out to a pub for nothing more than the redeeming aspect of it being a place to meet and greet friends and, as you said, business colleagues.

    I never regarded toast as a treat. It’s just part of everyday life. As are Grits, fried apples and a lot of other food products in the USA.

    In my humble opinion, Americans ARE too optimistic for English people’s liking. I think after WW2 when America was a boom town, England was still recovering from the Blitz and never really got back on its feet until the Rationing problem went away in the late fifties. During the war, the favourite saying about American troops was ‘Over paid, over-sexed and over here’. We regarded Americans as overbearing, optimistic and rather big-headed compared to the more subtle English way.

    Poor service comes as a direct result of people in the Customer service industry (whether food, or any other of the various parts of the industry) being paid minimum wage. Here,in the USA people waiting tables get a lot less than even a minimum wage, relying on tips to make their wages up. Honestly, why do you need to bust your a** if you’re getting the same wages as any other person? So they figure they just don’t need to try!

    Xenophobia is as rife in America (IMHO) as it is in England. The racial tension is still as big a problem in the US with both African Americans, Latinos and basically any ‘foreigner being picked on, which is weird as America was based on it being a racial melting pot. Again, I think a lot of it stems back to the post-war years when a lot of immigrants started coming over to England and when there weren’t enough jobs at the time for Englishmen. They were obviously angry about JamaicANS, Indians, Pakistanis etc coming over and taking the jobs – a bit like hispanics in the USA, where Americans complain about them being here, yet fail to realise that they work hard and take the jobs no self-respecting American would deem to take (like the analogy of Indians opening Grocery stores and being the ONLY ones who would be open at 11 at night or Christmas day!)

    Monty Python……Hmmmm….in a nutshell, I agree whole heartedly. It’s trite, high-brow humour made by middle class seventies college nerds!

    Please understand that these are only opinions and not the consencus of the masses. As a Brit in the USA, I can see both sides. We both have bad qualities and good ones. america, to me, is like a LARGER England, with an accent! :)

    • avatarGuy Winfrey says

      I quite agree. I’ve often toldmy children to remember that the US is fundamentally English (having been split from the same root, a common legal tradition and much more). The difference is that we in the US are a modified English culture because of immigration and the reception of various traditions which cone from other cultures. BUT, these things have been merely overlaid on an essentially English core.

      Xenophobic: It’s true that insular cultures are so, but I think that the US may well be simply a large island going from coast to coast. We’re somewhat comfortable with Canada but with Mexico very little. Of course the latter’s history for the past 100 years has little to commend it. I will admit that as a Texan–yes, it just had to come up–we are certainly unrepentantly xenophobic. But we feel that way not just towards hispanics but to those who move in from the north. It isn’t racist. (By the way, just having a bit of fun here. Don’t take me too seriously.)

      Toast: Oh yes please. Any time. I love it with peach preserves and real butter, but nice and crispy.

      Drinking: what is finer than a nice pint of ale, I ask you? Perhaps a G&T? Or how about a White Lady? It’s lovely way to relax and have a chat. We’re all grown ups, know your own limits and don’t stand on other’s toes.

      Cynicism: Ah, I see you’ve met my wife. Isn’t she grand? No wait, I was thinking sarcasm. Scratch that. Cynicism is a terrible thing… But if you’re a Southerner in the US you know it well. We’re the only part of the US occupied by a foreign power, alienated from voting, from full citizenship and still thought poorly of by bloody yankees. They can all sod off and drop into the ocean. (How’s that for cynicism?)

      Poor service: That’s pretty universal really. The real test is not the server but how you treat who serves you. I’d prefer to be a gentleman and never curt. If I’m in a hurray and need quick service, I simply say so. No one’s feelings are hurt and the staff can be judged fairly then. If they don’t give me the time consideration I need, then I feel no compunction about giving them a minimal tip.

      Just my two cents worth.

      • avatarJack says

        But then again the first Europeans know to have come to the Americas and the land of the US were Spaniards and the French, who also ruled half of the American territory we have today.

  16. avatarHeather says

    Not liking Monty Python-sacrilege!;) I think Brits hating London is equal to why many Americans hate New York- because it’s too big, dirty and everything seems to revolve around it.

    While I love the pubs – I don’t like seeing adults puking in the city centre every weekend. Just stupid and disgusting.

    As for customer service-I do like how most staff let you alone unless you ask. Here in the US, staff seem to zero in the minute you enter a store.

    As for cynism and xenophobia- I agree in all points.

  17. avatar says

    I laughed out loud re the toast comment. I have to admit, though, that that fried toast or maybe that isn’t toast but fried bread, is rather delicious. That hard brown dry stuff that they bring out to you on that little rack, though, is for the birds… literally. So, I agree.

    One of the things that I don’t get about the British (or maybe it’s just my in-laws) is pouring the milk on your tea bag while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Does that sound even remotely palatable?

    And then there’s Marmite. First and foremost it sounds like some kind of rodent so before I even touched it to my tongue I was gritting my teeth. Afterward, I added it to *my* personal list of things that I don’t ever want to taste again.

    And the British fixation on ‘crisps’. I’ve never seen so many variations of potato chips in any American grocery store. It’s mind-boggling. And the Brits are very anti-pretzel. The only thing I could find remotely like a pretzel was called a Twiglet… made of the dreaded Marmite!

    I love England and all its curious habits!

    • avatarBrenda says

      Yes, I agree on Marmite, but I love crumpets and a Scottish friend taught me how good milk is in tea. I used to use lemon. Since I like my coffee with milk, he said I would like it in my tea, and I did. Now that said, there are many food items in USA I don’t like e.g. chittlins, grits, shrimp, and liver. Don’t think any of us like every food item in any country including our own. And yes, Irn Bru is not for me, but have you ever tried heather creme?

      • avatarGuy Winfrey says

        Chitlins are more of an acquired taste, but grits are lovely. You simply have not been shown how to eat them. I wasn’t fond of them until a friend from Georgia showed me how to have them. They have little taste of their own but the nicely stretch out butter eggs and cheese. To fill you up.

    • avatarKacee says

      Tea is steeped in a pot! The milk is poured into the cup to not be cold when the tea is ready. I’m reminded of the Englishman commenting to the American that it is very clever putting tea in little bags, but how does one get it out in order to make a decent cup of tea?
      They haven’t a clue.

    • avatarPete Day says

      Tea making is very much a personal thing. Milk before tea or vice-versa. In a teapot or not? warm teapot first/ One extra tea spoon ‘for the pot’? Quite tedious really.

      • avatarMinerva says

        Which does rather confirm that you know not of what you speak, Mr Day.
        The milk goes into earthenware/stoneware mugs/cups first, in bone china/porcelain it goes in after…….the reason?………in cheaper earthenware there were (traditionally) many, many flaws after firing due to the rather crude raw materials from which it’s made, which when very hot tea is poured in, can crack or shatter causing scalds. The milk in first cools the hot liquid as it’s poured in, reducing the likelihood of damage. Bone china & porcelain being made of much finer milled clays are much stronger despite appearing much more thin & delicate, meaning the there is much less chance of being damaged by the heat of hot tea & so the milk is added after.

    • avatarChris says

      Those pouring the milk on the teabag before the boiling water have very poor standards, they haven’t a clue how to make tea even if they’re British. Who are they? I need to talk to them. It’s really not the ‘done thing’ to make it in a mug. Should be a tea-pot to be proper!

    • avatarPete says

      I was going to comment on the awful act of pouring milk on the teabag first, but as one person has rebuked me for not knowing anything about teamaking, then I’ll refrain. Hope Minerva is British, at least.

  18. avatarZoli Uebele says

    I’ve got to agree about the pessimism thing. The optimistic Brits are the one’s who leave. You find them in The States. You find them in Canada. You find them in Australia and New Zealand. You find therm everywhere BUT Britain….but the Brits are the only ones to wallow in pessimism/misery. I think one of the defining characteristics of Americans is that we’re the least pessimistic people in the world and we have that can-do attitude. It’s what makes people from all over the world want to come to The States.

    The thing you didn’t mention in your list that baffles me is the obsession The Brits have with accents. How one speaks gives license to all manner of negative behaviour.

    • avatarJanis says

      There are pessimistic people from all races/ Countries. I am a born and bred Brit and known for my optimistic outlook on life. I know firsthand of some very pessimistic Americans who put the “moaners” of the world to shame!!

    • avatarPete says

      Zoli Ubele: It’s the Americans that seems to be obsessed with accents, we just possess them! Poor Emily Watson being interviwed in the US, was always being asked to say something in an American accent, while comments from youtubers were so admiring of her accent. She really doesn’t have an ‘accent’ That is correct English spoken very well.

  19. avatarSusan says

    My husband was British and I never did understand the toast thingy! “tea and toast” and he would eat it for a snack any time of day.
    I think it upsets the British people that many Americans think that London = England. There is so much more to the country as you know. When someone would meet my husband they would say “oh I have been to your country”. When my husband would ask “where” they would answer “London” and my husband would roll his eyes at me.
    As for the Pub thing……I understand it totally. I have had the most wonderful conversations in Pubs! It’s a place to forget the problems of the world, relax and let your hair down. I wish we had them over here.

  20. avatarCynthia says

    Another quirk, whether one loves it or thinks it’s weird, is that the British response to every disaster, large and small, is to make tea. Death in the family? Loss of job? Monty Python canceled? They always know what to do. Put on the kettle and have some tea.

  21. avatarRyan says

    Right, I read this wonderful piece of yours, and while I deeply sympathised with your comments, I couldn’t help but want to address each point. I will first and foremost admit that I am an American, I am an Anglophile… So much so that I have spent the last four years being a ping-pong ball trying to stay here: Master’s Degree for a year – smack – back to the US; job – smack back to the US; then, after having previously saved before getting that degree, I decided ‘what the hell’ and moved back here in March 2011 to ‘give it a go.’ I have been here ever since on a two year visa. I also work for the British Parliament.

    I have no idea how my life will play out here, or back in the US, but I did my damnedest to stay here in the UK. Why? Because despite my penchant for pessimism, I, as an American, am always looking for the best in things. I have been passing this on to my British friends and told them that in spite of their lives, to take their own advise with an addendum: Keep Calm and Carry on… and stop whinging about it. No one likes a complainer, and despite the economy and all the degradation in the world, there are far more bright spots in Blighty than blots. Having said that, I appreciate that only an outsider looking in can say such a thing, but still, I grew up in a corn and soy-bean field and even I can find something there that was good – and I had to look bloody hard for it. :)

    Now, on we merrily march…

    Barely Water – gross even diluted, but then again, have you done the whole Marmite debate?

    Drinking – I am a teetotaller; I get lambasted for it, I fling back that at least in an economic recession I am not pissing away my hard earned money – literally. But I have never drank and went to my first Uni in a heavily Greek system – I survived because I remember what everyone did at every party I ever went to. I believe I was the only one to leave school with no debt and a brand new German sedan….

    Toast as a treat – it is. What can I say? They have buttered me up.

    Cynicism – Those who remember their history here hate that so much has been lost; those that don’t remember it are called ‘students’ and resemble their American cousins in that manner. Or as one of my mates told me, when asked why he was so cynical and bitter, “Well why shouldn’t I be?” Truth be told, no once great nation likes being outshined by their rebellious children…. (BTW, I still think Britain is amazingly great, they just do not see it – even in the Diamond Jubilee year, though they are doing better than usual). They have even done some flag waving, which is nice. As long as it is the Union Jack and not the English flag – we’re not there yet, but, well, you know how it is in hard times, pride in your heritage etc – give it another couple of years.

    Poor Service – this should answer itself; if the people think they live in a miserable place, they will act accordingly. Funnily enough there is a legitimate economic reason – they do not need the tips. Service is better in the US almost by default. Many restaurants do not pay full minimum wage (legally) because the servers can make much more with tips. Here, they, by law, must make at least minimum wage and so, have little incentive. Also, if you go out with the English (which, let’s face it, is who we are really talking about here as the Scots, Welsh and Irish are completely differently balls of wax) they will complain to you about food and service, but if asked “how is everything” by a server, they will reply “lovely” or some-such as they feel it rude to state otherwise.

    Xenophobia – they all are. We all are. Just the way things are when you once nearly ruled a quarter of the globe and half it’s population. See any previous statement on history and loss of power.

    Monty Python – I am sorry you do not enjoy it, but I do hope at some juncture this will change. I admit it is a bit off, but my father threw it at me when I was 12 and somehow I began giggling. I believe it was the alien blancmange turning English people into Scotsman, including a baby in a pram, in order to win at tennis – that did me in (especially as each time it occured, bagpipes were played and then they appeared bearded and kilted; first season).

    Anti-Londonism – Ah, the fun one for me as I often defend that in order to do my degree field I Must live in London (centre for government), but often travel outside for fun. I found out recently that I know the city better than my friends, who were born and raised here, but often impress tourists with my directions and never-ending-history-lessons…. I am hated completely by said friends now (see below).

    Tearing down the successful – the honourable lady who spoke before was correct: They do not like people getting too big for their britches – economically. Intellectually (unless foreign) – well, a tiny island (granted with 6,500+ miles of coastline) made most of the world it’s b**ch, so they are fine with that aspect. Just… don’t gloat. And don’t be too chipper. And for god sakes, never, ever, ever try and explain something to them with a cheerful attitude. You will be viewed as having lost ones’ head.

    As for your attitude about life: Excellent perspective. Now it is up to us, the Anglo-American energisers (I would have said Double A Batteries, but I believe that is copyrighted) to show Britain what it has to offer, while being cool, calm, collected and colloquial to the best of our ability. Yes. That’s the ticket. Quite.

    Cheers!

  22. avatarJulia says

    I adore London. I want to come back and visit again. I’ve had nothing but good. Two things boggle my mind. What’s with baked beans for breakfast, why no ice? You ask for ice they think youre losing your mind and you get two cubes if you are lucky. If you learn from that and ask for lots and lots of ice you get four cubes6. Learn to love your Pims cup and actually I only like Beer in London. Hate it in the US. Now get the exchange rate to be better so I can come invade your city again.

    • avatarSus says

      I’m English and have just stumbled on this site by chance – love reading the comments.
      I don’t think many British would have baked beans for breakfast very often. I only have a cooked breakfast when on holiday myself – everyday it is usually cereal, or toast. I hate the thin white sliced bread and never buy it and could only eat it toasted. The bread I do eat, which is delicious as bread is transformed into something quite heavenly as toast, especially with proper butter, melting and oozing over the fingers. Yummy!
      As for ice – my own taste is to avoid it completely. Not because I don’t like my drinks cold (although I have to be hot to want my drinks cold and this year it isn’t happening much!), but ice dilutes the drink, and why would I want the taste diluted? Oh no, no, no. Scoop it out with my finger and chuck it out of the window.

    • avatarChris says

      I think you were being treated with disdain where you only got 2 – 4 ice cubes. I am sorry to say that they probably realised you were American and deliberately gave you that treatment. Some Brits are like that I’m sorry to say. I can just visualise it amongst my wonderful countrymen and women. When I opt for ice I always get a decent amount.
      Baked beans are eaten at breakfast because they’re a breakfast food (with eggs, bacon, sausages, etc. to your preference), or a child’s dinner, a snack, or a meal when you can’t be bothered. But they’re very tasty, especially on toast. Cross & Blackwell are the best.

  23. avatarSheila Van Gorp says

    I think barley water was originally intended for a stomach soothing drink for an invalid. Of course you can also mix it with lemon, orange or lime for a refreshing drink. On the same line a candy named barley sugar (anybody remember that?) was always given to me for travel sickness when I was a little girl in England. Same idea!

    • avatarRobyn Markow says

      I just finished reading a book about Ancient Rome 7 in it the author mentioned Barley Water quite a bit so I guess you can blame the Romans for the stuff(which I’ve never tried 7 have no desire to’just the name alone is a turn-off!)

      I have been wanting to visit the UK forever; The History & Culture Fascinates me. Anyway,All countries have their flaws;America isn’t perfect & there are plenty of rude,negative people here as well. Also,I live in California,which too many people think is paradise & when they see that it has it’s problems like any other place they tend to get all disillusioned about it (&,yes it does rain here,just not as often & it cause all kinds of inconvinences as a result,such as mud-slides & people who forget how to drive in it!) Also,our economy is really bad which goes for most countries right now as well. In conclusion,when you go to another country,you have to take the good with the bad(Barley Water Included) & hopefully,become a more open-minded person as a result!,Cheers! Robyn

      • avatarSally Stark says

        Robyn…I’m from California, too. but I’ve been blessed to have memories of four wonderful vacations in London. (I was still employed at the time) It really IS the most wonderful city…especially if you want to get a sense of who you are and where you came from. Visiting Churches, purchasing a sketch pad, and being able to study the costumes from the series HOUSE OF ELLIOT at the V & A. Seeing the “Fly Over” on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle Of Britain. Quite Grand. I can also state that I had no “problems” with the people I met BTW, “Beans on Toast” is SCRUMPTIOUS. HILIGHTS: Seeing HM, The Queen Mother, who was arriving at Albert Hall to make a presentation. Christmas Eve Service in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Visiting “Poet’s Corner” in Westminster Abbey. Not so Nice? Windsor Castle burning, coming home on the plane that would become Lockerbie approximately 3 weeks later. and last, losing my favourite eating place in Victoria Station…to a lousy TRASH CAN BOMB!

        To Sue, who wondered about the Flags. It’s the American version of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. In addition to the Flags in public places, many people have flag poles at their homes, and the Flags keep flying. we only lower them on Memorial Day, 9-11, Remembrance Day, or a National Day of Mourning…Like the Sandy Hook School Massacre.

  24. avatarNicholas Lutwyche says

    It is LEMON Barley water; very refreshing and my American wife is very partial to it. She has also become used to the toast and marmalade or honey ritual but Marmite is a harder sell!
    As for the standards of service – perhaps it is a reflection on the customers? My wife has, with her two bachelors degrees and almost completed masters, spent many years in different forms of the retail business here in the USA and is regularly treated very rudely by customers who feel entitled to do so because of their sizeable bank balances. Poorly paid, often expected to work weekends and public holidays for no extra remuneration and shackled to the job because it fills the omniscient health insurance requirement without which, and often even with it, a serious accident or illness will see you bankrupt and homeless.

  25. avatarNeil McDonald says

    I guess we need to address these points in order:
    1. Orange Juice……O.J. is O.J. wherever you go. If you can’t read a label…..
    2. Drinking…..The pub is a key component to the community….a meeting place and local news centre. As to the volume of drinking, all I would say is let’s look at Spring Break, or any sporting event here in the US….
    3. Toast may not be a treat but it sure beats a lot of the fat-inducing snacks America provides!
    4. Cynicism may be tough to deal with but more often that not a cynic will be proved to have been right.
    5. Poor service……available in all countries but the English expect people to be genuine, forthright and honest. We would rather that than hiding behind a McDonalds smile
    6. Xenophobia. Are you honestly trying to claim that there isn’t a race issue in the US??
    7. Monty Python. Not every Brit loves Monty Python just as most don’t appreciate Benny Hill. Most Americans it would appear, project expectations for humour. We are all different and most Brits have moved on from the comedy of that era.
    8. London. Asa capital it is a great ambassador for the country but even so, the rest of the country is so beautiful it is a crying shame to miss it in favour of “the big smoke”.
    9. Tearing down the successful. The tall poppy syndrome is in-bred to all working and middle class Brits and is well echoed in the press. This process serves well as a way of clearing the path for fresh, new growth.
    Dare I ask if your experience of Britain didn’t match up the rose-coloured picture you have in your head. Maybe you aren’t the anglophile you think yourself to be?
    8. London

  26. avatar says

    You are definitely perceptive Jonathan – I guess that’s easier when looking in but it certainly made me think.
    A few answers…..barley water (diluted so it’s very weak) was a very special treat for me as a child as I had whooping cough and my mother gave it to me when I had a bout……heaven knows why but I associate it with getting better!
    Drinking – completely agree and this generation is FAR worse than ours (sorry mine!) but S abhors beer and is often driving so never joins in the pub culture – he’s coped fairly well so you mustn’t feel pressured. Both of you are bearded and big enough to know that you don’t have to join in to be cool ;)
    It’s not the toast….it’s what you put on it ;)
    Cynicism and negativity….protective tactics to guard against being hurt…..we’re sensitive flowers.
    Poor service – you’ll almost never get this from people who own their own business. I don’t understand the lack of pride in working for someone else that very often pervades either….this is also a change from a couple of generations ago.
    Xenophobia – I don’t know, I think people here (who I know) love foreigners and are very proud of England and delighted that people from aboard love it too but perhaps that’s the point, maybe we want them to embrace it all and ‘become’ British?
    Monty….for a moment there I was simply going to make you an honoury woman….but then I read the comments before me……hmm!
    We are all excited by visiting London but it’s just too claustrophobic to actually live there for more than a few years…..I did and still feel the ‘fear’ of being surrounded by buildings on a Sunday. It’s just wrong ….Saturdays were fine!
    Success is fine …..bragging and flaunting is not…..no-one will ever sneer at generosity and dignity.
    Phew!

  27. avatarMeg says

    I love toast, and I love Barley water Orange or Lemon. You know you dilute it right? I also love toast especially before bedtime. I have had good service in the UK, esp in the airport, once from a bus company receptionist with a large que behind me. I am with you on the cynical attitude, monty python and the drinking. I once wore jeans to work, and a collegue said to me, you are too old for jeans, and another said, and for long hair…I was twenty five!

  28. avatarGiselle says

    I can’t agree with you more on drinking. I can’t stand this about our culture. I too don’t like the taste of drink, and the thought of going out partying bores me to tears. Us Brits have always been known for this, however. There are some really nice pubs in the countryside which are wonderful to go to even if you don’t drink.

    We complain about government because out last government ruined us, spent billions of pounds for nothing, and made us a Nanny State – a lot of people get more money on benefits than jobs, so they refuse to work, making the tax payer pay more. We hate the current government because they have to make so many cuts, and quite rightfully, because of Labour’s mess.

    We tend to hate immigration because, as someone mentioned, we are not like the USA, we are not large and we cannot support a vast number of people. The fact that we keep getting immigrants living here is frustrating because at this time we can barely support the Brits born here. However, as the argument goes, without immigrants, we wouldn’t have a working country. An Indian doctor saved mine and my mother’s life – would I want him to be kicked out of the country? Of course not. It’s the immigrants who come here, with no job, no money, steal off the state, with NO intention of working. They take benefits, which the good tax payer pays. They rob us and call themselves Brits. I have no problem with immigration personally, but there has to be a cap. And yes, we are technically full of immigrants. The Keltic people are the original. My grandad is a Kelt, and wrote a wonderful poem about immigration, saying how if we got rid of all the immigrants, only the Kelts would be here (he was saying how silly this loathing of immigration is).

    Everyone ALWAYS complains about the NHS; lately there has been a lot of problems with the care of patients, which I know is a problem in the USA too.

    The problem Britain has is with ‘classes’:

    Working Class – Most likely on benefits, perhaps got a very low-paid job, live in a council house.
    Middle Class – Decent job, good wage, comfortable means of living
    Upper Class – A vast supply of money – need I say more?

    It is quite normal for the working class to ‘slag off’ the middle and upper class. It is just the way. I won’t say it is right or wrong. However, the upper class (not all) looks down on the working class too. It’s just one of those things. Here’s an example: In Queen Victoria’s day she had a beloved Indian servant whom she adored, but because he was a ‘servant’, it was seen as a vile relationship, like a worm and a unicorn being friends. Did she listen to their snide remarks? No of course not, but this is kind of what it’s like. How likely is it I, an average Brit, would be seen with J.K Rowling on a night out to a dinner party? Is it wrong of me to be jealous of her millions? Sure, I don’t hate her, but do I wish I had a lush place to live? Yes! Class clashes are so common across the world.

    London is lovely, and I think it’s great that travellers from everywhere enjoy it. But us Brits more or less see it a lot. We know the truth of it. We know that it isn’t that great. Driving is awful, gangs are inevitable, and crime rate is very high. The London riots last year, for example. But in the City of London, so long as your safe, I don’t see why we try to put tourists off. Are there nicer places in Britain? Of course. But yes, London should be a place where tourists go first.

    Also, as another person said, you can say we’re moody and hate everything, but we ARE kind and polite people. We are respectful, usually, and we WOULD go out of our way to help a stranger, especially from Australia and America.

    Also, regarding Gale’s comment, Marmite is famous for Loving it or Hating it. It’s either one. I for one adore it.

    • avatarKate says

      Hi Giselle! I completely understand what you are saying about the class issues. One reason some Americans are confused by how the British react to each other is because, in the US, we don’t like to even admit we have different classes. Everyone is equal…which, of course, is delusional in the extreme! Because it is important in our culture to deny class, it is hard for us to hear others speak of it so openly. That links up to our optimism and your cynicism, I’m sure. Do you choose to see reality of what is or the dream of what could be? Which is the better way to live? Who knows, but this is definitely a difference between the US and Britain.

      • avatarDanny says

        I’m an American living in New York and while i have not been to the UK yet, only Paris and Spain, I have run into quite a few British tourists in the city. I’ve also noticed a snobbery that is very off putting, in my opinion. It might be the cultural differences but I will admit that as an American I have a bit of a problem with this “knowing your place” and “don’t be to big for your britches” attitude. I do believe a balance is necessary but if I were forced to choose between cynicism and optimism I would be more inclined to choose being optimistic and wanting to improve my conditions in life. Call me a silly American if you will. I just cannot reduce my mind to believe I cannot and should not enjoy life, experience it fully, and desire more. This cynical British cultural outlook discourages all of this. I won’t accept that. Not in the least bit. I will not reduce my existence and lower my standards…I’m sorry…but no. Just the thought is upsetting to me.

  29. avatarJackie says

    I grew up in two different parts of the British Empire so many of the foibles of the British were ingrained in my brain. I did find it quite interesting when I made my first trip to UK at 55 during the coldest winter in 80 years, to find that nothing was as I had pictured it in my head. I realized that even though it has more or less been broken down, the social status barrier is still in the psyche of all Britains. It precludes the desire to elevate oneself, because there is a ceiling as to what one can elevate oneself to. One can never become an Earl or a Lord by working hard, it just can’t be done. I think this gives rise to the “we can’t go above this level so let us wallow in the misery of our class” attitude, hence the pub visits nightly, negative thinking, etc. Monty Python is just a humorous extension of this psyche. You may never understand it because you were raised in a country where if you thought it, worked at it and tried hard enough you could become anything you choose. This makes it difficult to ever completely comprehend the finality of “your place in life” mindset. Yes, education in Britain is one way to elevate oneself, but only to a certain level. You would have to marry above your class, even today, to get “there”. This is why so many British love America and Americans–they have become aware of the freedom we have here to become whatever we wish.
    The most amusing thing I found in the UK, was that no matter where I went in any town anywhere in the entire island, someone, once talking with me and realizing I was American, would ask me: “So, is it true that in America you get a gun when you open a bank account? You must have a lot of guns over there? Isn’t that wonderful?” After the 4th or 5th time I would always start to laugh before I even heard the question, once it started, “So you are American, I have a question for you….”
    My daughter still laughs because I am still complaining about the plumbing in the UK. I never could understand how to get the bath taps to come on without assistance and I never did understand the push ever 2 minutes for the shower water at some of the places we stayed. Another reason the British may be so negative in my opinion.
    I understood the British mind a little better after having spent almost 3 weeks there in the middle of the winter though. One example is the fatalist attitude that nothing can be done to change things. We were on a bus that got stuck behind a jackknifed lory on a 2-lane road. My daughter got off the bus with the driver and they walked up the road to see what could be done. She pointed out to the policeman that they could just go get a farmer in the field next to the road, to bring his tractor over and pull the lory out of the road until the tow people could come to help and then the traffic could move again instead of backing up and being stuck for hours. The policeman looked at her and said “Why that is unheard of, we would have never thought of that, we just thought we had to wait for the tow truck to arrive 4 or 5 hours from now because that is what we always do, you Americans are so inventive!” They sent for the farmer, he pulled the lorry out of the road, and we proceeded to London all in about 1 hour. ( The bus driver told us that he had been stuck like that the week before in almost the same situation and they had to sit there for 2 days waiting on the tow truck to arrive, and everyone on the bus ran out of food to eat). To me this incident epitomizes the difference between Americans and English.
    I love the British more than anything in the world, but I do recognize the difference and I have thought about it for a long time as to what and why the differences are there. Going to UK made it all make much more sense to me. I can accept these differences more easily now and not fret over them. It is just part of what developed the British sense of humor. Laughing at oneself is always cathartic.
    Hope this explains a little for you. I always enjoy your articles.

    • avatarStuart says

      My word Jackie how did we manage all those years before the mighty, more intelligent and superior Americans came along! Beggars belief!

    • avatarJane says

      Hmmmmm – The driver had to wait two days for a tow truck and the passengers all ran out of food?? Where was the truck coming from ………. Germany? I think someone was probably enjoying a joke at your expense!

    • avatarPete says

      Being 66 years old and a Btit who has travelled extensively in the 70s and 80s, working some 8 years for the American Forces in Bavaria, I think Jackie’s daughter and Jackie herself, was just a victim of British sarcastic humour. Perhaps uncalled for, and unnecessary, but I’m sure I’m correct.

  30. avatar says

    I’ve been back in England for 3 months after having lived in America for 20+ years and I have to say I genuinely don’t understand the complaints about customer service. I find it much better here than in New York. People in shops are invariably friendly and always walk me over to where the item is that I need. Of course, I’m up north and never go to London, so maybe it’s just a regional thing. The only bad service we’ve had so far is a mess-up with phone support at Virgin Media and one dimwit in Curry’s. But in general, people have been wonderful.

    I agree with another commenter that the cynicism is a shield. When I tell someone that I left NY to come home, they say ‘why on earth would you do that?’ They’re primed for me to say how crap it is here. But when I say ‘because I love it here and was really homesick’ they always brighten up, and seem really pleased. It’s quite touching.

    The London thing is easy to understand. Imagine if every foreigner and every tourist thought New York = America, and ignored every other part of America even to the point of using the words ‘New York’ and ‘America’ interchangeably. You’d get a bit miffed after a while. Well, there are those of us who live in parts of the UK so breathtakingly beautiful and so friendly, that we can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to visit. If you visited and then said ‘well I still prefer London, we’d understand. It’s the ignorance of most tourists that annoys some people. But I agree with you – I’m happy for the tourists to stay away from my town :)

    The British ability to find pleasure in plain basics like cups of tea and toast is something I find really admirable now that I’m home. Throw in a chocolate digestive and most people think they’ve gone to heaven ;-)

    I love the pub. You don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy a lovely sociable evening in a village pub where people know your name (as the song says). And many of the country pubs have some of the best food going, so they’re great for a meal out.

    If you think barley water is bad, try Dandelion and Burdock some time!

  31. avatarGarry Jantzen says

    Beans on toast (with a little brown sauce) – yummm! What I really don’t understand is that the Brits (Scots, esp.) outshine the world in sweets, treats, pastries (except maybe the French, but the Scots learned from the French during the rebellion), biscuits, candies, chocolates, etc. At Chrismtas time, half of Tesco is filled either with booze or sweets. But when it comes to ice cream (except in Devonshire and Cornwall), blehh! It’s barely ice cream and, if you’re lucky, comes in two or three flavours (but with a choice of flake!). AND about four times the price!

  32. avatarJIm says

    Your disclaimer, that your 9 points were just in fun confused me. When writing in “fun” you are supposed to exude humour. I took your writing seriously and therefore quite insulting, hence my reply. I am a Brit living in the States, I married my American girlfriend and here I am.
    You mention how hard it is to emigrate to the UK. I have just recieved my green card. It took well over a year and probably between my wife and I spent close on $5000 dollars (this does not include the loss of earnings whilst I was waiting to become legal). I believe it is just as frustrating to emigrate to any other westerrnised country, it is not just Britain that chooses to be awkward.

    Barley water, Should be diluted not just slurped out of the bottle.

    Drinking is a large part of the culture and charm of Britain. It is also a scourge and an embarresment. But in general the majority of people control their drinking. It is the minority that let the rest of us down. If you don’t drink you aren’t on your own. Many many people I know prefer coffe houses or cafe’s to pubs. Maybe you should do the same.

    Poor service, I agree that service is poor in the UK, but the only way it is better in the States is that the service industry does its job badly with a smile on it’s face. I think the service in the States is shockingly bad. The other thing about service in the states is everyone tips. WHY? If I receive good service I tip. If I don’t, I don’t tip simple.

    Xenophobia, Hah! I have been lucky enough to travel extensively in my life. But of all the nationalities I have met the least have been Americans. I believe the statistic is 1 in 12 Americans have passports and hardly any of those people have ever used them. When I have met a travelling American I have found them to be interesting and open minded. Your average American, in my experience, believes that the world is America. Of all the countries I have visited the Brits and the Americans are the most disliked nations. I’m not surprised seeing as how my forefathers have raped and pillaged most of the known world. It is this dislike, I believe, of the brits that causes the xenophobia you hear and read in our society. But it is just as prevelant if not more so in the States.

    London, the same as any other large connerbation is to be avoided in my opinion. I like to visit London. I have some very dear friends who live there but could never do the same.
    “It’s difficult to leave London” Again, WHY? I know I know the system, but if I can navigate myself around Tel Aviv in Israel Where they don’t even use the same alphabet as us, why can’t people get out of London?

  33. avatarAndy Nichols says

    I think you may not be fully aware of certain key but important differences between the cultures and related things.

    Let’s take the toast comment – toast is a treat in the UK, for a number of reasons. The first which comes to mind is that bread in the UK is so much better than the stuff normally available in the USA. I don’t mean just the wrapped bread, either. What will not have occurred to you is that the USA never had to undergo rationing like the UK did during and, for a while, after WWII. Some of that attitude towards rationing is still pervasive. I find myself scraping out the last globs of jam or peanut butter from the jar. I won’t waste anything. And I never lived through rationing, I learned those behaviours from my parents, who did!

    My guess is that you’ve only ever ‘visited’ the UK, not lived there to embrace the culture. You don’t like Python, yet I meet countless Americans who fall apart when recounting Benny Hill – who many Brits find totally puerile!

    On the xenophobia comment, once again, since you’ve not lived there you won’t ‘get it’. The British Isles has been over run by people from other countries. Since before the Norman Conquests. Today, the EU prevents the UK from limiting refugees etc. Brits are sick of having an open door policy to foreigners. The place is too small. They don’t integrate, they aren’t “British” – it’s happening here too…but culturally, the USA is more open to the idea.

    Drinking – goes on in people’s cars in the USA – walk along any road and see the cans tossed out. The Brits go to pubs or teenagers hang out in town centers etc. have procured theirs illegally. We all drink – it’s less obvious in the USA!

    Poor service is now less likely – every trip I make to the UK always surprises me how good food is and so is service. It’s a new generation!

    Don’t complain about barley water! Are you telling me CoolAid is any better – not just different – but better?

    Embrace the differences!

  34. avatar says

    Zoli, I agree that Americans are some of the most optimistic people in the world, but flip that on its head and you could also say that they’re the most naive. Brits may be cynical but they’re generally well-informed and it’s harder for the powerful to pull the wool over their eyes.

    The accent thing is something you can’t possibly understand unless you’re from here. A persona’s accent tells you worlds about them and it tells you all that information instantly. It’s a shorthand for knowing who you’re meeting. I don’t think there’s an American equivalent, or at least I never figured it out. I wish we didn’t judge each other by our accents but we could no more turn it off than you guys could stop waving American flags everywhere. it’s just who we are.

    • avatarVickie says

      Louise, There is an American equivalent. If you live in the Southern part of the U.S. The rest of the country believes, if you have a southern accent, it equates to being stupid! All stereotyping!
      I was in London 5 years ago-loved it! My husband and I plan to return next year. Start in London, then take the train to Scotland. Staying at B&B’s and exploring as much of the UK as we can along the way.
      One experience we had with service when we were there. Admittedly the service was bad, but the girl serving us seemed to think we would be angry with her. When we were not, she seemed confused :)
      Also, I loved the food! Most of our group didn’t, but to me it was great. I can see eating toast for a snack. Monty Python, not so much, but my husband does.

  35. avatarLaura HK says

    I lived for a year in Manchester in the north, and a lot of the items on your list are more southern concerns.

    I recently went back for two weeks in May, and while I prefer Manchester, I went down to London to visit a friend. The service was horrible, people were unfriendly and too busy to do much of anything. This is A LOT different in the north. People are friendlier, service is better (people readily chat to you if there’s no one waiting), and more people take time to enjoy life a little more since living costs are more affordable. And Manchester has the busiest bus route in all of Europe, so transportation is not that difficult (express trains run between London and Manchester every 30 minutes).

    I am a converted “Northerner” when it comes to the UK, and I hope others take the opportunity to visit northern England and Scotland if they get the chance! (And yes, I’m American.)

    PS–The Daily Mail is a bad example to use, as they are on the lower quality side of British newspapers!

    • avatarDiane Heath says

      Thank you so much for your input on being a northerner. We plan on spending just a few days in London and the rest of our holiday visiting the northern areas. Puts my mind at ease that it is more relaxed up there.

  36. avatarCindy Huxley says

    You really don’t understand the British Culture do you? First it is not a single culture, and I am talking about the four countries that make up the UK. They each have a vastly different history and bring their own flavour to British life. Then we have had centuries of people from outside these islands, who have come to live and work here, and have greatly enriched life here.

    I know there is now a move to close down on immigration and I totally disagree with it, we will be losing a great deal by shutting out people from other cultures.

    Cynicism? Maybe, I prefer to think of it as subtle thinking, not taking anything at face value, and applying critical thinking. Subtlety of thought is something I have found sadly lacking in most Americans I have met. They always remind me of an over enthusiastic 12 year old. And lets face it there is plenty to be cynical about, here and in the US. If anyone isn’t cynical about our politicians, and bankers, and major conglomerates then they are being very naive

    Barley water – some people might like it, I don’t know anyone who does.

    Monty Python – I hate it, lots of people like it, but it is not a symbol of Britain.

    Toast – it’s nursery food. Hot buttered toast at teatime, or toast with baked beans, a cheap and nourishing tea when coming home from school. So people connect hot buttered toast with comfort and safety. It is also true that we generally have good quality bread.

    Service – well I have only spent a short time in the US – in NYC where my son now lives, and I have never had such bad service anywhere as I had there. Sometimes service here can be bad, I don’t use chain type restaurants so can’t comment on those, but in cafes and restaurants and most shops I have usually have good service. I would complain if I didn’t.

    Drinking, go the pub and socialise you can do it with an orange juice in your hand.

    Daily Mail – well if you read that you will get a very skewed view of this country and of what people think. Its a low level right wing paper. Try the Guardian, Independent, Observer, you might get a better sense of how we think.

    London – I love it, go there whenever I can, but it is not Britain. You need to spend time in other parts of the country to real begin to understand our complexities.

    • avatarLee B says

      Cindy Huxley: Cindy if you think the Guardian, Independent and Observer give a better idea of the way we think you are delusional like most leftwingers! I know the Daily Mail is detested by lefties like you, but it has a circulation of around 3m and it represents to a large extent what a lot of people in the UK think,but would not always admit out loud for fear of being abused by intolerant idiots like you!

      A point on immigration: most people understand the need for a LIMITED amount of it, but under the Labour government we had mass uncontrolled immigration – it was chaos! It was a deliberate and cynical policy by Labour to unsettle and intimidate the large middle-class (and to an extent working-class) Tory voters, in and around London. Why were people (like Cindy no doubt) surprised by the backlash when some started voting for the BNP. The person who equated the BNP to the KKK is talking crap. BNP is a legitimate political party. They haven’t placed burning crosses on any black persons lawn, or hung them for that matter – it’s an idiotic exaggeration to even suggest it!

      • avatarJamie Turner says

        Christ, please don’t equate this fuckwit with British people. The BNP are just racist, violent, fascist thugs. Awful, Neo-Nazi throwbacks. Doesn’t take long to confirm this using Google – the YouTube videos are particularly fun. They’re dying out now, thankfully – although UKIP (similarly racist, but can often spell their own names) are rising in their place.

        Good to see the connection between them and the Daily Mail though – the paper famous for tacitly supporting the Nazis during the Second World War.

        • avatar says

          Jamie thank you for your comment. As an American, I became startled for a moment when I read that comment from Lee B. Then, I started to get an idea of what kind of group of people he represented when I saw how readily he started namecalling ( “idiot”) and I noticed that was the first instance I saw of that in all these numerous comments. I am glad to find out that the Daily Mail is the rightwingers “Fox News” of England. Now I know not to waste any time with it. Looks like Lee would feel right at home with the Neo Nazis at a “tea party” rally here in the US. But I hope he stays home. We have enough of that ship to deal with here.

      • avatarChris says

        Yes, it’s frightening that the Daily Mail appears to represent 3m people’s views. Broaden the mind a bit and read the Independent, the Telegraph. the Observer, the Times and the Guardian. The Daily Mail is for closed-minded, self-centred twits who only care about the price of their house and the ‘scourge of those funny people that come from abroad’. If it wasn’t for them some jobs wouldn’t be done properly at all.

    • avatarR. says

      Please, the Guardian and the Observer are not reflective of any majority opinion in the UK. If they were, their beloved Liberal Democrats would have won the 2010 election by a landslide. Those newspapers have both been making a loss for their shareholders for several years now due to their low and declining circulation. The future of those papers in their print editions is by no means secure, hence their growing focus on digital content (however, the Mail Online website still has far more hits according to the Alexa rankings). The Independent has an even lower circulation. It would be sad to see either of them go under, because we need an adversarial press. Having a centrist consensus across all newspapers would be disastrous; we already have that in the parliament, and the results speak for themselves. One thing I like about the Guardian is that its editors are willing to allow dissenting views to appear in their opinion columns, which is laudable.

      None of that is to say that the Mail or the Sun are good, though, but it is a fact that both papers are more popular and lucrative than the Guardian and the Independent. I enjoy reading Peter Hitchens’ column on the MoS website for a healthy dose of pessimism (hated by New Labour and Tory alike), but other than that, neither paper is worth much of a look.

      I agree with parts of this article, despite being British and somewhat patriotic. The omnipresence of alcohol at social events is something that particularly bothers me, being a lifelong teetotaler. I never cave in to peer pressure, but it can be irritating to have people incessantly demanding that I “have a drink” whenever I am at a pub. No means no, so stop bothering me! The pub as a positive social force is on the decline, in my view, partly because of the growing tendency for all public spaces to be flooded with pointless background music. Is there anything more antisocial than filling the air with music, making it impossible to maintain a conversation without shouting “could you repeat that?” in every other sentence?

      • avatarKPOM says

        The Telegraph, Times, and FT are the only moderately tolerable papers to any American outside the coasts. NYC is an absolute dump of a city with rude people, a terrible sewer system, and the worst airports in the country. But they think they are the bee’s knees. Let them elect Anthony Weiner. What the rest of the UK sees in London the rest of the US sees in NYC times two. It’s the same with the NY Times. They are as bad as the Guardian and Indie put together. Plus they hired former Enron advisor Paul Krugman who equates a Nobel on a minor microeconomic thesis with omnipotence. The guy’s clueless. But the idiot meatheads in NYC think he’s a genius.

  37. avatarDawn says

    OK, I concur about the Barley Water thing, but the drinking thing is a very social part of life there.

    To preface, I am an American who lived and worked in London for 13 years and loved every minute. Going to the pub or to a private club for a post-work drink is part of the winding down. Especially if you live in London and are trying to avoid the rush-hour chaos.

    Toast is lovely, especially the wonderful granary bread soldiers dipped in an egg with loads of butter – it is a treat!

    Yes, the British can be cynical, but they are incredibly better informed than Americans about pretty much every aspect that can come up in conversation.

    Service – I have had some of the best service ever whilst living in the UK. Of course, I ate at marvellous restaurants and shopped at some of the better stores and I don’t as a rule eat in chain restaurants when I am there.But I will say that on some occasions, there are those who are in the service industry who do not take the same pride in their work that Americans do.

    Regarding Xenophobia – I was very welcomed in the UK, but it is hard to understand it unless you have lived there. England is a small island and over the past 70 years has opened its doors to immigrants from many parts of the Commonwealth. However, when the EU rulings came into effect it opened the floodgates and, according to EU regulations, must open its doors to anyone claiming refugee status. More than any other EU nation, England is a very coveted place to be because most people will have little linguistic challenges there. This puts a strain on government tax dollars.

    Monty Python is brilliant – enough said.

    There is no doubt that London is one of the great cities of the world, heck it was my home for many years. But as I worked in the theatre there, I saw most of the rest of the UK as well including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (which is beautiful). I have been in nearly every city in the UK that has a receiving theatre. Just as we in the US tell visitors not to judge us by New York City, so should visitors to the UK be encouraged to venture out of London. (Day trips to Stonehenge and Stratford don’t count as they are on the check-off list for every US visitor to Great Britain. I challenge visitors to the UK to spend time in Cornwall and Devon. Go to Dylan Thomas’ boat house in Wales and to Bateman’s in Kent. Check out the lovely cities of York and Durham. Stay in Oxford. Have fish and chips at the Magpie in Whitby. Climb Hadrian’s Wall. Visit Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Stay in the Channel Islands. There is so much more!

    • avatarBrenda says

      You are so right about the many wonderful places to see both in and out of London. I have been to the UK every year since 1998, sometimes twice, and still enjoy my visits. York is a fantastic place and Edinburgh never disappoints. You didn’t mention the Lake District which I always include on my itinerary.Some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. And then there’s the HIghlands! I don’t drive in the UK, but day trips to the Cotswolds, Bath, Canterbury, Oxford, Stonehenge, and many other places of interest are easily arranged.

  38. avatarBrenda says

    All is so true – as so true. As someone that has been going to Britisn since age 3 months – my mom is from Scotland ! And the only one in this country on her side . All is so true , as I get older I really notice it ! Like with goo g down to London – Heaven firbid , they just no not relive what they are missing . Last count was 227 times into Britian as of April – and going in a few weeks – once again – cannot get my relatives stirred up them hosting the Olympics – but , I live being the America Relative !!!! Love it !!

  39. avatar says

    I’ve just returned from 2 weeks in London, and here is my major pet-peeve: why do they take FOREVER to bring you the bill in a restaurant? You’ve obviously finished your meal, you’re anxious to get on with your day, and no matter if the restaurant is empty or busy, you basically have to beg to get the bill (and even then it’s an eternity before it’s brought to the table). It’s that way at every single place. What’s up with that??? In the US they want you to move along so they can get someone else in there, but in London they seem to want you to take up residence at the table.

  40. avatarBetsey Jung Owens says

    I spent 3 weeks in GB. 1 week in London, 1 in Wales and 1 in England outside of London. I loved it all. Especially liked people saying Good Morning etc.. No problems with service. Came home and found toast racks at thrift stores to use. I do prefer rye bread toast. But love white bread milk toast. Prefer beans for lunch or supper. Since my hubby was an alcoholic, we stayed out of pubs except to eat at their upstairs restaurants. Loved their roast beef on Sundays. We got by with a train pass and a map. We would decide on 3 possible places to visit, go to the train station and hop on which ever train was leaving first. I did hate that we could not leave bags at the station and go see the sights as that was very limiting as we would have to find a B & B, leave our bags there and then go see the sights. It was also hard to get used to no breakfast available until at least 7:30 and most places did not open until 10 and closed at 5.
    My husband is now deceased and I would love to go again. I wish I was young enough to learn to drive on the left side of the road, But the trains, buses and tube work great. I will have to look for Barley water here as that sounds like a good health drink.
    I loved reading all the comments and agree that Bill Bryson is great and was actually introduced to his books on the Isle of Wight. Since then have read all his books.
    Natives there asked great questions of me and were all very helpful.
    Thanks for the opportunity to think about the differences between countries.

  41. avatar says

    Sidewalk (pavement) chaos…Brits drive on the left, but in London (and elsewhere) they can’t seem to decide which side of the sidewalk to walk on. Results in constant confusion; made worse by the number of overseas visitors trying to decipher the “system”. Could be made better by signage at places like Underground stations, but noooooo….

  42. avatarCathy Stanton says

    I’m an American anglophile and I love toast even as a snack. I also don’t drink and find the american bar scene to be a lot like the British pub scene. And I love Monty Python. I just don’t understand why the Brits refuse to cook their bacon.

  43. avatarJohn Sweeney says

    I love this discussion and can’t stay away from it!

    As an American-slash-Anglohphile-slash-insane person, I can think of no better place to visit than London. However, as a tourist, London is like a great big playground. It’s easy to get caught in the world of make-believe if you don’t have to haul your tush out of bed for work in the morning. I live in New York City, and the same thing happens here: tourists tour and we natives grumble about everything from the mayor to the heat on the subway.

    However, the tourist who comes to Britain and only experiences London has NOT experienced the UK! And getting out of London isn’t difficult if you have half-a-brain, can read signs, and (perhaps) visit a tourist office for some guidance. Day trips from London are part of the fun, whether it be to Canterbury or even St. Albans or Windsor—get out and enjoy life away from the BIG city!

    And just for the record: I have been travelling to the UK since 1986 and can count on one hand the number of rude Brits I’ve met. It’s all about approach: embrace the differences and don’t stress them! Or compare them, for that matter! I have met many wonderful people, even in London, and have made some wonderful friends as well.

  44. avatar says

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the one thing I was most puzzled about, the Brits seeming disdain for ice in their soda.

    Everywhere I went, when I asked for ice in my soda I first received strange looks, and then when the ice came it was just a few small ice cubes floating pitifully on the top of my Coca-Cola. This was in London, Leeds, Newcastle, and Carlisle. Very strange. As I can’t stomach lukewarm soda, I just stopped drinking it, which is probably for the best. I became addicted to Crabbie’s Ginger Beer which, ironically, is always served over a tall glass filled with ice, because that’s how the manufacturer has told barkeeps to prepare it.

  45. avatar says

    I don’t get the way they insist on doing things the hard way. They put radiators on the outside wall underneath a window and think that’s going to keep the house warm with any efficiency. Then they build a conservatory onto their houses so they have a greenhouse for people, which loses heat in the winter and is too hot and bright to sit in during the summer.

    Some things about food I don’t get. Why does vegetarian pizza have to have corn on it? Why does Indian curry have to have peas in it? Why is fruit salad a desert instead of a side? I tried serving fruit salad for dinner once, and no one knew what to do until someone got out bowls, spoons, and cream.

  46. avatarHeather says

    Lisa A-

    Not bringing the check until requested is the Continental way. This allows the diners to eat talk and relax rather then pushing customers out. Love that aspect.

    I’ve also found that Northerners are much friendlier the in London. Even in York, I always got a greeting from the clerks.

  47. avatarJennifer says

    My husband moved to London for work in April, and the kids and I have been here for 2 weeks, living in a flat near Hyde Park. We love it so far, and have a long list of things to do. I agree with the observation that it is hard to leave London, but we do have some trips to the countryside planned.

    The thing that bothers me the most, however, is the way people drive in London. It appears that cars actually accelerate toward pedestrians trying to cross the street! We’ve had so many near misses, as cabbies come screeching around the corner, seemingly out of nowhere. I wish they would pass some laws to get these drivers to slow down, and to actually stop when people enter a crosswalk!

    btw- we’ve had great service at restaurants so far, and I have always loved Monty Python! We took the kids to see Spamalot last year, and now they’re Monty Python fans, too!

    • avatarMJ says

      Jennifer, be sure to join the KCWC (aka The Kensington Chelsea Women’s Club) a large ex-pat women’s group. They have a meeting once a month & offer all sorts of activities for you & family. It’s a way to make instant friends because everyone is in or was in the same situation–new in town.

  48. avatarCatherine says

    Jonathan, you can go to pubs and hang out and not drink. I’m a teetotaler too, and for the same reason–can’t stand the taste or smell of alcohol. When I’m in a pub, I usually get a nice soda with lime or lemon, whatever’s on hand. It’s easy to soak up the atmosphere that way. I’ve spent some very lovely lunchtimes and dinner-times in pubs that way. :-)

    • avatarChris says

      When you Merkies talk about soda I’m assuming you mean lemonade, like Sprite? (IDM real lemonade, but the sparkling (carbonated) clear lemony tasting stuff.

  49. avatarJennifer says

    I experienced the xenophobia first had a few years ago while in Scotland w/ our Armenian-Scottish friend/tour guide that met my friend and I in Sterling to show us around the town. Every person we talked to around the town would bring up the fact that our friend was not a “native” Scot. I don’t know if they thought they were doing us “Yank” women a favor by constantly reminding us our friend’s parents were from another country or what I don’t know!?
    I loved, loved the toast in the UK!!!!! It was thin sliced and the toasters where we stayed and had self serve continental breakfast toasted the bread perfectly and also the jam was so much better than most found in US restaurants.
    What I couldn’t find the entire time in the UK though was a half way decent cup of coffee. All the tea was really good and all the instant coffee was O.K. but there seemed to be no good fresh coffee to be had anywhere and no way was I going to pay $5.00 for Starbucks ( their coffee tastes like cardboard to me anyway) and I think the “espresso” drinks at Starbucks were “instant” as well.

  50. avatartom reiser says

    I have always had issues with customer service in London as well:
    1. I had to use different companies to get my internet dongle this trip vs. my mobile phone since Vodaphone still has not gotten it’s act together concerning Mac OSX Lion which has been out so long that Apple is about to upgrade it’s OS again.
    2. I also hate!!! the idea of premade sandwiches–would be so much simpler if sandwiches were plain e.g. at Tesco, Sainsburys and M and S Simply Food.

    The way to overcome the pressure to drink is lie a bit and say you can’t touch it for medical reasons. Works very well on both sides of the pond!

  51. avatarPatricia says

    Good service does exist in Britain and is given if they like you and not because they are looking for a good tip.
    The British are realists. When I first moved to the US I felt so sorry for the people who would tell you they were “good’ when asked how they were doing when it was clear they lives sucked. Very delusional. After 25 years I have to admit it has its advantages.

    • avatar says

      Patricia, I’ve lived in the US all my life. and I just wanted to explain why Americans reply that they are ‘good’ when asked how they are, no matter how they really feel. The reason is that in the U.S. it is considered bad manners to say anything other than “fine”, “OK” or “good”, Sadly, in the US, the people who ask, don’t care how you are. It’s just another way of saying hello. Personally, I think it’s plastic and fake and I would rather have a true answer myself, so that if someone needs an ear to listen or some kind of supportive action that I am able to provide, I could be there for them. But in America, that’s not how it’s done.

  52. avatar says

    Nowhere is perfect and I agree with many points, especially the bad service.

    But…

    Since when is toast a treat? A treat to be savoured? That I’m afraid is not true, yes some British enjoy their toast but it is most certainly not seen as a treat :)

    Regarding the view on foreigners: Britain is already very overcrowded and the mass immigration seen over the past decade has had a massive effect on communities which without doubt is starting to fuel some anger.

    The British as a whole welcome people from abroad but not in the numbers we are seeing. It is a small island and is already over crowded. So much so that I’m even considering moving to Australia because of this.

  53. avatarErica La Spada says

    Jonathan, you’re great, but I gotta say, your post is way more confusing to me than anything the Brits have going on. With the exception of Xenophobia and possibly barley water, the rest is why Britain is better! (Also, Americans drink every bit as much as the British, just in a different context. Trust me.)

    And seriously, not to beat a dead horse and all, but Monty Python? Really? Hand over the Anglophile card, now!

  54. avatarBrummieDave says

    You mention Newspapers in a few of your things that you don’t get. This is a bad, bad, bad, bad idea.
    For reasons that would require me to write a book to explain, They or at very least the ‘Tabloids’ are pretty much just just written forms of Fox News and straight out of Bill O’Riellys manuscript. They get lambasted here for it and do not represent Britain, rather they try and force their views on everybody else. Unfortunately however too many people do not question what they read and take there ‘news’ as fact when quite often its quite the opposite.

    The Anti-London thing. Hello everybody i’m one of them. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that, Even our own people, media, parliament seem to think the World, or at least Britain revolves around London. It seems all the major events that come to Britain end up in London when other cities, towns etc. have a lot to offer. As a Brummie I admittedly have chips on both shoulders about this. The only thing Birmingham the so Called 2nd city as has got in the past 25 years is the Eurovision song contest, That’s only because London didn’t want it, Heck we didn’t even want it!

    The Xenophobia and Cynicism are a little overplayed. Xenophobia is more a media thing. and the Cynicism is just because moaning is great British pastime Haha. It should be taken with a pinch of salt. We do have our outbursts of Optimism sometimes, A mini heatwave in the middle of February, Andy Murray in the Tennis. England in the Europeans Championships last month despite the fact its the worst team for twenty years, (Its amazing what a draw against France can do).

    And you don’t like Monty Python!, Are you serious!? Didn’t you read the small print with your Anglophile car eh? Only insulting the Queen, and mentioning our bad teeth rank as higher offenses :-)

  55. avatarRob says

    Some comments from a South African who has lived in the UK for 20 years:

    Toast: one of Mrs Beeton’s [Victorian cookery and household management author] recipes for a cheap meal is the toast sandwich: a slice of toast between two slices of bread! Toast is comfort food for Brits (and Commonwealth bods like me): we grew up with it, its quick, easy and cheap (a student staple). The toast rack is because if you stack hot toast in a pile, the bottom slices become wet and soggy. Cold toast is bad in any country. Eat it hot.

    Drinking: Binge drinking is a bit of a Northern European problem. Southern European countries seem to be able to drink in moderation (maybe because its hot?). Northern Europeans, but especially young Brits, seem to drink with a grim, determined desperation until they finally end up flat on the pavement. Ugly business. No excuses. Other aspects of drinking culture have changed a lot – far less “business drinking” these days. No smoking in pubs. More wine, less beer.

    Building up to tear down: There is a stereotype that Brits have a “stiff upper lip” and are un-emotional. Part of it is the received stereotype of how people are supposed to have behaved in WW2 In fact, like lots of other Northern Europeans, Brits are an emotional, lachrymose, maudlin lot (and all of these traits are amplified by an order of magnitude or two when drinking or drunk). So, Brits get wildly enthusiastic about things, and then wildly disappointed when they don’t turn out to be as fantastically, amazingly world-beating and wonderful as everyone talked them up to be. This applies, for example, to the English football team, any Brit that plays at Wimbledon, any celebrity that turns out to be human after all, etc. An important part of understanding the national affection and respect for the Queen is that she is almost the only person most Brits have come across who never, ever, “lets the side down”. So you have a contradiction: your average Brit believes him / her self to be reserved and unemotional (see WW2 movie stereotype), but is actually prone to bouts of (mostly private, sometimes public) wild enthusiasm (fuelled by a completely mad Tabloid press and a fair bit of alcohol). As a result he / she spends quite a bit of time being disappointed and disgruntled – this natural state of mild disappointment is the wellspring of most British humour and the reason for most of the cynicism: what do you do when the English football team loses again, despite all the hype and hope – you pretend you didn’t care in the first place. Cynicism is just the national habit of getting our “I don’t cares” in early. Can get ugly, for example when the population and the press turn on some hapless and half-witted celebrity, whom they professed to love yesterday, but who has turned out to have feet of clay and is suddenly reviled.

    Xenophobia. Yes, and plenty of it. Just like everywhere else in the world. Especially now when times are tough and resources are scarce. But Brits are also a very welcoming and accommodating lot. They may grumble a bit, but generally they budge up and make room for people from all over the world (including me).

    Hooray for Monty Python, and Yes Minister, and Father Ted (Irish, I know) and the Goon Show etc etc.

    • avatarMarion says

      Another honorary Brit! Yes you’ve got us exactly right, we do get wildly enthusiastic especially about the football team. Yes we’ll win the world cup! We didn’t. Useless b——s! Maybe it’s because we invented it we think it’s our god given right to always win it.
      We all like Brazil though, in fact we only really hate being beaten by the Germans and the Americans. The Germans because well, two world wars and one world cup and America because you don’t really play it so it’s a source of shame if you beat us at football (soccer to you)
      And we never really expected to win Wimbledon even though we invented tennis too. Henman anyone? Useless over-hyped b–t–d. But now we have Murray!!! Always knew Scotland would come in handy for something. Only joking Scotland my grandad was in the seaforths.
      You’re right about the queen as well, respect because she hasn’t put a foot wrong at least not in public..Though Diana was actually loved by more or less everyone here. She’s been slagged off a bit by the press in the last few years but she’s not here to defend herself is she?
      I like toast. I don’t like marmite. Barley water is for kidney problems.
      I like Americans. I have an American cousin who’s lived here for the past 20 years and she’s a friend as well as a relative.
      Actually that means I only know two Americans, her and her dad.

    • avatar says

      Am enjoying reading the comments but have to leave soon. I left Liverpool to come to the US in 1959, lived in California for ten years before moving to Seattle because a trip there made me feel at home. My first outing(party) in the US I was rudely asked what I was doing there why I did not stay in my own country, my reply was at least I had a country to go back to. People still comment on my accent think its lovely. Most people here are kind, thoughtful and interested in hearing about Britain, everyone wants to visit. I used to get confused because my first contacts was everyone telling me they were from Britain when it turned out the greats had moved over generations ago, one bus rider still tells me often that she is descended from Henry VIII, my answer? isnt everyone? You will find a lot of Americans if they don’t understand or not interested enough to find out will brush off any comment you make in defense. The love Benny Hill, Princess Diana and Potters. But hate soccer (they think its a girls game) not a sport, but thats changing.
      I was raised in Britain during the war and stuffed from hunger, toast with little butter, no jam or a boiled egg was often dinner. I hated all rationing, no one mentioned clothing rations. When I made my communion had to have special permission from the Bishop to wear blue shoes and pink buttons on my dress, nothing else was available. the last thing to taken off rationing was soap. Every body made do with what you had or could get, but my friends and I agree we had great childhoods, not much of anything but we were told to get on with it.
      I am sorry when I hear anyone complain about Britain, I could wear your ears out with things that go wrong here. But I love Britain and the US, wish I could afford to live in both places. Now if we could get a decent healthcare package like the Swiss!

  56. avatarManda says

    All I know about barley water comes from Mary Poppins:

    Never be cross or cruel
    Never give us castor oil or gruel
    Love us as a son and daughter
    And never smell of barley water

    The cynicism gets on my nerves too. One of my favorite types of UK TV programmes are panel shows, and for the past year there have been untold comments as to how London will (naturally) screw up the Olympics: Traffic will be horrible, the opening and closing ceremonies will be naff, Boris Johnson will be his usual idiot self, and Will.i.am will show up to every event decked head to toe in Union Jacks. So what? It’s still be fabulous.

  57. avatarAshley says

    I am born and bred English, my wife is a WOW (wonderful Ohio woman) who has lived in England for 2 years and the fact she agrees with all the points you made means you kind of hit the nail on the head with the facts but facts are not what the English are about! It’s opinions, nostalgia and appearance first and formost! Toast and Barley water is pure nostalgia! Drinking and Monty Python is the English man’s birth right and must be maintained through adolescence where the words are learned and recited by heart and the abilty to drink warm flat beer is perfected. This goes hand in hand with sitting in a pub and establishing an opinion on everything. This opinion need not be factual or consistant just adament and beer fueled. See the Monty Python sketch “you were lucky/when I were a lad” for the perfect example! (for the closer to the truth the synicism is ….the funnier it is!)
    Our media is opinionated (yes even the BBC is full of experts and their conjecture!) hence the nation is too! People with an opinion love to be right and say “I told you so!” and so a nation of pessimists evolves. Why celebrate others success when you can predict their downfall and be confident in being right more offen than not. Thats how we are! Over years of history the British with “go” got up and went! Nations like Australia Canada and the US were founded by Europeans with get up and go. Britain was left with those who said “it will never work out!” So who are the ones with reason to be proud and celebrate their success and who are left waiting to say “I told you so!” but remaining oh so envious of all that has been lost since the nostalgia filled memories of a nation that calls itself Great.
    Although it is great! England like the rest of Great Britain is beautiful and has so much going for it, has so many things to celebrate and should be filled with proud nationalists who strive everyday to make it better and better but for some reason that isn’t how we are percieved! Maybe we should take a look at what others see rather than harping on about past glory and voicing opinions envious of others success!
    or
    maybe we should go to the pub and get drunk, sing “always look on the bright side of life!” and curse how Andy Murry is Scotish and even if he had won Wimbledon it would still mean the “All England” championship has not been won by an Englishman since 1936!
    Who knows! but we are who we are and like Marmite you can love us or loath us!

  58. avatarNicola says

    We definitely have better quality and a wider variety of bread here in the UK than anywhere I’ve been in Europe or the US so maybe that explains the seeming obsession with toast (though I question that observation). Not everyone drinks a lot or drinks after work (I don’t) although I do think we have a problem with the drinking culture here. We are a bit cynical, I suppose it can be irritating, but then so can the boundless enthusiasm and naive optimism of Americans be irritating and baffling to us Brits. Jonathan, I don’t question your Anglophila, but you need to move here to really ‘get’ us!

  59. avatarJoseph says

    Hi Jonathan – love your website; I really admire your passion and dedication and the obvious intelligence behind the site. I’m British and spent a year living in the United States whilst at university and have been fascinated by the respective cultural differences ever since – which in my opinion are huge and vastly underestimated. Even though many British people feel they know the States very well to due our constant exposure to U.S culture from what feels like birth; one has to go there physically to experience the contrast.

    Before I start I just want to say I do not want to come off as a patronising European. This is just an honest opinion – it is about cultural differences. I am not trying to say any country is *better*. I just want to contribute an honest point of view and hopefully generate discussion.

    What I would say to an American who possibly feels a little confused/alienated by our culture is that we aren’t really negative – our culture just has a more open acknowledgment of the way life really is – warts and all. We aren’t afraid to show a little vulnerability and we know we’re not perfect.

    Whilst I adored the States for many of the things that you mention; i.e – the excellent service and general positive disposition of the public, the nagging feeling of what I felt was missing was a sense of depth and essentially honesty about life. Whereas American culture is has been built on the promise of a better tomorrow and self improvement ; in Britain there is more of an acknowledgement that life is hard and real joy is fleeting; therefore we laugh about it (what can be perceived as cynicism) and have less regard for tomorrow (by our somewhat nihilistic attitudes ie – heavy boozing). What I really missed about England was the acknowledgment that heck, life is kind of sad as well as great; (I may be biased – what I felt was a more honest way of living). Being in America felt like being in this weird bubble; where everyone is super happy and smiley and great – but something was missing – I guess the British attitude to life feels a bit more real to me – I’d rather take the rough with the smooth and laugh about it than pretend the rough doesn’t exist.

    Don’t get me wrong; I adore America and in most departments, especially materially – America beats the UK hands down. But one thing is do think that we have in Britain (and Europe) is a bit more of a weathered soul; and subsequently our culture has a nuance to it that American culture hasn’t quite got yet ( but believe me – a few hundred years will change this!) . It is the little nods and winks of British life; the way we all know life is not one climb to the top. If as an American you can appreciate this fundamental difference; and the way it flavours our culture so distinctively – then you are well on your way to unearthing the beating heart of our weird little island.

    • avatarStuart says

      “In most departments America beats the UK hands down”. No it doesn’t, clarify.
      There are so many silly, sweeping statements on here. It depends on the individual and their situation as to who “wins hands down”. I’m sure you would find many Americans living in some dusty town in Iowa or somewhere, where nothing happens, who would give their right arm to move to the UK. If your statement were true then you wouldn’t have any American expats living in the UK at all. I for one rather like living in a country with health care for all and a culture that doesn’t include guns.
      I realise you said ‘most’ departments but I simply don’t accept that either.

  60. avatarRenee says

    Hey, toast is great at anytime of the day. It is 11:45 in Oklahoma as I write this and I am about to eat a slice of toast with peanut butter!

    I agree completely with Joseph that they have “… a more open acknowledgment of the way life really is – warts and all. We aren’t afraid to show a little vulnerability and we know we’re not perfect.” Something that wouldn’t hurt more of us to think about doing.

    • avatarNatalie says

      Haha! I thought I was the ony person in the world who eats peanut butter on toast as a treat (try it with a drizzle of honey, and you’re in toast Nirvana!)

      Nothing says “treat” more, to this Brit, than a slice of doorstop toast (poppyseed bloomer, at least an inch thick), buttered so it melts into the crisp, little air holes, and smothered in Rose’s lime marmalade (or Blackcurrant and blueberry jam).

  61. avatarL Whipple says

    I’ in Devon right now, staying with friends. I’m not finding many of the “don’t gets” you had, especially the service. However, one thing I don’t get is having separate taps for hot and cold water. Washing hands in warm water is a bit of a shuffle as you run your hands under scalding, freezing, scalding, freezing again water. I usually just give up and use the cold. What IS nice are the point-of-use water heaters in the shower and the wonderful warm towels from the heated towel bar.

  62. avatarVeronica Erwin says

    Okay. Didn’t need to read any more. Don’t like Monty Python???? Really? Oh my goodness. That’s what got me started on the anglophile path years ago. My husband, a right-winger, anti-brit, loves and laughs heartilly at Monty Python. And toast? I’m a hoosier born and bred and I get the toast thing. Toast is comfort. It goes with anything. Yum.! Toast!
    And, Joseph, you’re spot on!

  63. avatarNanmar says

    I’m an American who loves England. I have to say a lot of what you hate about Britain describes America. I can’t tell you how many times colleagues are invited for a drink after work and it becomes a weekly thing. I’ve never had poor service in Britain. The people I’ve seen complain about poor service have been the typical “ugly American” tourists who don’t try to learn anything about the culture or the country and just expect to have everything the same as in America. They are usually under-dressed and give Americans a bad name. Xenophobia and tearing successful people down? I think the Americans wrote the books on those. With all the immigration laws being battled and the name-calling, how can you say Britain is more Xenophobic than America. And Americans love to build people up just to tear them down. They are the masters of Schadenfreude. As much as I love America, these problems are just as bad in America as anywhere else.

  64. avatarPaul Hunt says

    Hi Jonathan,

    I think you don’t get these things because you expect to become a “citizen” You say you want to live here and become a citizen. But we are all “subjects” of the Queen. Yes Ok we have an elected government but to live here you’ll have to pass a test and swear allegiance to the monarchy. Are you starting to understand the rest now ? No .. Ok well look don’t worry you’ll be well on the way to passing the test because you are a teatotaler. Very useful for drinking umpteen pots of the stuff each day but you’ve got to sample the Real Ales, Why ? ..well because we get so much rain here we need to use the water up some how ! Yes even Barley water was invented to mix with the stuff.
    Drinking has other benefits – helps to ease the pain of all the worlds woes; it also keeps you hydrated.
    Once you can consume the right amount of liquids you can then demonstrate your skills at the British pastime of Banter. Not sure if you’re a city lover or country bod..doesn’t matter you’ve got to slag of the opposite anyway. Its a bit of a game of territorialism but there’s just two rules — you make friends and remain loyal to Britain. Did I mention that even though we’re an overcrowded nation we’ll accept applications from anyone , there’s always room and a cuppa for you. Just a few committments we expect in return ,.. you remain loyal to the Queen, pay your taxes and don’t change us. Your love of Britain will give you a good start. More tea with your toast ?! ;)

    • avatarPete says

      Pass a test and swear allegiance to the monarchy? Is that for immigrants here, now? I didn’t know.

  65. avatarTabitha says

    I get many of the things that you don’t about the British, but ye gods, how can they eat Marmite? I have like much of the food I’ve eaten there, but I draw the line at that brown yeasty glop. There’s got to be something disgusting-but-we-loves-it food item where I live but I’ll be darned if I can think of anything that is as vile as Marmite. Did it become popular because of rationing?

  66. avatarlaSerenissima says

    I’m half English and have spent quite a bit of time there both as a child and as an adult, so here, for what they’re worth are my reactions to your comments:

    • Barley water – I honestly haven’t seen this in any British home I’ve ever visited, I know they still sell it in the shops, but I don’t know anyone who buys it. Now Ribena, on the other hand, laden with sugar as it is, is a treat. I even spent an exorbitant $8.99 for a bottle at my supermarket here in the U.S. recently.

    • The Drinking – while there is a problem with soccer hooligans, in general, responsible adults in the U.K. drink responsibly, just as they do in the U.S. My understanding is that the British police and courts are less tolerant of drunk drivers than we are in parts of the States, so a non-drinker in the group can serve as the designated driver and that’s definitely appreciated. As for the taste of alcohol, it comes in so many tastes and varieties that I’m sure that there’s probably one or two that would suit even the most finicky of palates. The British have always had an appreciation of cider and beer (bitters, larger, ale, stout) and travels to France, Italy and Spain have greatly increased the appreciation of good wines amongst most Brits. Remember, until coffee and then tea became available in the U.K. (and elsewhere in Europe), there wasn’t much else to drink except ciders, ales and maybe a little mead.
    • Toast as a Treat – well, you’re not being given plain toast; either it’s being served for butter and scrumptious jam or as a savory with cheese. And while the quality of breads available to us in the U.S. has greatly improved over the past 40 or so years, breads like Hovis have been available to the British consumer since 1890. Plus, you have to remember that the first wave of British baby boomers, plus the elderly, still remember wartime and post-war rationing – so anything extra was a special treat.
    • Cynicism – is it that Brits (and Europeans) are more cynical or is it that we in the U.S. are so optimistic, even when it flies in the face of reality? Perhaps having a couple of millennia of collective history behind them tends to put things in perspective? Makes them more wary of the passing fads we often fall victim to here in the States. As for reading the Daily Mail – my question is why would you? I’m a Telegraph or Independent reader myself.
    • Poor Service – in general, service in U.K. restaurants and hotels is not up to the same standard as it is in the U.S. – although I’ve noticed some improvement on recent trips. Maybe it’s because traditionally the British are stingy when it comes to tipping. Service probably is worse in chain restaurants that are geared towards tourists – but why go to one of them? London taxis on the other hand are wonderful. Although not cheap, I’ll take a London cab driver with his nice big roomy taxi over his New York, Washington or Chicago counterpart any day of the week. They’re friendly, amusing and, most important of all; they know where they’re going. They’ve got The Knowledge. Service in shops is about the same as here –ranging from excellent to downright awful and rude. Now when it comes to trains, if you’re traveling to the UK or Europe, don’t pack more than you can haul up the steps of a train. Unlike here, there are no Red Caps at major stations and no nice Amtrak conductors to take pity on you and help you get your bags on and off their train.
    • Xenophobia – Are the British really anymore xenophobic than any other nation? I think not. True, until the Chunnel opened in 1994, they were effectively a tight little island. However, there have always been Brits who traveled abroad and foreigners who’ve settled in London and elsewhere. Racist? Yes, racism has reared its ugly head in the UK from time to time over the years, but even counting some of the extreme and violent examples of it; it has never taken on an organized, institutionalized violence as it did in parts of the U.S. for so many years. There were no equivalents to the lynchings, the bombings of black churches and the violence that Freedom Riders faced when they crossed into certain states here. And, although most Brits don’t want to be part of the Eurozone (can you blame them), and think there’s probably been too much immigration in recent years – 71% of UK citizens own passports, whereas, even now, only about 22% percent of Americans do. So they do recognize there’s something to be gained by leaving the country from time to time.
    • Monty Python – Is that even on British TV anymore? I agree though, it’s was overrated, at least in some circles. Ditto Dr. Who.
    • Anti-Londonism – I really haven’t encountered that, but then I tend to travel in the south and southwest of England, but here again, is it so very different from the U.S.? There’s definitely a prejudice in some parts of our country against New Yorkers or people from L.A. or Chicago or Washington, DC.
    • Tearing Down the Successful – this needs to be split up a bit; you’ve got about 3 different ideas here. Putting up with inconveniences and not fighting to change them – yes, the British are, or so it seems, willing to put up a lot more inconveniences than their U.S. counterparts. Maybe it’s the result of the collective shortages and inconveniences they experienced during and in the years immediately following WW II? There is also that element of the ‘stiff upper lip’ at play. Most recent example that I’ve encountered is age discrimination or what the Brits call ageism. I’ve been hearing a lot of my baby boomer relatives complaining about it, but no one seems to actively fighting it the way many in the U.S. have done through organizations like the AARP. As their population ages, that may change, but right now they’re suffering in silence (more or less). Tearing down those successful – that depends – on how you’ve become successful, what you’ve accomplished with you wealth, and the class of the person you’re talking to. And the entrepreneurial spirit seems to be alive and well in the UK, I’ve encountered a number of people who’ve gone into business for themselves – and no one is tearing them down. I guess it depends on who you’re talking with.

    The bottom line in all of this is – you can’t make generalities about a country as diverse as the UK anymore as you can about the U.S.

  67. avatarJulie says

    Well, I don’t know that many of those would have made my list. Here’s one of the things that I least understand. Pull chains on the overhead light in a house’s loo. I’ve been told it’s illegal to have a regular switch because someone could be electrocuted with wet hands. Then why not in the kitchen also? I just don’t get it.

    And as far as the toast thing. Toast is the ultimate fast comfort food. I could live on the stuff. But being as I’m both a US and UK citizen, I won’t take it as far as putting in a toast rack. Butter has to go on soon enough that it melts and you can’t see the butter. Don’t necessarily want it soggy, but it has to be melted. Now how’s that for half way in the middle from an Anglo-Yanko?!!

    • avatarSus says

      You are right about the pull cord for the light in the bathroom being compulsory because of the risk of electrocution, but I think it is because of the extra steaminess and risk of condensation in the bathroom compared with the kitchen.

  68. avatarMJ says

    There are pubs…and there are pubs. Never go into a pub on a big commercial square. They’re dreadful. Never go into a pub that has a sign out front forbidding football colors. It’s a sign there are chavs about & a drunken brawl could break out at any moment.

    DO go into tiny little neighborhood locals where you’ll be welcomed as a friend and invited to join a sing-along, quiz or just read the paper. “Gastro-pubs” have inventive, delicious food that you will savor along with a properly pulled pint. Every pub has a personality & it is worth the time to check them out beforehand. They are used as an extension of one’s living room (or reception room) and can offer quite a jolly time!

  69. avatarKacee says

    The one extremely important thing the British have that the Americans have never been able to achieve is————————–the ability to make fun of and laugh at themselves.
    It’;s why they’ve lasted a thousand years.
    Americans seem to hate people who don’t express their admiration and love for them. Is that some sort of inferiority complex?

  70. avatarCheryl says

    You don’t like Python? You uncultured, humourless person, you! ;)

    There are other things to drink at the pub than alcohol. If someone looks down their nose at you, just stand up straight and proud and look at them as if to say ‘You have a problem?’

    The UK isn’t closed up as tight as America, believe it or not. Our immigration laws, I’m told, are the strictest in the world. I can totally buy the xenophobia. A British friend told me the BNP is the equivalent of the KKK, which made me feel good about the States. For all our faults, at least our white supremacists aren’t a well-known political party. Not that we don’t have our own racism and xenophobia issues.

    I’m working on getting my ducks in a row so I’ll have the skills and experience to get hired in the UK. Not sure how long it’ll take, but damnitall, I *will* make it happen! I want out of the States too badly.

    • avatarKatherine says

      Thankfully, the BNP are nowhere near as extreme as the KKK! Although I hate them more than words can express, they’re a very minor party that only dick heads vote for when they’re feeling a bit shit about the country and want to demonize something. They’ve never lynched anyone (thank God) and Nick Griffin’s face when he thought he was getting a seat and didn’t was hilarious.

    • avatarPete says

      What I couldn’t understand even before I first entered the USA, in Hawaii from New Zealand, some 25 years ago, was a question asking me if ‘my intention in coming to the US was to subvert the government’, well, that what it said, near as dammit. Now why would anyone put YES to that, before they got in the country they were hoping to enter?
      I was tempted to put what Noel Coward was reputed to have done: ‘Sole Purpose of Visit’.

  71. avatarMargaret says

    You seem to be using a very broad brush of – I’d say dislike, rather than lack of understanding – for someone who claims to be an Anglophile. I do appreciate the links to sweepstakes and such, but I began to have doubts about your love of England when I took a look at some of your tips for travelers in London. You often make it sound quite a dangerous place. I can’t quite figure why you want to spend your time visiting and writing about a place you seem to find so much to dislike.

  72. avatarSumMary says

    Monty Python isn’t for everyone. I love it. What helped me get into it was a humor major explaining that in England sex is not risque, but violence is. If you haven’t experienced both the Pet Shop (Dead Parrott) and the Cheese Shop, try again. They are the ultimate nightmares in Customer Service: bait and switch; handling of refunds; getting the run around; wasting your time. I don’t get it. So that’s why Baskin Robbins has 31 and the Cheese Shop has none.
    But I hate Benny Hill. I don’t get it.

  73. avatar says

    I am ENGLISH and feel classy. AMERICANS have money. AMERICA makes me feel warm and safe. I love both ENGLAND and AMERICA. HUMANS are wanted , it does not matter where they come from. The AMERICANS and the BRITISH are great, and I love them. THANK YOU AMERICA FOR BEING AMERICA, YOU MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

  74. avatarMatt says

    I really like this piece, so I’m going to waffle on for ages about it, I should say before I do, I’m British and have always lived in here:

    Barley water:
    I hope you didn’t get the ‘squash’. You know you’re meant to dilute that stuff, right?

    Alcohol:
    I’m with you on this one. Waaay too much drinking, but now there is J2O and lots of other non-alcoholic drinks in pubs, it is easier to be social and not drink here.

    Cynicism:
    I’d say it is one of our positive points. It means that it is very difficult to be taken in by rubbish. I’ll give you an example, watch an american advert…. sorry commercial… and whatever product it is, no matter how trivial or mundane, it always ‘changes the persons life’ or ‘makes them happier’. No sane person has had their life changed by a vacuum cleaner! We just don’t buy into that.
    What I’m trying to say is that we don’t easily get carried away with hype, its a good thing, honest!

    Poor Service:
    Not all the time, but it can happen. Remember in the US, they need your tip. Over here they are on a minimum wage of over £5ph anyway, so if you don’t tip, they don’t care as much.

    Xenophobia:
    We’re not that bad. You’ve got to remember in the US if someone is and ‘illegal immigrant’ they work as hard as they can and hope not to get deported. You guys don’t have much in the way of benefits. In the UK, if someone makes it to France from some third world country, they keep moving hoping to get to the UK, because then they get lots of state benefits, which everyone else will have to fund.

    The Brown/white distinction is inaccurate too, its is probably more just a concern over the fact that certain cultures have very high birth rates, (over three times that of native Brits) while natives don’t even reach the replacement rate. Simple maths tells you that your culture won’t exist if that continues. No one would be chuffed to hear that.

    “I can’t stand Monty Python”
    Me too. Blackadder all the way.

    London:
    Love it.

    Tearing down out successful:
    Agreed, it is silly, probably why we don’t have many successful entrepenuers. We tend to like ‘middle class’ people who are successful, but not ‘too’ successful.
    I think it is linked to the idea that if you’ve done well, it is because you’re wealthy or posh. In America you don’t have this delusion (because you don’t have such a strong class distinction) so you are just happy for them. I think your way is better.

    God bless America,
    God save the Queen ;)

  75. avatarBern says

    I agree on the cynicism and the disdain for the successful. I got so sick of that I actually left and moved to the US!

  76. avatarDavid says

    As a Brit, I’d like to address the “Xenophobia” comment. Whilst there are people (and publications) who feel like that here, I really don’t think it’s unique to Britain (in fact, I know it isn’t) and it’s certainly not widespread.

    To form your opinion of us based on what The Sun and Daily Mail say is disappointing, coming from someone who seems to have such an understanding of our culture. Anyone who says this themselves has either read too much of the crap that the aforementioned publications put out or are, plain and simply, completely stupid and don’t understand basic economics (the latter set of people generally tend to be ones who complain about them “taking our jobs”).

    I can’t describe how proud I am to live in a diverse country like this and it upsets me when the majority of people who feel similarly to me are tainted by these troglodytes. Ignore what people like this say; the rest of us do. We ARE an island of immigrants and I hope this doesn’t change.

  77. avatarRick says

    When you say “successful,” do you really mean “wealthy?” Because many people are highly successful without ever acquiring more than a modest amount of wealth. And by the same token, many wealthy people are a mess and quite unhappy. Success and wealth are hardly synonymous. But maybe that explains why you don’t like Monty Python.

  78. avatarJosie says

    This is all complete bollocks to be honest.

    1. Nobody drinks barley water, thats like the first rule of shopping for drinks. Get some Robinson’s summer fruits squash. That’s how it’s done.

    2. Drinking, yeah I agree, we drink a fair bit, teetotaling is weird.

    3. Toast isn’t really a treat, it’s just toast. It’s a really easy snack and costs next to nothing. We do have it at anytime of the days, lots of schoolchildren have it when they get home.

    4. Cynicism… don’t know if you’ve noticed but the world really isn’t that great at the moment and it pisses it down every day in england. However, anyone with half a brain cell doesn’t read the daily mail, it’s for plebs and racists.

    5. Poor Service. In London it can be quite bad but if you’re going to chains what do you expect? I work at a cinema and we provide excellent customer service.

    6. Xenophobia. This is exacerbated by the media. Because we are part of the EU we can work and live anywhere in the EU and vice versa, hence there are a lot of polish workers. People can get quite bitter about this and we would prefer to have british workers but it does mean we can go and work over in france if we want or anywhere else. We don’t hate foreigners perse but tourists do get on our tits due to the massive crowds and busy tubes. We can’t get citizenship to the US or canada very easily too so I don’t think you really have anything to be angry about there.

    7. Monty Python. Fair enough, it’s british humour, impossible for the american brain to comprehend. Watch some more modern stuff and you might begin to get it. It’s much more intellectual than all the american shows that get churned out.

    8. Anti-londonism. People only really slag off the way its run and how expensive it is. Overall most people love london, just not the prices or the crowds.

    9. Tearing down the successful?? Seriously? We get jealous, sure, but we are in a hugely capitlist society. Everyone is focusing on bettering themselves and becoming more sucessful and earning more. I believe 90% of people are working to improve their lives and themselves, we just don’t mess about with shrinks and plastic surgery quite as much because there are more important things.

    I think you’ve been a bit harsh really, after you’ve clearly only visited the country a few times and been to a mcdonalds in central london. Basically, if you lived here you wouldn’t like it.

    • avatar says

      Please don’t judge Americans by what you see on television. When you consider that ninety percent of American programing comes from Los Angeles, and it’s a scientific fact that no one has actually proved it’s existence, well, there you are.

      Some programing comes from New York, which does exist, but when you watch it you are left with the impression that the only people there are chat show hosts, cops, bag ladies and Italian-American hoodlums.

      That’s silly, of course. There have to other people there or they’d never have enough people for all the crowd scenes in the television shows.

    • avatarLee B says

      Josie, I read the Daily Mail online, I have more than half a brain cell – I have a degree in Physics/Astronomy and a masters in Theoretical Physics (what you got then?) and I’m not a racist – get over yourself. If I stated that everyone who reads the Guardian is a member of the Communist Party, would you think that an exaggeration? You sound like a silly sixth-former studying sociology and socialism, just repeating nonsense that you’ve read, or have been told. Bet you you’ve never even read the DM, have you?

      • avatarPete says

        I think the DM prints what the Mirror/Guardian/Independent don’t, and vice versa for the Mirror/Guardian/Inde. I see them all on the web free and subscribe only to the TIMES.

      • avatarSoos says

        I like to read a range of papers, but realised a little while ago that I was addicted to a daily dose of outrage which I gained by reading the DM, and, which really provides the fix, the comments! It’s all got a bit much lately and I’m going to have to go cold turkey!

  79. avatar says

    Hello:

    I haven’t actually been to England yet, in the sense of, you know, actually being within it’s actual borders…But….I have done a LOT of reading and researching for some books and non-fiction history-type thingies that I guest posted to my wife’s blog, so…I’m going to speak with Great Authority on something I have no first hand knowledge of.

    The drinking: In my research of Georgian England, well, London, for the most part, I could not help but notice that everyone from every social class drank…a lot. Public drunkenness was condemned in the strongest terms from the pulpit and from the floor of The House.

    This was necessary because public drunkenness was so prevalent. Day and night, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. Cheap gin from Holland was 18th century London’s version of crack.

    And the parks! Vauxhall, Hyde, God, what a mess. Reading stuff from the period, it is clear that out-of-control drunkenness was to be condemned, but until one reached that state, all was well. What the Better Sorts considered “social drinking” would NOT be considered so by modern standards.

    The Prince of Wales used to put away three bottles of French wine with his evening meal. His afternoon meal was good for two. This is on top of the port (stronger then than modern port, with is about 17%) he had before each meal, and the brandy he would imbibe at the card tables after dinner.

    I can’t remember the last time I put away five bottles of wine a day, seven days a week. Oh, wait, I never have, it would kill me within a month.

    London Haters: My impression is that Londoners have always considered themselves a people apart. And it isn’t just the Big City/ Small Town thing. At certain periods of history London would literally shut it’s gates and tell the rest of England to go screw itself.

    That sort of attitude bred reciprocity in the form of “outsiders” (Anyone not a Londoner) having a go at a bit of burning and looting if they could get through the gates. Which they sometimes did. It wasn’t pretty, and they don’t make Big Budget movies about it.

    King Henry the VIII got a lot of bad press while he was alive because of his later behavior with his wives. His response, in part, was to stay in London as much as possible. He was a Londoner, they hated him in that special way you hate someone that you automatically defend when “outsiders” attack him.

    When he died, the whole city went into mourning, and it was genuine. Outside of London, not so much. Amongst Catholics,( the ones who hadn’t been burned at the stake) not at all.

    I think I’d better leave off here, I’m starting to run on. Thanks for allowing me on-board, I wish I had discovered this site years ago.

  80. avatar says

    Alright, one more short-ish bit, then I’m off to bed.

    Cynicism: As I was reading what you wrote I couldn’t help but think, “But that’s…ME.”

    At least, back in my twenties. There is much difference between cynicism and simply ragging on whatever one happens not to like. Cynicism involves being witty without being Overly Clever, worldly without being a drag, and…entertaining enough that people keep you on their guest list.

    In the years when my cynicism was an almost overwhelming feature of my personality, I was told by some that they thought I was the funniest guy they’d ever met. It didn’t please me in the least. Unless a girl told me. But that is something else entirely.

    Thanks again!

  81. avatar says

    No, I lied. I’m awful that way.

    Rain: I love rain…I do. I really, really love rain. What most (including my wife) considers cold, I’m just getting comfortable. When others pull on a sweater, I put on a long sleeved shirt. When others put on coats, I put on a sweater. (British Army surplus, 100% wool, best sweater I’ve ever owned)

    Long, drizzling rain with low, dark clouds…I’m in heaven. I absolutely love it. I put on my waterproof hiking boots and a mac, and I’ve got the woods to myself.

    There…now I’m done. :)

  82. avatarTony says

    As a British person I feel obligated to totally dispense with this myth of the mysteriousness of ‘British humour’ that British people just LOVE to believe is totally impenetrable to outsiders.
    Its not.
    It really is very simple despite what jealous guardians of English comedy who love to believe they invented sarcasm will tell you.

    Starting with Monty Python! To those Americans who don’t understand it or don’t like it – don’t worry, you’re not missing some great secret or highly coded, nuanced breed of wit.
    Its not mandatory to like it, even for Brits it was never one of those roll-around-the-floor laughing, side splittingly funny comedies compared to say, Only Fools and Horses, which can actually make you laugh all the way through.

    The point of Monty Python is that appeals very deeply and strongly to a irresistible compulsion that all English people share, that is deeply ingrained within their psyche from birth onwards: that is, to extinguish the passion and melodrama from situations by reducing them to down to hilariously banal and mundane. To diffuse the risk of embarrassment from situations where things are being taken too seriously.
    Especially when situations or behaviours reach a point where they have become too lacking in irony or too pretentious and therefore – foolish.

    When world renowned illusionist suspended himself over large cities in a glass box to visibly display his self control while imposing starvation on himself, American news coverage showed images of awe-struck passers by dazzled by the danger and drama, admiring the dedication and commitment of this darkly mysterious and charismatic magician.
    The British public had quite a different reaction however, eagerly awaiting his arrival with sly, humorous anticipation of the reception they knew he’d be greeted with instead.
    And sure enough, the first morning in London David Blaine awoke in his box to the sight of a battalion of greasy spoon chefs cheerily cooking bacon on giant grills directly beneath him, chuckling away to themselves as he stared at the frying meat longingly.
    David was later quoted as being shocked by the hostility and aggression shown towards him, but this is a misunderstanding.

    The British revile confrontation and are not prone to bullying. What he witnessed was just the British imperative need to re-acquaint pomposity and deluded self belief with its humility. The British took pride not only in making a very silly and pointless act a non-event, but also in making it a funny one.
    Its not just about the national love and sport of the humorous anti-climax that fuels this. Its also the love of how skilfully and ironically this can be done. It is an art form. Juxtaposing earnest passion and everyday banality together is at the heart of Monty Python films. Sacred, Serious and emotive subjects like Jesus Christ and the Holy crusades are treated to abrupt intrusions of everyday silliness, like holy Mary mother of Christ walloping her young son for staying out all night.

    Take Mad, raving street preachers for instance, who are often treated with fear, revulsion and sometimes iconic reverence in american cinema. But in a British production they would be quite likely to find themselves confronted by two old ladies frowning with disapproval and concern about all the fuss he was making. Followed by questions about how much his obvious upset had to do with the poor soul needing to go to the toilet. He might even be offered a cup of tea, but if only if he stops making that dreadful noise. Once in their clutches he would then likely be subjected to a long description of homely remedies and dietary adjustments for treating constipation. All helpfully delivered in earnest innocence.
    The sarcasm implicit, but fully understood by the British audience.

    I’m pretty sure that if Mel Gibson was an English man and had made ‘The Passion of the Christ’ in a British studio; the emotive, disturbing, heart rendering climax would have ended sharply with an interruption of officials from the local council office. They would inform the Romans immediately that they had breached health and safety regulations and that the crucifixes would have to be dismantled before the Easter bank Holiday or risk a penalty fee. The film would have ended rather unceremoniously with Herod queueing in line at the civic offices, agreeing to pay his £1000 fine in instalments via direct debit by while Jesus drinks cold coffee in an NHS surgery waiting room for treatment of his whip lashes, nodding with feigned interest as a young nurse natters on about the holiday she took in Majorca the previous year.
    British people just find this kind of thing funny.

    Next time you watch a British comedy and feel confused about why you don’t find it as equally hilarious as the natives do, just bear all this in mind. You haven’t missed some big secret, you just haven’t grown up in a country where melodrama and guileless emotion needs to be diffused immediately with absurdly abrupt bathos.

    Unless, of course, you are watching either the football or Eastenders.

    Then brace yourselves for sudden, unexpected eruptions of emotion punctuated by screams of rage, ecstasy and despair.

  83. avatarYas says

    I was so disappointed with this article. The rest of the website has been so entertaining but this just smacked of being unaware!
    I have never once in my life, a, seen barley water, b, drunk it. I have always lived in the uk.
    Drinking socially does not mean getting bladdered every day. I rarely had a week when I went to the pub everyday after work before I went to uni. If I did go, I certainly didn’t get pissed and I can say the same for almost everyone I know.
    Instead of a dessert a nice piece of seeded toast with jam or peanut butter is a healthy and refreshing snack, not to mention seriously cheap and quick.
    I can’t say much about the cynicism other than that you’re not disappointed. Most people are seriously bogged down and complaining makes them feel better; but if you think being cynical is the only prominent personality trait in England then you’re missing a staple of our culture.
    CYNICISM

    Cynicism is basically a bed rock of British character and sometimes it’s interesting or amusing. But most of the time it infuriates me. Sometimes the British can just be so unbelievably negative that it boggles my mind.
    But they would probably say the opposite about us Americans, we’re probably too optimistic and cheery for their liking.
    Their cynicism can lead to some great humor, but when you experience it for a long period of time, you can’t stand being around people who are so negative. It starts to infect your own personality.
    Many British would agree with your view of The Daily Mail.
    I actually take offence to your idea of service in Britain. I have worked since I was fourteen alternately as a waitress, kp and barmaid and I have to say – service with a smile is the first thing they teach you (although I live in the rather remote Cornwall). A tip isn’t part of the bill in England so if you want to top up your crappy income with a tip, a smile is the first step. I think you’ve been visiting the wrong establishments.
    Although I come from one of the least integrated parts of the country, myself and just about everyone I know AGREE and actively ENCOURAGE immigration. Our issues with it are foreign families, who are often here illegally, claim thousands of pounds from the government and contribute nothing to society and do not respect our culture. Arab women, whom I have nothing against, are allowed to wear their full gear wherever they please, even the school room, but Christian women are fired for refusing the remove their crucifixes. Double standards much? This is a government issue, not the views of a nation. Immigration enriches a nation as long as all parties involved can be mutually tolerant and respectful; unfortunately, at the fear of giving offence, Christians are often sidelined in this community. As for the racism, it’s the same in any country you ever go to; there will always be narrow minded bigots who don’t posses the common sense they were born with.
    I think you’re crackers for not liking the fabulous Monty Python but that’s a matter of taste. I don’t understand A LOT of American humour, but hey, you can’t like everything right.
    I understand your views on London: Some parts are very beautiful, affluent and culturally enriching, but most is poor and crime ridden and struggling. The London that tourists usually frequent is not the London that actually exists but a picture portrayed to the world, like a lot of cities, e.g, Paris. London portrays very little of what Britain is actually like. For the most part, Britain is still ruled by inherited Conservatism and is still struggling to escape its clutches. London is ridiculously expensive so, despite difficulties posed, I encourage any visitor to jump on any old train and go and visit Brighton, or Liverpool or the Fells or the Moors of Cornwall, some random little village in the middle of nowhere and piece together England’s culture and history. Don’t just take London’s word for it.
    Usually, I think you’ll find, most people will only tear down those with inherited or useless
    reasons for being successful. E.g, Jordan, famous for getting her tits out and having a lot of marriages. That is not talent and people with admiration for her need a reality check. Often, but not always of course, an inherited success has not been earned. Anything worth having in life should be earned! Bettering yourself through hard work is something to be proud of and congratulated for! Anyone pitying themselves for poor luck should consider: Someone always has it worse and they probably still carried on and succeeded.
    I think your views are a little narrow minded and uninformed, not to mention stereotyped; no one is perfect, but I know you’re not deluded and are aware of this; that’s my opinion as this article was yours. On the off chance you read this, I thought you’d like to see a born and bred Brits comprehensive argument this, quite frankly, very insulting article.

  84. avatarMichael Cule says

    I went to New York last year and found the degree of… well, to be honest grovelling I got from people serving me in restaurants and hotels and elsewhere… deeply disturbing. You Americans have this myth that you’re all about equality and opportunity and we Brits are the ones with an obsession with hierarchy and status. But over in the Land of We’re-allowed-to-sack-you-in-an-instant-and-make-up-your-minimum-wage-with-tips I met real forelock tugging for the first time in my life. I was so glad to get back home where I felt the person behind the counter wasn’t downright terrified of my bad opinion but could be grumpy and surly with me, that they were, in fact, my equal.

    And in the US people still got my damned order wrong! It may have been the accent…

  85. avatarLee B says

    Having read a large number of comments posted here, I think I have to correct some views regarding so-called ‘Xenophobia’. Yes, there are people in the UK who are genuinely hostile to all immigrants. The majority aren’t, but want immigration numbers limited, which thanks to 13 yrs of Labour misrule was chaotic. In the decade from 2000 the population of the UK increased by 2.5m, almost all of it due to immigration. That is an enormous number to assimilate for a country the size of the UK, with most of them settling in London and the South East of England. We were already one of the most densely populated countries in Europe before this happened. We cannot have immigration running at this level, the country just can’t afford to support it! It has to be properly controlled and managed – that’s not Xenophobia, just plain commonsense. My mother was Italian, met my father in Naples when he was posted there at the end of the War, married in Italy and arrived here in ’47 one of the coldest winters of the 20th Cen. i know how hard she worked raising four children, so please you leftwingers/libs don’t accuse me of being ‘Xenophobic’.

    • avatarPete says

      England is approx the same size as Mississippi, but has a 53million population. Mississippi 3 million! Go figure! As you Yanks say.

  86. avatarBarbara says

    My son has lived in England for the last 5 years and his girlfriend for the last 3 years. They love living in London but try to get out of the city when they can. Not that they don’t love living there, but for the change of pace. Life is so much calmer than it is here in the States. They haven’t found that the English treat them any differently because they are American either. My son works as a Barrister and I’ve asked him if anyone has ever asked him why he practices law there or has mentioned that he’s not English. Never – he replied. Seems that they aren’t so nervous about newcomers to the country at all – but I’m sure they are just feeling the same as Americans do about the issues that can come with open borders.

  87. avatarKaren says

    What annoys me — just from watching BBC America — is how anti-American the Brits seem to be. I realize we have a lot of apologizing to do, what with George Bush and all, and yet… I’m really becoming irritated at being portrayed as obese, stupid, and mean…

    • avatarSteve says

      This is a two way thing, Karen! If you want the Brits to stop the obese jokes…Americans need to stop the bad teeth jokes.

  88. avatarBunny Riley says

    Have enjoyed your website! Iam an American and think Britain is the most beautiful country I have ever seen, not to mention ALL of the wonderful history there. I am engaged to a british citizen,and we had planned on getting married this year, but it doesn’t look possible now, as the immigration rules have changed,as of July 2012. We are both retired and have pensions,so no need of government handouts to survive.I understand the UK has immigration problems, but it seems to me to be from the EU countries coming in and getting benefits,not from retired people who want to get married, and have enough of their own money to live on. I pray the rules will change so we can be together. I think the whole change is against Human Rights, and would like to hear from British people on this matter.

  89. avatarDave D says

    Re: the immigration issue, I haven’t read all the posts, so somebody may have stated this already, I absolutely agree that Britain has always had immigration BUT we are a small country and it is the SCALE of immigration that is most worrying, agreed it’s mainly from Eastern Europe (they’re not that good, believe me I work with them). I’m sure “our leaders” and newspaper reporters attitude would soon change from praising them to stopping them coming into the country if we had an influx of migrants taking THEIR jobs. The other problem is the strain it puts on the infrastructure, all this talk of now building on green belt land to build enough houses for the growing population and don’t even mention the NHS.

  90. avatar says

    Jonathon,
    Barley water. A sugar based, fruit flavoured drink with a slightly harsh finish. Needs diluting as does any squash. You did dilute, didn’t you? Best drunk well chilled on hot summer days so likely to become an endangered product with climate change.
    Drinking. Well, if the alternative is barley water to wash down a piece of dry toast, wouldn’t you? Please don’t assume you have to drink alcohol to join in pub culture? You can enjoy the social interaction, live music, pub quiz, darts, food etc. just as well with a nice chilled glass of refreshing barley water. You also stand a good chance of winning the quiz and possibly the darts as inebriated Brits fall over or nod off!
    Toast. In the afternoon served warm with a nice chicken liver pate and fig chutney. Heaven. Toast is in fact a cover for secret eccentric tastes. Personally I love warm crumpet in the morning. With crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam. Something you guys copied ‘cept you renamed it jello or something like that! I have grown out of my previous addiction to toasted malt fruit loaf with smoked cheese on smooth peanut butter. Toast for breakfast? urghh, no thanks!
    Cynisism. Very much age related in the UK. My grown up lads just get on with enjoying life to the full. While I worry about the constant stream of bad news bombarding us on the media. Where did all those 24 hour news channels and massive Sunday newspaper bundles originate from anyway? Cynisism? You won’t hear much of that down the pub.
    Poor service. I beg your pardon Sir. In any urban environment world wide you are likely to experience a different pace and approach to service compared with the countryside beyond. I am proud, very proud of our service industries. Take eating out. The food available here in the UK is at the very top of the tree if you know where to look (try Hardens Restaurant Guide based purely on UK customers reporting and of which I am one) with table service to match. Service at this year’s Olympic games was, I understand, pretty phenomenal with masses of unpaid “games makers” warmly greeting the world.
    Xenophobia. Once ruled by Rome, conquered by Germans, pillaged by Danish, invaded by French, then the Dutch (not a lot of people know that!), more German Kings, once responsibie for the worlds largest empire etc. etc. we hardly qualify for that title. We have a social welfare system that delivers health and social care to anyone in need of it, irrespective of age, colour, creed or ability to pay. Thank goodness! In such a small island nation, this can only be sustained by restricting the population if it starts to grow the way it has done.
    Mony Python. OK, very silly for the most part but genius every now and again. And it was nearly flipping 50 years ago!!! A bit like saying that you don’t get Carnaby Street. I dare anyone to watch the Dead Parrot sketch or the Ministry of Funny Walks on YouTube and not titter ye a little!
    Anti Londonism. As I was bought up, educated and started my career in London then moved to the Cotswolds (West of England), I have privileged experience of both environments. It is like comparing apples and bananas. You can’t. You either love ‘em both or prefer one and slag off the other if you are that way inclined. It is that simple. Although I much prefer living and working away from the capital, I love going back as a visitor. One heck of a beautiful, vibrant capital city, despite that damn fog! It is said, a person who is tired of London, is tired of life. But one can always do with a bit of a break, eh?
    Tearing down success. Jonathan! Look at the adoration and joy that exuded from the Brits at every achievement at this summer’s Olympics. As well as adoring and supporting the inevitable majority that took part and didn’t win any medals. And it lasted from that brilliant Olympic opening ceremony right through to the equally brilliant Paralympic closing ceremony. Really, it’s like the fog we are supposed to be plagued with. An urban myth. We were very succesful in both hosting and competing in the 2012 Olympics but I don’t recall Brits tearing down success. Quite the very opposite. However, if you are referring to not feeling entirely comfortable about the disparity of a few non altruistic individuals and corporations with obscene personal wealth whilst so many fellow human beings have so very little, you may have hit a nerve.
    Finally. Best comment I can make is not to generalise. We are all different. Experiencing such differences is one of the joys available to so many in this modern age of travel.

  91. avatarCarol says

    Where in England have you been? And how long did you stay? I’ve experienced little of what you don’t get.

    And, frankly, if you don’t like toast, or Monty Python, or the Mail, you are Not an anglophile. You just don’t get it.

    • avatarEmma says

      I agree with Carol — if you don’t like toast or Monty Python — and you’re unwilling to put aside your teetotal habit to enjoy a pint in the pub with your mates — you fundamentally just don’t get it. Might as well stay home in the U.S.

        • avatarChopper says

          Alcohol Jonathan, is the glue that holds the British together. It accompanied their rise as an industrial nation and the creation of their Empire. When the British go out, even to the cinema or theatre, the evening will start or end in the pub. The weekly beer intake of the average British student would dwarf that of an American truck driver. The words ” I don’t drink” will usually have you regarded with the deepest suspicion here. Sad to say that around three pubs close down, surrender their licence and get boarded up every day in the UK due to lack of trade. The reason? Cheap drink in supermarkets. But the pub closures haven’t been matched by any lessening of consumption. The same amount is just now drunk in people’s homes instead.

          Toast.? Am I right in assuming some people like it hot? Good lord. It has to be completely cold, that’s what the rack is for, and spread with butter – not some disgusting substitute made of soya beans or something – that has been sitting in the fridge for an hour. And it should always be accompanied by a full English breakfast. Including black pudding.

          I wouldn’t call the British cynics, I’d say they were realists. People always let you down, things never work, it always rains when you don’t want it to. Life has equipped us to expect nothing and we are rarely wrong. The Daily Mail operates on a very simple journalistic premise: think of the last thing people want to hear – and tell it to them.

          Poor/excellent service is everywhere in the world. The service economy in Britain is a fairly recent invention and the British are still getting to grips with having to compete for custom. They are improving though. You can spot this by hearing the phrase ” Can I help you” uttered through gritted teeth. If you want to see really bad – indeed incompetent – service you need to go to Italy.

          I think the xenophobia claim is a bit far fetched. The British not only ran a sizeable chunk of the world, they holiday in many of it’s farthest flung spots today. And having seen how shambolic much of the world is, they’ve decided they prefer their own country and it’s citizens and can’t imagine why anybody would wish to come here. The fact that a quarter of the UK’s prison population is now made up of people who were born elsewhere might also have something to do with their lack of enthusiasm for immigration.

          Monty Python? Come on! It’s 43 years old! You don’t seriously think we still sit around listening to it surely? It was of it’s time. Much of what it mocked – the establishment, class, Victorian attitudes – disappeared decades ago.

          Yes, you need to hammer London while you’re here and get all the requisite photos. But you should come back the next year and see what’s outside it. If you look in a British atlas at the place names, you might spot your own there. That’s possibly where your ancestors came from. Pity your stingy employers give you so little holiday time.

          I think Thatcher swept away a lot of the suspicion of weath and it’s creators. And in no time at all Britain was full of speculators, venture capitalists, asset strippers, investment analysts and sub-prime motgage lenders. Then the banks stole everyone’s hard earned savings. And that Jonathon, is were cynicism is born.

          • avatarPete says

            It’s my contention that were the Muslims drinkers and liked horse racing, there would be less problems with immigrants. Problem is that they’re never seen in pubs or Racing tracks/betting shops.

  92. avatarRachel says

    Jonathan, thank you! You just helped me understand a British friend I have been bewildered by. She is intellectually curious, well-traveled, lived in the States for a long time, and has been very generous in having me as a guest and showing me around Britain (i.e., not just London… ). But I have often been shocked at some of the things coming out of her mouth. It never occurred to me to think of her as cynical, but that popped everything into focus–though I think she understands it as “British sense of humor.” And now I see that some stuff I experienced as “racism” WAS just that (perhaps unconscious) xenophobia. A very helpful perspective that jives with my my own experience. And, let me be clear–I love England, am especially grateful for its long tradition of scholarship, and hope to go to graduate school there because there seems to be more openness to a broader range of ideas as valid research. But I think this essay may be a helpful bridge to better cultural understanding for me!

  93. avatarRachel says

    P.S. Reading all the comments about “toast” made me absolutely ravenous for tea with toast and jam this morning…

  94. avatarRob says

    As a Brit who has travelled extensively in the US, no matter how much we emphasize the connections between our two countries, I am always struck when I arrive in the States by the fact that I am in a very foreign place. Now, I’m certain that many british people would not agree with me, but when I am in mainland Europe, I am fairly certain that I am ‘home’, or if not, then somewhere quite like it. That may sound absurd, but the fact that the we share the English language does make some transatlantic visitors assume things are going to be more similar than different, and can lead to the kind of amusing (and in no way offensive) observations such as the ones made here.

    However on the point of casual racism, I would say that the British do not have a copyright on xenophobia. Americans I meet in the States are often surprised to learn that we have large populations of Afro-carribean people, Asians (which here means India, Pakistan, etc) and others. A huge number of British people have recent Irish ancestry that would make any Bostonian jealous.

    Unlike other European countries, Britain has had a tolerant and open policy to immigrants, preferring to celebrate their difference rather than force them to become ‘British’ (e.g. unlike France) and race relations are generally strong as a result. Just like the US though, people are always worried about immigration, and you see some rather xenophobic comments made in the press, but one rarely hears them outside of the right wing press. There is equally obvious underlying racism in much of the US debate on immigration. I don’t think we are too different in this regard. We both welcome strangers, but we fear uncontrolled mass migration. It is nigh on impossible for a British person to immigrate to the US, I would add!

  95. avatarDave says

    I suspect that taste in humour depends upon the individual rather than their nationality, for by no means everybody in the UK likes Monty Python. However, we should put things in context and explain that Python originally played to a generation brought up on a telly diet of I Love Lucy repeats. Python didn’t have to be the dog’s bollocks to compete with that; indeed even the weather forecast was a rib cracker when compared with Lucy.

    The British fixation with toast possibly dates from the ‘Make Do and Mend’ era of the 1940s and 50s when toasting would have been a God sent way of prolonging the life of otherwise stale bread. Toast would have tasted like caviar to a hungry Brit family emerging from the air raid shelter to discover that that nasty Mr Hitler hadn’t managed to flatten their home.

    I’m not sure that Brits hate successful people, just people who flaunt their wealth. Thus the flash git who ponces around in his Roller with personalised number plates would be considered by many as a complete tosser, whereas the bloke who made millions, yet still has time to get bladdered with his mates in the pub, would be the bee’s knees.

    Yes, of course we Brits are cynical. In the last century we went from being the preeminent world power with a huge empire to being just another diminutive country. We expect economic news about Britain to be bad, and generally it is. Imagine a time in perhaps 50 or 100 years when the financial clout of China is streets ahead of that of the US, whose economy has also fallen behind that of India and an integrated Europe. Now imagine that US politicians persist in spouting unrealistically optimistic prognoses of the weakening dollar and your declining position in the world. Then you’ll become cynical!

    Might I be so presumptuous as to give a tip to Yanks that will guarantee them a friendly reception when visiting Britain? Never announce that you are from the US – that could be considered by some as bragging. Instead let us show off and act as if we are direct descendants of Sherlock Holmes by deducing from your accent and dress that you are American. It’s the same psychology that we use when visiting our neighbours the French. If we start talking in English they will shrug their shoulders and pretend not to understand. However, if we attempt to speak French, they will smile and reply in perfect English. In fact, the worse our French is, the better they will like it as it gives them a chance to prove that they are infinitely better linguists than us.

    And so to xenophobia. Not everybody in the UK reads the Daily Mail; indeed, many find it unreadable. Whilst a lot of foreign-born people undoubtedly now live in Blighty, there are also a lot of (maybe more?) British-born people who have opted to migrate to Spain, France, Oz, NZ, South Africa, Canada, the USA, etc. Despite what Mail columnists may wish, we can’t expect to be able to do the latter while banning the former. Although xenophobia may still be extant in Britain, I’m glad to report that chauvinism, another of those social evils that bedevilled the British Empire, is now extinct. So please don’t hesitate to send your daughters to the UK for some work experience. I’m sure their waitressing skills and ability to say ‘Have a nice day,’ without displaying a flicker of emotion will teach our skiving lot a thing or two!

    Keep up the good work Jonners.

  96. avatarsam says

    I am a 22 year old UK student, English by birth.

    On the topic of the British being pessimistic and the Americans being the eternal optimist, I agree.
    I feel that Brits very much look at the Americans in the same way a more senior citizen I feel looks at me, and other people of my age, i.e. over confident, naive, inexperienced and full of youthful optimism and hope for the world; however, now i’m nearing graduation some of the shine and sparkle that surrounds your life as a youth is starting to wear off already. I feel British people have it instilled in them at a younger age that life is rarely as planned or rosy as conveyed to you in your ‘childhood bubble’, as such i feel this is why Brits tend to be so much more calm and collected and have a very much more measured response to crisis or adversity.

    The topic of toast is actually quite surprising, considering it is one of those ingrained daily habits for which you hardly spare a thought. I usually mindlessly stuff it down my gob in a bleary eyed state before heading to lectures. Taking a moment to think about it properly, to me at least, toast represents nostalgia as it is given to you constantly as a child, it is comforting and for me as a student, not to mention cheap!! At risk of being the odd one out, I always leave my toast to go cold and then spread butter (has to be real butter) on top, love it, cold, crunchy and a bit chewy :)

    As a Brit I feel we are very welcoming to most foreigners who legitimately want to contribute to UK life, finances and culture. It’s those who don’t that rightly get the negative attention. However the UK is broke and I loathe the fact that my generation has been left in a mess and my money will go towards paying off the debts, and at the end we’ll still be left with nothing!

    I am actually going to America in July for a year to work in NYC financial district, I am obviously happy to hear that American girls apparently have a soft spot for us British lads ;) I actually stumbled on this blog looking at things I should know if i’m moving to America although I have already been numerous times throughout my childhood! I would love to hear from any American girls my age that would potentially like to chat and that i can ask questions to about integrating in the US.

    All in all though, I love being British because;

    We have character, the best sense of humour in the world, great fashion sense (younger generation mostly) limitless strength in adversity, a thirst for education and personal development, NHS, premier league, diversity, the self assurance of an old timer but yet the identity crisis similar to that currently being experienced by a certain 20 year old….namely me!

    Love us or loathe us……….we’ll still give the impression we don’t care :)

  97. avatarRiya says

    Hello,

    I really enjoyed reading the blog…it does bring out some things that are so much ingrained in our daily lives that we barely notice…

    I’m an Indian and have lived in the UK for a little over an year… I’ve spent 24 years of my life living in various metro cities of India…so when I had to move to a small, non descriptive town near Manchester for work…I wasn’t really thrilled…I never imagined living in a small town..and wasn’t sure how was I going to cope up with that…
    But as fate would have it….at the end of my assignment…while leaving that small town in Peak District..I felt a wrench deep down somewhere in my heart…I had fallen in love with the quaint English town..its people…its glades and valleys…its canal…its town center…the small churches tucked away in the middle of nowhere…they had become so close to my heart that I had truly and irrevocably fallen in love with the land and its culture…So, I can really understand the British emotion that the real Britain lies outside London…I’ve lived in London for a couple of weeks and it’s just like another metro city…though its steeped in culture and you do get a glimpse of a different Britain from here…I would still prefer living in a country side in Britain rather than in a city…

    Another point where I wholeheartedly agree with Jonathan is on ‘Drinking’. That paragraph just echoes my sentiments…I never thought there is another person in this world who ‘can’t stomach the taste of alcohol (it’s more taste over principle)’..but I’m glad there is :)… Though I’m more than happy to accompany my friends to pubs because it’s really great and relaxing to hang out in the pub after work…The atmosphere is lively and friendly…which I think draws me the most…Especially when there is a major football match screening in the pubs…it’s an electrifying atmosphere…(especially during a Manchester City v/s Man U match….Gosh you just have to be there to experience it :) )

  98. avatarJay says

    “American is a land of optimism and opportunity and we hold the entrepreneur up with very high regard, Not so much in Britain. We admire people who take a shit life and turn it around into something better. The British are fine if people continue to wallow in their misfortune. There’s not a lot of drive to improve yourself and fix your life.”

    Being a bit of a muppet there sir, it has nothing to do with tearing down those that become successful, it has everything to do with tearing down those that do it to excess.

    American culture glorifies the rich, fantasises about it, makes absolutely everything about life equate to how much money you earn. In Britain having a lot of money doesn’t make you a good person, and rightfully so, for the most part it makes you a cunt, holding onto millions while it could be distributed more evenly across the economy.

    In America, 1% of the population owns 99% of the wealth. Consider how much richer and how higher the average standard of living might be without that small number of cunts hoarding all of your country’s wealth.

    This is why we quite rightly rally against the rich that do not do significant things to demonstrate they’re not a detriment to society.

  99. avatarLaura J says

    I love everything about England. The history, the music, the castles, the tv shows,the accent, the men (Daniel Craig !), the Royal Family…..and I haven’t even been there yet!! I’m American but always felt I should’ve been born British. I’m going for the first time next fall and I get giddy just thinking about it!! We’re staying in London but everyday we’re taking a day trip to a different part of the countryside. I wanna sit on a bench and start a conversation with a local.All the British people I have met have been nice people. I met an elderly couple from Liverpool last year at a bus stop in Miami Beach—-they were just sweet!! I even have toast and tea for supper some nights, so there ya go!! I told my husband once he gets me over there I might not come home. This country is going to hell in a handbag anyway…not the same country that I grew up in ,in the 60′s & 70′s.(For God’s sake we’ve turned the cookie monster into the veggie monster!!)
    PS. I have found the people in New York City to be very nice and super helpful. The rudest people I ever encountered were from Boston. I’m from New England myself and even I was stunned at how rude they were!!
    And yes Sam—-American girls love a British accent! You are gonna have the girls falling all over you!! :-) Have fun!!!!!

  100. avatarMelanie says

    9 things I still don’t get about the U.S.

    1. Tang – Probably the most disgusting liquid I ever put into my mouth.

    2. The Drinking – Alone. At home.

    3. Bread – a horrible doughy, bland, synthetic disaster.

    4. Cynicism – Visit any city in the Northeast.

    5. Poor Service – Call your bank or insurance company. Go to McDonald’s.

    6. Xenophobia – One word: Arizona

    7. Honey Boo Boo

    8. Hatred of New York and New Yorkers.

    9. Homelessness, child hunger, and senior citizens being unable to afford the medications they need.

    • avatarSue says

      10. Guns, in the face of all the evidence
      11. Lack of a socialised health service, in the face of all the evidence
      12. Not believing you can learn from other countries

  101. avatarCarole says

    What I don’t understand is why London B&Bs can’t make scrambled eggs? They can fry and egg, but ask them to scramble it and you may as well be speaking Martian. It’s an egg, you put it in a dish, take a fork, and scramble it. And you don’t have to worry about breaking the yoke or under cooking it. Can we have a new law in London that says that eggs can be scrambled?

  102. avatarPolly says

    This has made for an interesting read! I’m a Londoner and just got back from a trip to California, I loved it and was sad to leave. But it seems the grass is always greener, as I met many Americans that would love to live in London whereas I’d love to go live in the States! But I still love London with all my heart, there’s no place like home. Here’s my two-pence worth:

    Barley water: lemon barley water is lovely, you dilute it with water and have it as a refreshing drink but it’s not the be all and end all. I’d take freshly squeezed orange juice over it, but it’s just good to have in the cupboard as its concentrated and doesn’t go off.

    The drinking: yep we do love our alcohol, it’s ingrained in the culture but this is also a European thing as the Germans, Irish, Finns, Dutch, etc all have big drinking cultures too.

    Toast as a treat: I don’t have a toast rack, I don’t know many people that do, so perhaps this is more common in British hotels & quaint b&b’s as a way of serving the toast neatly. I like my toast hot with butter or peanut butter or jam or marmite or beans or cheese. Most of us Brits are obsessed with melted cheese on toast, its delicious! And yes any time of day, it doesn’t matter. Toast is at its best with tea, and you know we have a love affair with tea! I must say that I find pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast a stranger concept, although very delicious this is most definitely classed as dessert in the uk.

    Cynicism: I agree that it can be annoying. I noticed when I got back to London the other day, I overheard a lot of moaning and it did get on my nerves as I was feeling really upbeat! But I agree with what someone else said previously that this is largely to do with the climate – if its overcast dull grey skies it is reflected in our moods, it’s just shit if its for weeks or months on end. We didnt even get a summer in 2012, a few days of sunshine here and there but mostly rain – we felt cheated! When its sunny here we are the nicest, loveliest people and everyone smiles at each other and we get to make use of lazing around in our beautiful parks having picnics. A sunny Britain is a happy Britain (except for the very small minority that complain its too hot! Some people just like to moan for the sake of it! haha)

    Poor service: this depends on where you go, but I think ultimately we don’t like to overdo it here. Some shops in the UK have tried to adopt the American way of approaching people in stores and asking if they can be of assistance – we find this a bit annoying as we like to browse and it feels a bit too pushy/salesmen-like. I’ve walked out of shops before if I feel they are trying to mollycoddle me, leave me be, If I want your help I’ll ask for it! In terms of bar staff and waiting staff – definitely better in America without a doubt. But then tips are customary in the States but not so here, I used to work in a busy bar and stand on my feet for hours on end for crap money, hardly any tips and men leering at me. Reward (or lack of) reflects service.

    Xenophobia: We love being multi-cultural and this is not based on skin colour. I have black and Indian friends that also cannot believe how overcrowded we are becoming. This island is just really small and cannot cope with opening up the borders to absolutely everyone (especially as so many people want to live here, the world would tilt on its axis!). Again, this is a European thing, France, Germany, Italy, Spain etc all feel the same way. And illegal immigration is definitely the thing that we dislike the most, but then what country does? The Daily Mail is a newspaper that most people wouldn’t be caught dead looking at, so many people consider it to be a national embarrassment. Those that do read it are likely the ones that moan about foreigners, but this really does not reflect the nation as a whole. I lived in Texas for a year, and I know that the rest of America is very different to a lot of the opinions/views that I found to be there. Also, I have looked in to trying to live in America – again, you’ve got to either be super wealthy, get a job transfer or marry an American, the borders are just as closed to us as it is the other way around! And there’s much more space there, surely I could squeeze in ;-)

    Monty Python: Well its going back quite a few decades (before I was born and I’m 30!). Life of Brian is very funny in a silly way, but not all Brits like it/get it, I think its more a matter of taste as I know Americans that love it. Just depends on what tickles you!

    Anti-Londonism: This frustrates me sometimes because I am a Londoner born and bred, and anyone that is from the Capital loves it very deeply. I still get teary-eyed when I walk across Waterloo bridge when its a red sunset (so beautiful) and hear Big Ben ringing, it looks like a painting and just feels like home, and I guess home is where the heart is. A lot of people that live & work in London are not originally from London – usually from one of the home counties and so their heart may belong elsewhere (but I bet they also have a special place in their heart for London) – they might be from near the seaside or the countryside and goodness I understand how The Big Smoke can sometimes get you down when you’re working & living there, visiting is an entirely different experience altogether.

    Tearing down the successful: With us its all about talent, if someone is talented then brilliant, we love talented musicians, actors, sports personalities etc, but we now have many celebs that are famous for absolutely no reason (similar to Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian – yawn), we just don’t get this famous for being famous thing – it all seems a bit empty and pointless and its getting on our tits. We respect entrepeuneurs like Richard Branson, nobody has a problem with him, good on him! :-)

    • avatarfredflange says

      Just one question: if the DailyMail is a newspaper that is considered a national embarrassment, and nobody wants to be caught reading it, then why is it the second biggest paper in the UK?
      Your claim that it doesn’t reflect the nation as a whole isn’t really helped by the fact that the biggest British paper is the even worse The Sun.
      And yet every time when Brits are confronted with these facts they try to downplay the huge popularity of those media.

  103. avatarPolly says

    ps. I forgot to mention crumpets. Quite possibly the best thing we Brits ever invented. Better than toast, the butter sinks right down in to the holes – anyone visiting Britain needs to try these, you will understand why these are so popular, I promise!

  104. avatarBarbara Baker says

    Now that I’ve looked at your posting and read the various comments, I must say I’m confused over your confusion. My love of the U.K. started early. I studied British history in both high school and college (one of my majors was history). Back in the 1970s, I fell in love with many British TV shows when they started to be shown on U.S. TV–my late dad loved “Monty Python” and I discovered I did too (I also loved “Dr. Who” which I came into during the Tom Baker years). As many have noted, humor is subjective–I didn’t like “Benny Hill,” but I enjoyed other shows. Those shows made me want to visit the country. In terms of the Pythons, it was the skewering of the upper class, plus the jabs at pretension and over-intellectualism that I liked, much as I had the original “Bedazzled” or other British films. Perhaps it appealed to a late 60s-early1970s era college student, but I would agree that the show was a long time ago, and was already passé when I finally got to Britain in the mid-1990s (although I did get to watch a lot of new stuff then).

    When I did get to the U.K., teaching on exchange for 6 months in 1994 at a university near Cardiff, Wales. I did not find much of it confusing, just different. Perhaps growing up as an AF brat, moving all kinds of places, lent me appreciation of the difference. This is not to say I did not have culture shock, as I did. But I tend to agree with others who note that your list does tend to overgeneralize, and reflect preferences more than confusions perhaps.

    I returned to the UK for three weeks in 1996, but have been unable to return since then, although I would love to, to see what has changed. During the time I lived in Wales, I went all over south Wales and southern England, staying about three weeks in London (on three different occasions). I, and then with my husband when he was able to join me (about four months into my stay), travelled via train, borrowed car, and rental car (plus ocean ferry when we added in a week long trip to France). Figuring out these things were not too difficult. Driving was fine on the other side, although I would agree that some roads are very narrow (especially in rural Wales). I went to the Brecon Beacons with Welsh friends, and many times to Cardiff (as well as London). I also took a bus trip with students through the Cotswolds and then on to Oxford. My husband and I saw Chepstow, Hay-on-Wye, Portsmouth, Dover, Canterbury, Basingstoke, Cambridge, King’s Lynn (visiting U.S. friends stationed at Lakenheath AF base), and Birmingham (I was doing research at the university there). When I returned in 1996, it was for a conference held at that same Welsh university, but I also rented a car and saw some places I had not during the previous visit, including Brighton, Cheswick (and then Kew Gardens), and the Battle/Hastings area, plus Stonehenge (which we somehow missed first time around). I would agree with others that getting away from London, much as I enjoyed the city, is key to understanding more about the British. This would include going to the other countries within the U.K. Many of the places I went weren’t on the normal U.S. tourist map but instead were places that the British went to. I just wish I’d had more time to explore more, and go further north.

    Living in Britain, one gets a different sense of the people, especially since I tried to fit in as much as I could and only gave myself away when I opened my mouth (I’m part Welsh and Irish so I looked the part). The southern Welsh generally struck me as different from the English in terms of friendliness, but I didn’t mind the reserve of the English (plus each person was different–some in London were very friendly to us, while others were more circumspect). I would not have expected people in the U.K. to be as effusive as those in the U.S. Maybe one of the reasons I felt at home in both Wales and in England was I’m not overly enamored of the presumed U.S. extroversion, optimism and enthusiasm. I’m pretty reserved and introverted myself, and don’t want shop people coming up into my space or waiters hovering around waiting for a tip (once upon a time, I waited tables, so I know how grueling that job can be). As for foods, that is personal taste and what you grow up with–I can see how toast can be nostalgic and the other food items on your list is just what you liked or didn’t like (and which have been explained by others). I generally liked the food I had in the U.K. for the most part, and I did not mind the lack of ice, as I don’t like ice in my drinks in the U.S. (with one exception–when I twisted my ankle and could have used some ice!). I did learn to ask for my coffee black, to avoid the cream, as I am not too fond of that (something that bemused most people I met, i think). I would echo that you do not have to drink in a pub–you can nurse a non-alcoholic drink if you wish. But they are great places to socialize with the locals and get satisfying food.

    As for xenophobia, it seems every place has its own degree–in my experience, the U.S. is one of the worst, despite its supposed openness to immigration (it hasn’t been very friendly to immigrants over the years, as evidenced by history). Although I’ve lived all over the U.S., and travelled to nearly every state, many people in the U.S. do not travel, even within the country, and are suspicious of things that are different. I would agree that reading The Sun, while providing one perspective, is limited, and that you should aim for a mix of British papers (and even Welsh or Scottish, especially if you go to those countries). I’m sure there are many differences from when I went, but I doubt those would bother me too much, if we get the chance to return, which I hope we do.

  105. avatarBarbara Baker says

    Oh, and one more thing, as for the cyncism of the Britsh, I am okay with it, as I’m pretty cynical myself. I like to think of it as realistic, actually! I don’t think the people I met minded the successful (however that is defined), but instead understood more how the world works. The more overt class system in the U.K. places a big part in this behavior.

  106. avatarCarroll says

    Exactly what is confusing about travelling on British trains?? You go to the correct station, you buy a ticket, and you get on a train. It’s not rocket science. I admit it can be a bit tricky on weekends when there are diversions and slowdowns due to track work but, for the most part, rail travel in the UK is pretty straightforward. I’ve travelled extensively in the UK by rail and have very seldom encountered problems although I admit I preferred British Rail to the current privatization that has transpired.

  107. avatarIsaac says

    I’m not sure you remember me, but I’m Isaac, the Chinese guy from Singapore who sent you those Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant pics and who communicated with you via FB while you were still in the UK during that period with your family.

    I know one! So, the middle class brits will ask you about your country. You proceed to tell them about it in a positive light. You know. How your country is the top producer of.. was awarded the first in.. set the record in..

    This is when they start getting offended. They assume that you are implying that their country isn’t as good as theirs. They start taking offence.

    I can’t believe how frequently this always happens. For goodness sakes! If I hated your country that much, I wouldn’t even be here on a student visa or bothered mingling with Brits to begin with.

  108. avatarPhilip says

    London is a nice place but the best part of England (In my opinion) North East especially Newcastle / South Shields.

  109. avatarHagey says

    Well i have read through all this stuff, had a few chuckles and been disappointed at the odd rude comment. Ok i live and work in the North West of England and have only visited London twice in my 50 odd years so can’t form an opinion.Toast is toast hot or cold your choice no big deal BUT cold toast with butter (so it don’t melt) then a thin spread of Marmite is bliss. Lancashire and Cumbria (Lake district, stunning) Roman, Norman has it all. Liverpool, forget the Beatles, has the most grade 1 listed buildings outside of London. Yep it rains maritime climate live with it if it didn’t rain it wouldn’t be green. Rude people its a personality thing worldwide! Most of the newspapers have a political slant so the truth can take a back seat. Drinking, if you go to most towns at 1-2 am what would you expect. Find a nice northern pub with 3-4 good bitters on even a non drinker might enjoy a taste. My missus is a Scouser (Liverpool) and i’ lived in St Helens 15 miles away our accents are so different you’d think we came from two different countries. Someone else said you don’t need to tell us you are American we can tell haha! don’t worry we are flattered you want to come and look round our crowded little island. If you do venture North you will not understand our Celtic, Saxon, Danish, French accents don’t panic we struggle as well have fun and enjoy.

  110. avatarTony says

    Some less fortunate nations are restricted to spreading jello or peanut butter on their toast, but we, we lucky few, have Marmite to spread on ours.

    You’ll love it or hate it. If you love it, your on your way to being an honorary Brit, but if you hate it…………….away with you! Be gone!

  111. avatarMelissa says

    So unfair. I am British but lived in the US for several years. Bad service? I actually found it worse in the US, because it was all FAKE and no one really gave a shit. You are confusing bad service with the fact that if you work in retail or restaurants in the UK, you leave the customer alone and don’t harass them with “Can I get you a refill” or “Are you ready for your check”.

    Cynicism? Nah buddy, it’s realism. We don’t believe in worshiping the wealthy and successful just because. We ask questions and forgive us for NOT ASSuming that everyone who is rich and successful deserves to be so.

    You’re a smart guy, but you clearly don’t get our country at all just like many Americans. I suggest you just stay in America so as not to be deprived of your fake customer service and worshiping of the “haves” of your society, which is now far more class divided than ours is!

  112. avatarjan morris says

    I’m a Brit (half Welsh/English living in Bristol) and I absolutely I love this! Made me laugh, probably because I can usually see both sides of the coin, plus I believe that people should be free to criticise absolutely any one and everything. I think you have been quite restrained actually, as I certainly don’t think that Britain is utopia, far from it. Great to visit, but hard to live in, but nevertheless a lot better than a lot of places I have visited where I have seen some shocking poverty. Also I would be loath to live in the USA, purely because of your lax gun laws and fear being shot in a mall/cinema/wherever. Terrible situation and I bet nothing much is ever done about it.

    My dream was to move to France as I love the food, wine, weather, beauty, etc. but now I am older, I’m not so sure. I would miss the humour AND the cynicism, Marks & Spencer’s food, John Lewis, our pubs and even our food. Marmite on toast anyone?! More than anything I would miss our countryside, coast and scenery .

    So your points in order: barley water should be diluted – if not will taste like paint stripper!

    Drinking culture: I think it is bad and I have to say that when I was young and out and about, I drank a fair bit, but can’t afford to now! I think it stems from being reserved/shy and needed some Dutch courage socially. It is a way of relaxing from all the stresses and strains and it just becomes a habit. Also going to a pub and meeting your friends or making new ones is relatively easy and some pubs do serve fabulous food now (horrible sounding Gastro pubs are now everywhere), but people mostly drink at home nowadays due to drink driving laws (thank goodness), but it is a problem and one that is causing a lot of illness and clogging up our wonderful NHS with the fallout. Having said that a lot of people I know only drink occasionally if ever at all. Drinking a bottle of wine at night between a couple, or even per person is thought of as normal here though. Scotland is worse than England and I think England is worse than Wales, despite the drunken “slappers parade” in Cardiff/Swansea every weekend.

    Toast: I do love hot buttery toast and love to sprinkle cinnamon on it, or even better lovely Marmite. Has to be granary though, never white sliced – yuk! Nothing like it on a cold winter’s night with a cuppa or hot chocolate. Used to like Oxo cube “soup” too , or a “Swansea egg” sandwich for late snack. Brits also often eat cereal in the evening too!

    Cynicism: Yes, we are mostly all cynics, but it does beat being naïve, gullible or downright stupid. However, it does get you down and people do like to moan here, but then we do have quite a bit to moan about at present. We have incompetent government (whoever is in power), heavy taxes, high living costs, including the most expensive housing in Europe (if not the world) and yet the majority of us live in tiny little boxes, with not enough room to swing a knat – forget a cat. To top all that we have so much bad weather. It does really get you down. Everything has to be cancelled. Miracle that weather was so good for the Olympics (that cheered us up a lot!). We also work the longest hours in Europe and for not very much money – unless you are a professional or a brain-dead footballer/celebrity/MP. I think it is also due to years of ingrained history. America is still a “young” country and everything must seem possible, probably because you specifically came into being via immigration and you have that “melting pot” meritocracy. It is still a very class conscious system here and I blame that on our Royal family and all the ingrates and creeps (so-called aristocrats or otherwise) that surround them – parasites all. I blame Oliver Cromwell. If he hadn’t been a Puritan and hadn’t got above himself, we might have got rid of them for ever, like the sensible French. Yes, they are quaint, but we would be a better country without them. Royals were just murderous early pioneer Mafioso. No, I am not a commie, just want fair play for the common man. However, it is great when you meet a bright and breezy Brit, it really gives you a lift – shame that they are so rare! ;-)

    Poor Service: totally agree, but think the recession might have made things better. People can’t move from job to job now and have to make an effort. It’s much, much better outside of London though. Had an American friend over in October (from Delaware) and he thought things had improved since his last visit ten years ago. Mind you we didn’t go to London!

    Xenophobic: think this applies around the world, but may have got worse, just because we all feel so hemmed in and people who have never paid a penny in taxes can fly in from anywhere and use our NHS, or after a few weeks claim our benefits. They seem to study the system in advance and come over here just to milk it, not to contribute. The USA (and Australia) is sooo much harder for anyone to get into and that is how it should be, we are a tiny island after all and resources are stretched. It will get far worse next year when an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians are expected to flock here. I used to be a member of the Anti-apartheid movement, have a history of attending marches and rallies protesting about many issues relating to human rights, etc. Have also worked with the Anne Frank Committee, as well as supported Avaaz in their push for UN recognition of Palestine, so cannot be called a ”Llittle Englander”. I did some voluntary work in Romania years ago and it is a very sad, very deprived country and I feel very sorry for them. Communism made a poor country poorer, but why should we accept more people into Britain when we are suffering from already being an overcrowded country. I used to feel very differently about this when I was younger, but life does teach us a few lessons even if they might seem hard to others.

    Mony Python is VERY British and we do have a rather silly sense of humour. Quite childish and not terribly sophisticated, but MP was a real mix of silliness and anarchy. Kind of comedy Sex Pistols – .quite anti-establishment! It was HUGE here back in the seventies and remember seeing them on tour. Very popular with students and the young in particular. Not sure I would enjoy it now though, time moves on and tastes change.

    Anti-London: true again and think it is because London is very expensive, often dirty, often rammed to the hilt and Londoners aren’t at all like the rest of us Brits. They think the world starts and ends in London, that they are kings and that other Brits are “hicks from the sticks”. Same reasons why Americans might not like NY or say Chicago.

    Tearing down the successful: you are right on this one. I have never suffered from jealousy myself, but have come across so much of it here. I do think that people can be stupid with their money though and if I had a lot of it, I would not be spending it on Ferraris but on experiences such as travel and would give to charities. There are a lot of people here who think that success and money makes them demi-gods and they can lord it over the more humble. That is when they are resented. If they were to act with humility and gratitude for their luck, because there is an element of luck in any success story, then people wouldn’t feel they had to “knock” them down a peg or two. This must apply anywhere though, not just the UK, it is human nature.

    Well, signing off now, getting RSI and need some hot buttered toast!

  113. avatarMaddy says

    Oh my you sound like you had a really bad trip!! Did you know you can actually goto a pub and hang with the locals and not drink alcohol? But you should definately try a shandy! I am not a drinker and when I moved here (New Mexico) I was amazed at how many people here have a drinking problem ! I moved here from Oxford 16 years ago. I love it here too, but honestly the service is really really bad here and in restaurants they rely on tips but some still dont give good service. London I can imagine is bad now and even though you said you do not want to hear it……get out of London!! LOL Its like the NY of England. English people are very open and will talk to anyone and the majority are friendly and kind am sorry you found the whiners. Immigration……you do know the UK is smaller than Texas …right? The problem there is the laws were so lax for years and now theres barely any room, am suprised you did not notice that in London. I am suprised your talking about racism I sure hope it has not changed that much in the years I have been gone ! Because when I first got here I was in shock with the amount of racism still exists here ( Maybe I need to get out of NM LOL ) The cost of living is also way higher there than here, but if I could…I would move back tomorrow and then I would miss being here lol Toast…..omg Toast is so good there….why you ask? Because our bread is so much better over there! Next time you go ask for the full brit brekkie (breakfast) with fried toast !! I have been fortunate to live in a few countries in my life and hands down England is my home and the culture and people are what I miss the most (oh and the good food) Germany is also wonderful, Switzerland is the cleanest. Albuquerue, NM has the best weather and the very best green chili and if I move back to the UK I will miss it here too. Because the Majority of people here(like the UK) Are decent hard working people, you just have to look for them. Dont forget next time you go ….go to the pub try a shandy…..if not have a coke or something but you will still have a great time and you will learn alot about the brits from a local pub :) Ohh did you Dilute the Barley water with water? I would suggest you visit Oxford ….one of the most multi culteral cities I have ever been to :)

  114. avatarPhaedra says

    I find it odd how much they tear themselves down or “pshaw” (American term..lol) with different things, but I have learned to accept it as that’s just their society. My friends always look at me curiously when I explain that I’m doing “this or that” upon my return to the States. They don’t understand when I say “I’m not going to let anything stay in my way.” lol

    As for the Barley water..never had, but I do LOVE Squash! Wish we had it here! I love the fact that it’s not as sweet as our drinks here.

    Pubs…I love going in to them and watching the people. I’m always surprised when I hear people in the States say how “unfriendly” the Brits are because I’ve NEVER seen anyone unfriendly! (However, I do have to put in a side note here and say as I was walking with a friend of mine one night in Dorset, I had some teenage boys be rude to me. It was just a one off really and I don’t see it as how the rest of the country of people are.)

    Get out of London though! There are so many lovely places outside of London, and riding the train or coach isn’t difficult. Every place I’ve gone and had to ride the train, the people at the stations have been so polite in helping me out where I needed to go. (Getting to the correct platform can be a bit challenging sometimes in certain stations, but for the most part…all you have to do is ask anyone, and they’ll get you to the correct platform.) The country is gorgeous so don’t just stay in London!

    Monty Python is a matter of just what you like. I’m not a huge fan, although I do like some of their sketches. What I have found hysterical is what we Yanks would call the “toilet humor” in their comedy shows! We really are a sheltered society here in the States, and when you first watch some of their tv shows, you might be put off. However, it’s just a tiny portion of their humor! There really are some hysterical shows there!

    As for the discrimination against foreigners of colors (especially middle eastern countries) is alive and well. Even now as I type this, my Brit friends (whom I’ve known for years) post things on their Facebook discussing this very topic. Most seem to say that they would rather have us Yanks there than the immigrants that are allowed to come in. And trying to immigrate…TOUGH. I’ve been going through it for years now.

    However…everyone should enjoy England! (I’ve yet to go to Wales, Scotland, or N. Ireland.) I would suggest you spend a few days in London, but then get out and enjoy the rest of the country!! :D

  115. avatar says

    I know the British hap. , but i lovvvvvvvvvvvvve. All things British , food , fun ,history, royal, tudor,tea, oh and did i say ALLLLLLLLLL things British, i would live there in a heart beat. if anyone knows another reason for British love or hate please let me know. ALL THINGS BRITISH FOR ME , ALL THINGS!

  116. avatar says

    In all of my visits to England It has never occurred to me that Brits drink too much. Just got back from Ireland though and have decided they should have a pint of Guinness on their national flag. I’ve never seen so much public drunkeness.

  117. avatarJoanna McKenna says

    Jonathan, I’m with you on Monty Python. The few…well, TWO…times I was forced to sit through a MP movie, I laughed exactly ONCE. The rest of the “comedy” was totally lost on me. I’m also with you on why the UK excludes Canadian and Americans of Brit ancestry from an easy path to immigrating. My grandfather and his ancestors were born in the nort of England, and another ancestral branch was from Somerset, so roughly 90% of my blood is English. So it makes NO sense that those who through no fault of their own were born outside the UK get put at the back of the line for immigrating while those from non-Brit cultures are welcomed with open arms. That policy puts the lie to the old saw that “British blood always finds it way home”. I’d LOVE to return “home” for the rest of my life, but not being rich or of a mind to marry again, I have to be content with short visits or getting my Anglophile fix from websites like Anglotopia. sigh….

    • avatarSue says

      Does it work they other way then? The implication from your comment is that it must do – ie Brits who have American ancestors go to the front of the queue for settling in the US? I didn’t realise. Such a policy seems a bit sinister to me. I’ve never heard of your Brit blood quote, by the way! The reason loads of people from other cultures can settle here is two-fold. Many them are from former colonies and have been given the right to be here (though it’s not quite that simple) or they are from the EU, which gives its members freedom of movement within its borders.

  118. avatarPatrick Owen says

    Hey

    Firstly, as a Brit, can I just say that I don’t get barley water either……but it’s not thaaat bad…am assuming that you diluted it to drink as it is a cordial.

    Also, you don’t have to drink to join in – going to the pub of a night with mates is a social thing but no-one will make you drink alcohol….much…

    Warm toast lathered in butter with marmite is deffo a treat….yummy.

    Not sure that I think we are cynical by nature, just realistic. I often find my American pals as being too overtly optimistic – often with no basis or regard….I find that annoying. Whereas we are a nation of old fish wives that love to gossip, moan and bitch….it’s as true as our lands are green.

    I never notice about our service – but I guess it is bad – still waaay better than southern Europe – have you been to Spain lately – service is beyond redemption. I guess it is more prominent because of the service you get back at home, but again I distrust really efficient service cos part of me thinks no-one on God’s earth wants to serve another human being so stop being so fake and happy all the time. Hmmm maybe see above re: cynicism!!

    We aren’t Xenophobes – I do take umbrage with this. I think we do welcome lots of cultures into Britain, but integration is a two way street and more often than not it feels like we lose our national identity in favour of remaining fair and unbiased. Also, it is just as hard to emigrate to the US from the UK.

    Monty Python is about as relevant to Britain today as AbFab, trust me when I say that whilst we are proud of our comedy heritage NO-ONE here is doing silly walks or re-enacting the dead parrot sketch. Only time I hear reference to Monty Python is on US TV.

    Anti-London – London is an amazing city, the best on earth in my view but a city is a city and many prefer not to live in urban confinement. Personally I think nay-sayers are jealous but maybe I think that way to make myself feel more content with my little lot.

    We do tear down our successful but only when they step out of line. We Brits hate lauding it over others more than anything. Show-off and your gonna get dropped off simple as that. Stay humble and respectful and we will love you forever.

  119. avatar says

    Toast? You may not get it unless you like Marmite,
    Cynicism? The Mail isn’t cynical, it’s a rabid right wing rag purporting to be a serious newspaper. It’s xenophobic, homophobic, and oppsed to change of any sort, but it isn’t cynical. It’s often downright wrong too. I take regular pops at it on my blog
    Monty Python? You had to be there really. A lot of it isn’t at all funny now, and some of the funny bits are only funny because they were funny back then. But it was groundbreaking in its time.
    Anti-Londonism? We’re not anti-London per se, we’re anti-Londoners who feel the world ends at Finchely.

    • avatarPete says

      Yet many people buy/read it. I think it prints stuff that the others like the Mirror/Independent do not and vice versa. I like to read all views and then decide: I used to be a Labour Party voter back in the 60s. Now I detest them for their ideology and profligacy that got this country into worse debt and poverty as a country than the recession has given us. Everyone has had a pop at the coalition but the Labour Party gets no blame in comparison; yet they ran up massive debt for future generations, got us into 2 costly wars and imported immigrants with hardly any checks on them!

  120. avatarCharles Matthews says

    Jonathan,

    It’s fewer tourists, not less. You can count them, not measure them.

    As to your general perception of us Brits, perhaps if you DID live there, you would come to understand why so many natives complain about it and want to leave, as I have done.

    As to London, I have lived there and was delighted to leave. I may not like Britain in general but that is nothing to the dislike I have for the YUPPI filled, over-crowded, Royal Family Theme Park that is London. London has not been English for decades, and I do NOT mean white, I mean English. In the same way as Cardiff is Welsh and Edinburgh is Scottish.

    I wish you luck with your desire to live there, you can have my standing place on the train any day of the week.

    Cheers,

    Charles

  121. avatar says

    Some Monty Python is referencing things that aren’t funny. Most of it, you have to have the right mindset for that particular kind of humor (a lot of it is absurdity done as straight as possible-there’s a reason “Parrot Sketch” is so popular. The funny part is how utterly absurd the proposition-ie, that the parrot is alive in the face of evidence to the contrary-is, and yet shop clerk holds his position and stays calm while the customer builds up a lovely objection. If you thought that the clerk was trying to put one over on the customer, it’s not funny.) It’s a little like trying to explain why Top Gear UK is funny to fans and why a lot of those fans didn’t like the first season or so of Top Gear US–Americans don’t do dry, biting, humor as well. Now the US version is doing its own thing and is a lot better.

    And what’s wrong with cynicism? People who are constantly upbeat are annoying. (And possibly deluded.)

    I suspect anti-Londonism springs out of the attitude some of us in places that are Not New York and LA feel regarding those cities (which ARE rather…fake, and not representative of America, at least not in a good way), or the way “Flyover Country” feels about the northeast and California–yeah, in some ways, some parts are nice, but there IS a whole other country out there.

    And if you don’t appreciate the glory that is Marmite (NOT VEGEMITE, AUSSIES!) you don’t get toast.

  122. avatarSarah says

    I’m a British-born and bred lady and have lived in Britain all my life so thought I’d offer some explanations from a Brit…
    1. Orange and lemon barley water are very similar to squash, but tarter and more cloudy. I think the traditional version was originally mage by boiling barley and adding fruit juice. Personally I’ve never been a fan of either.
    2. Unfortunately there are people here who drink heavily and are rowdy and disruptive to others. They give the rest of us a bad image and actually scare a lot of “normal” people off from going into town on a Friday or Saturday night. Please believe me we are not all like that.
    3. Toast as a treat? That’s a strange idea to me. Sure I like it (preferably home made bread with proper butter – definitely not margerine) with eggs for breakfast. For me, a treat would be a slice of cake or some chocolates.
    4. Cynicism – I maybe can’t comment on this as it is an impression we give to other countries…we probably just think we are being realistic or down to earth about things.
    5. Poor service – maybe you have been unlucky, I think most service here is very good. But I agree that it is not at its best in London.
    6. Xenophobia is a difficult one, a lot of us would not consider ourselves xenophobic but on the other hand we are sometimes left wondering where all the British people went (for example when we phone a helpline, very often it is answered by someone with a difficult foreign accent, can you blame us for wishing we could talk to an British person in our own country every now and then?)
    7. Monty Python – actually a lot of British people never got it either. I think there were some very funny bits but a lot of unfunny bits. However it was made about 40 years ago now so should be seen in the context of it’s time.
    8. Anti Londonism? A trip to London is a huge treat for me, so much to see and do. However it is not a typically British place, it’s nothing like the rest of the country and has the highest proportion of non-British people.
    9.Tearing down the successful- this is mainly done by tabloid papers. I guess they do it because it sells papers. It doesn’t necessairly represent most British people’s opinions. A lot of us are not interested in celebrities one way or the other.

  123. avatarMaisie says

    Did you dilute said Barley Water? I don’t like it, I like squash better. And as for the cynicism and tearing down of successful people – I know what you mean! I’m British and I cannot stand the way people do it, picking at someone who has done amazing things. I do question the immigration stance in part though, although the British public are uneducated when it comes to the economic advantages of ALL skilled immigration (and skilled means able to work!) – being an increase in Aggregate Supply, lower inflation and higher economic growth – the US are hardly better with their Green Card system in being picky about who they take in, are they? I prefer the US system/Australian System where they pick and choose but so many Brits just want to close the doors. Good luck getting out of recessionary depths then. I LOATHE Monty Python. My parents made me watch it a few times and I just sat there and didn’t laugh at all. I don’t get it? Is it supposed to be slapstick?

    I do love our multi cultural society, I think it makes Britain a far more exciting place to live with the festivals, food and views you get from everyone.

    • avatarGordon says

      When I was in New York in 1991 I didn’t realise that cordial type drinks were not widely available. I remember having to describe what I was after and the shop assistants explaining to me that it was OK, I was in the US now, it was the 20th Century and they sold drinks that already had the water added so I would never have to worry about that ever again.

      Barley water is very old I think, taken out to the peasants in the fields, but also served heavily iced in pitchers in Victorian and Edwardian summers.

  124. avatarAnna B says

    I’m English and I think this whole site is hilarious, like most of the British slang on here is ever so slightly wrong and its so great. But seriously, before saying such great things about London, go there, see what its really like. Of course, when people say “London”, I suppose they mean the tourist side like the London eye and Buckingham palace and such, instead of the whole city, much like when people say they love “the British accent” – English. You mean English.

  125. avatarBryan says

    The thing I don’t get (and this is very American of me) is the lack of free speech in the U.K. The libel laws are crippling, and they have no principle of fair use.

    • avatarNick says

      British law is complicated and incredibly old. This means that laws contradict and conflict a lot – I believe America’s similar, but a lot was reset with the Declaration of Independance which was never reset here. Free speech is a complicated issue wherever you live – unbridled free speech is a dangerous thing – people can lie, say what they want etc. One must have a strong moral compass in order to use free speech wisely – newspapers, which are notorious for playing with this law, are sensationalist, which is where it can get quite exciting. Generally speaking, however, if something can be substantiated, it can be said. Wild accusations will get you done for libel.
      Freedom of speech is almost a religion in America – a bit like guns.
      The emphasis that is given these things over there are not given over here. I guess it’s just a culture difference.

  126. avatarNick says

    Oooh, this looks like fun, I’ll have a go.

    Backgound: I’m English, though I lived in Scotland for 8 years, then Qatar for 12, then England for nearly 8. I’m 29, so somewhere I’ve lost a year. My parents are my dad’s a journalist/photographer, my mum’s a tutor. I’m an expat living in England, with the weird handicap of actually being English. Let’s see what I make of your issues:

    1. Barley Water: My wife (who is English through and through) loves the stuff. I don’t drink it. I drink Guiness. No idea what it is or the point of it – Robinson’s squash is a better alternative, I suspect.
    2.Ugg. Drunk brits. Far worse than when abroad, pretty bad here. I live in a seaside town (Great Yarmouth) which has problems with this in the summer. I can’t quite work it out myself, but I suspect that the germanic heritage has something to do with it. That, and the secularisation of society and lack of anything to live for – a lot of people I’ve worked with like to go and get drunk for no reason except that is what they live for. It’s sad, and I think it’s probably something to do with not having an outdoor culture like the southern american (warm) states or Oz, who seem to be much better at living outdoors. Either way, people in this country need decent hobbies and interests. That said, Guiness is good, unlike revolting american beer like Budweiser.
    3. Toast as a treat. Toast is awesome – it keeps you warm (which has been a big deal since October), melted butter is amazing, and crumpets don’t last long enough (at least in my house) and so, toast takes it’s place in our culinary repertoire. I had no idea Americans didn’t eat it as much as we do.
    4. Cynicism: You’re not kidding. Britain used to be the big dog in the world, and like a woman who used to be beautiful, we’ve somehow picked up the idea that putting everyone down, being mean, sarcastic and unpleasant is clever and funny. Americans – particularly Texans tend to be far more friendly, happy and easy going. Britain’s like an old soldier who’s seen too much and doesn’t trust humanity any more. America’s like a labrador puppy.
    5. Poor service: We’re a pretty socialistic country, so the idea of ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ doesn’t really fit into our cultural context. I used to deal with American companies when I worked for an oil company, and everyone was so polite on the phone. I have some friends who work for a big American service/support company, and I’m aware that they (at least) do a lot of training to make sure everyone’s friendly and polite.
    6. Xenophobia: This is a huge problem where I live – ‘the Polish come here and take our jobs…’ rubbish. I think a lot of this comes back to the inherent insecurity of being a once-great country. We’re on the wrong side of the bell curve to want everyone to come and get involved with our project. The project is over and we’re struggling to work out where we fit in this Brave New World. European law causes some irritation in this as well – integrating extrememly poor countries into a superblock of relatively richer ones inevitably causes an influx of economic migrants. I suppose this is like America with the Mexicans, except that Europe says that we’re not allowed to throw them out. Ever. It causes quite a lot of worry, and that bastion of Journalistic creativity, the Daily Mail feeds on the insecurity and blinds everyone with lies, damned lies and statistics.
    7. Monty Python. Monty Python represents something that’s dying, or dead. The ability of truly creative and somewhat crazy people to do something new. What we have now is a bunch of pathetic, beige talent(less) contests which silly people pay to vote for. Whilst Monty Python was weird, at least it was novel. (And some of the jokes are pretty funny). Remember, of course, that this is a country with hundreds of pantomimes at Christmas. Whilst we like subtle wit, we also like crass hyperbole. We are a nation of contrasts.
    8. London: I think that London represents something to some people that is similar to America – it is busy, different, successful and other. Therefor it is the enemy. Personally, I love London, but I’m also happy to live with the knowledge that we’re a post-empirical country and get out of the country to do exciting things. A lot of people I know (particularly round here) see Norwich (20 miles away) as being on another planet. What does that make London? There is also a sense that it’s not really very British – which may sound silly, but the bits people tend to reject are the super-touristy bits – the West End, bankside, etc. They are not really british – we don’t all own teddies with Union Jacks on, the majority of the country doesn’t live at the pace of London, nor do we live in high rises. It’s a somewhat different culture than a lot of the rest of Britain. It’s also bewildering – the sheer volume of nationalities is incredible, and that can be scary.
    9.Tearing down the successful: American’s love success – it’s the American dream. The British dream is to be left alone to do what we want to do without being hassled. Add that to the other bits above and I think you can see why so many are the way they are.

  127. avatarRaymond says

    The UK is a complicated country at the best of times, but many of the questions posed here are quite pertinent, as people of each country in the world has a different perception. For example, Belgians travelling to the UK would say the customer service was fantastic but Americans not. I think this is indeed a sense of customer entitlement on one side and employees’ rights on the other. In the US, customers are used to getting 100% satisfaction and the employee will get fired if that does not happen, whereas in Europe there is a sense that the employee deserves to be treated as an equal and is backed up by a lot of legislation. Customers EU-wide are protected by a strict code of practice, including the right to return any product or cancel an agreement with a supplier within 2 weeks, but there is a feeling that any faults or dissatisfaction is not the fault of the person serving you!

    Concerning xenophobia and racism, I believe London is the most tolerant city on the planet. And the UK as a whole has coped most successfully with this too. The British isles have always been visited and populated by people from overseas, and it is unfair to think that we are inherently racist. Although a certain (uneducated) section of society is, the vast majority see the person first, and the nationality/colour second. You will find the Daily Mail is cynical, but most people see their articles for what they are, and if you read the replies of readers below, many of them tend to throw a bag of salt at the writer… I believe that if anyone comes to the UK with a smile on their face and a willingness to contribute, they’ll be one of the clan in no time, as was my Polish grandfather in 1915 until his death in the late 60s.

    Concerning success: yes, I think there is a healthy cynicism here, typified by the banking scandals. But why should the people who contribute least to society earn the most and live in the most luxury? I mean, actors, singers, TV personalities, sports people, bankers, accountants and such. Why should people who go to university for up to seven years stumble into jobs that pay very badly? When we see people like Justin Bieber bronzing on a beach for weeks on end or spending a fortune on clothes in Paris, London or Milan, knowing that the illusion we can all rise to that one day is meaningless unless we have the right contacts.

    And yes, we don’t like to sell ourselves or our country as well as let’s say the Mediterranean ones, because I think we have a sense that we know who we are, and we don’t need to flaunt ourselves as much as they do. Take us or leave us. But there is also a sense that it’s not cool to be clever. Ask a British person to do something really complicated or answer a series of difficult questions, and if done successfully you will receive an apology. Win a word game or successfully fill in a crossword and expect an answer similar to “I had the run of the green today” or “I was just lucky this time”. And that’s fine. I can’t stand a person who is full of him/herself!

  128. avatarDennis Fitzakerley says

    We all have the right to express our opinion, don’t knock what one truly doesn’t understand. As a Yorkshire man (now living in Australia) I ask you to consider the old Yorkshire message….. you can always tell a Yorkshire man but you can’t tell him MUCH! same message goes for most Brits, weather they live north, south, east, or west of this great country, something to think about?

  129. avatarTeresa says

    Yello

    Being an Englishperson, I’ve just read what you wrote and felt I should comment.

    Barley Water – think I tried it once as a kid, but I definitely didn’t like it. I’m fussy when it comes to food and drink though.

    The drinking – I can understand why you’re not into it, I work with some tee-totallers, but I do drink, my mates drink, I grew up into it I guess, and it’s a good way to socialise.

    Toast – I would never call toast a treat. i’ll have it for breakfast, or maybe a light lunch if I got up too late for breakfast, but it’s only because I can’t be bothered to make anything more substantial.

    Cynicism – Maybe I go against the grain, but I don’t find myself being very cynical or negative, or if it do, it’s to generate humour. I never read the Daily Mail. They know how to turn anything positive into a negative thing.

    Anywho. Just thought I’d share a few points. If you have any questions, you have my email address.

  130. avatarEmmy says

    Having read your article I would like to make the following points:

    Lemon barley water. I’m English and I don’t get it either. How it still finds itself on the shelves of supermarkets is quite beyond me. I always thought it was only consumed by people with urinary tract infections and tennis players at Wimbledon (until sports nutrition caught on and sports drinks took over).

    Toast can only be regarded as one of life’s simple pleasures. Spend enough time in our cold, wet, often miserable climate, and you will soon come to understand that nothing beats the simple joy of hot buttered toast and a cup of tea. It’s hard to take such criticism seriously when you come from a country where it’s deemed okay to eat both peanut butter and jam (jelly) in the same mouthful!

    When it comes to your comments on cynicism, poor service and xenophobia, I can only say you have clearly been speaking to the wrong people and gone to the wrong places. That stuff happens wherever you go on the globe. The UK has welcomed people from all cultures, and while I cannot ignore the fact that there are some who think this is a bad thing, there are clearly many who don’t. The bigger picture is this, if there were not so many lazy British people who would rather sponge off the welfare system rather than earn a decent living, then there wouldn’t be the opportunities for foreign workers to come and take those jobs. On the whole, I think they bring a lot to this country and make it a much more diverse and fascinating place for doing so.
    By the way, there are plenty of us Brits who would love to see the Daily Mail vanish off the face of the earth. Scaremongering isn’t everyone’s bag.
    The only good thing about having the BNP in this country is that it’s good fun to see their leader Nick Griffin getting his knickers in a twist about pure race when it turns out our ancestors all came from Africa. Other than that the majority of us have no time for their bigotry.

    I’m not sure I’m supposed to like Monty Python (it’s always seemed a bit of a bloke thing), but you know what, I do. It really shows our unique humour at its best. I never tire of Mr Creosote or waiting for the line “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” in The Life of Brian.
    And while we are on the subject of humour, yes we are great at sending ourselves up. We can see the funny side to being British and we know that it’s important not to take ourselves too seriously.

    As far as tearing down the successful is concerned, well maybe you are right about that. But bearing in mind that a lot of success now comes from taking someone with zero talent and turning them into a manufactured celebrity, then thrusting them onto the pages of every magazine and newspaper, then I do not see that as such a bad thing. I for one give credit to someone who has worked hard and made a success of them self. But not all success is deserved and maybe over here we have just got tired of it. You also have to bear in mind that we do live in a very class orientated system, and it now seems that the class divide may be ever more evident. You can only expect some people to be embittered about how life is panning out for them if it seems they can only stay down on the lower rungs of the ladder and cannot get any higher for trying.

    And guess what? We do get some American tourists who venture beyond the Big Smoke. I live in the Cotswolds and we welcome tourists from all over the world every year. It’s not always the frantic pace of the city that appeals, but the quieter tranquillity of the country with our rolling green fields (made that way from all the bloody rain!).

    And just for the record, I don’t drink either and I’ve always felt a touch of shame that we have this reputation for being a nation of heavy drinkers. But you know what? When I get the odd stares and jibes for being ‘boring’, I simply remind them that I look all the younger for my teetotalism, and my liver is in better shape than theirs, so let’s see who has the last laugh!

    But anyway, I was interested to read your views and I will travel with my eyes open when I go to get married in NY this Summer.

  131. avatarCaitlin Joubert says

    A Brit bartender here living in Dorset… I’m always very friendly to customers, but I have absolutely no incentive to be apart from just being nice for it’s own sake. British people never tip in bars/pubs, it doesn’t even occur to them to do it. On a day when I’m my absolute cheeriest and sweetest I will get exactly the same amount of tips as when I’m my absolute grumpiest- £0. (That is unless an American comes in. We often have friendly fights over who gets to serve the Americans and get a sweet tip).
    It is probably the fact that everyone gets minimum wage, even bartenders- unlike in America, so people don’t live off tips.
    I’ve witnessed a lot of awful service here, and I think that if people started tipping the friendly ones service would greatly improve. Also I’d have a lot more money which would be nice!

    The negativity really grinds my gears as well, but it’s not all Brits! I find its mostly older men (I have to listen to a lot of them whine as part of my job). I just want to shake them all and tell them to cheer the hell up!

    English people are most funny in the way that at the same time as they hate everything English, they hate all other countries a lot more. (I’m guilty of thinking the odd “bloody johnny foreigners!” now and again, but it’s almost always when they’re loitering in the middle of the pavement and I’m trying to walk past).
    I find that Brits, as much as we complain about Britain, are actually all secretly very patriotic. This only ever shows when people from other countries say negative things about us. Kind of like “I can say whatever I like about my sister, but if you say anything I’ll do you!”

    I don’t really know where I’m going with this, just adding my two cents (or pennies, rather).

    • avatarheather says

      have to agree with the last bit there, as much as I complain about england, I still secretly love it!

      for example this morning it was chucking it down and I was musing on how even though the weather is rubbish, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else ;)

    • avatarPete says

      I was a bartender in England and once an American gave me a tip and I refused. He thought he had done something wrong, I told him, this is England, we do not tip at bars, only posh ones in London hotels or only a waiter or waitress. He looked at me a little bemused, but smiled and said well ‘have a good day’, and left.

  132. avatarDominick Sabalos says

    re: poor service

    I love our morose, seemingly-reluctant customer service. The chirpiness and pep is one of the things that bugs me when visiting America.

    The jobs you’re talking about are not, for the majority of people, good jobs – not the jobs people dream about having as kids, not the jobs likely to make you very happy. I like the fact that people are allowed to admit that they’re miserable-but-I-need-to-eat-and-this-earns-me-money, rather than injecting fake cheeriness into the whole procedure.

  133. avatarheather says

    hey any anglophiles want to be an email buddy with me?

    we can chat about cultural differences and stuff, it would be fun ;)

    (pref younger anglophiles cus im 16 and if we are of a similar age it would be easier to relate to one another)

    :)

  134. avatar says

    That list is mostly some of the great things about Britian! If you don’t like toast, Monty Python drinking or cynicism, what are you even doing on a site that loves the british? I’m american and those are some of my favorite things about the UK, in fact, I’ve been with a British guy for a long time now because he’s the first person I really relate to on all those points. Also, not all british people drink a lot or go out drinking to “wash away their sorrows”. You should meet a family or two and hang out with them for a while, absorb some of the day to day and less of the going out types? And how can you get mad at people for poor service when they don’t get tipped like they do in the US, who could blame them? Have you worked in a restaurant or bar? People are jerks and the only thing that makes it worth it is the hundreds in tips. The boyfriend’s family runs a country pub, smelling of sheep shit and serving warm beer, and somehow with a smile they serve, go there next time I guess. :)

  135. avatar says

    Also, the countryside and villages are much better than London. London is nothing like the rest of the country, even in attitude or dress, its like a facade by comparison, tainted by globalization and the dream of “big city living”. Not that I don’t like London but people aren’t making things up when they tell you that. Wales and New Forest are by far my favorites so far, wild ponies, castles, tiny cobblestone streets.. Make some local friends, travel and abandon tourism. Tourists miss out on Everything!

  136. avatarLeslie says

    Hi Jonathan

    I stumbled across your blog today and have really enjoyed reading a few of your posts.

    This one in particular struck me, though.

    As a Canadian living in London some of these things made me laugh as I’ve had to learn them myself.

    I wholeheartedly agree about customer service. Although it has improved vastly in the almost decade I’ve lived here, in London particularly it leaves a lot to be desired.

    I’ve yet to try barley water. Even the name doesn’t sell it!

    And toast definitely is a treat. The selection of jams in Britain boggles my mind and you need something to put them on, of course!

    However I have to question the right of an American to call the UK xenophobic. There’s no question that there are some people in the UK who feel that way (especially evident if you read trash like the Daily Mail) however, in the same way, the US is probably (according to the news, at least) one of the most xenophobic countries in recent years. Although it was literally built on the back of immigrants and anyone who can claim that their grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather was Irish/Italian/Portuguese considers themselves to be Insertcountryname-American, the recent ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mentality and crack down on immigrants who are purportedly ‘stealing’ jobs is in the media in the US practically every other day. So it seems to be okay to be an American of foreign descent, as long as you’re not a recently naturalised immigrant.

    In the grand scheme of things I think the UK does a pretty great job of accepting multiculturalism while maintaining British culture, unlike the melting-pot mentality of the US where everyone must conform to a pre-conceived American norm as soon as they immigrate.

    You said yourself that was a contentious part of the list and I agree. Thanks for spurring discussion and also sharing some of the foibles of Britishness.

    Looking forward to following your future posts! Keep up the Anglophilia ;o)

  137. avatarDavid says

    I dislike London but if anyone from abroad slags it off I’ll be the first to defend it. The UK has so much to offer the visitorboth in terms of culture and places to visit. There aren’t many places that have so much variety packed into what is quite a small island. The beaches are excellent, if it ever warms up enough to enjoy them, especially around Anglesey close to where I now live.

  138. avatarDavid James says

    I’m sorry, but I cant let the “most Britain’s hate foreigners” go without reply.

    Even Muslim surveys say that the best place to be a Muslim in a non-Muslim country is Britain. We do not “hate” foreigners.

    You seem to extrapolate our “hate” for foreigners with wanting to restrict entry (why pick on us I do not know, because the US and Australia mentioned are nigh on impossible to get entry to and have very strict entry criteria).

    We seek to restrict entry not because we “hate”, but because this island is the size of Maryland. Now let me ask you, if you had the potential of most of Europe and some of the rest of the world to move into Maryland, would you not be concerned about population density, strain on resources and lack of housing. Well we are!

    Ever been to Hawaii? I have and its beautiful. If you have you’ll know that you have to fill a form out because the islands need to know how many people are there at any point in time for resource requirements and infrastructure impact.

    You come from the States (I love the US and go on holiday there regularly by the way), but you have a MASSIVE landmass, and perhaps are no cognizant with landmass size issues. We are, and that isn’t “hate”! :-)

    • avatarDarci says

      You don’t drink Barely water from the bottle. That would be like drinking Hershey’s syrup from the bottle. Personally I don’t like the orange flavor, but the lemon one is really good.

      I am an American. I have lived in the UK for a year. So, I am not an expert but I do think in general the country is more xenophobic that the states. For example in the USA they have federally funded programs that help students who are learning English and speaking it as a second language. These programs help immigrants learn the language and help immigrants or children of immigrants to achieve academic success. They have no systems to help immigrants perform well academically in the UK but there certainly is a need.

  139. avatarkenny says

    hi,just stumbled on this site by accident.As a born and bred Londoner,a few points
    i don’t get the “Barley Water ” observation..i haven’t had it in years,i don’t know anybody else who drinks it.Most UK homes will contain Coke,Smoothies,OJ,sports drinks
    Monty Python,like Benny Hill,hasn’t been shown on UK tv(even Satellite TV) for years,most young people wont have even heard of it..its just not a part of our lives anymore
    Toast…whats that all about?again,not a big part of life here.Again,go into most homes,and breakfast will be either a fry up or some sort of Cereal
    Pessimism…we just dont’ like show off’s,people who brag or boast(loudmouths basically)sure,make a success of your life,just stay humble,don’t become a “big time charlie”…want to really annoy people…go to a nightclub,and when you can’t get in..utter the immortal words “don’t you know who i am?Aussies are a bit like us in this regard
    Its not about having a get up and go attitude..we have it…some of us work the longest hours in Europe,i do a 60 hour week..my mother is 79 and still working,my brother works 7 days a week.This attitude has been with us centuries,and we haven’t done too badly,looking back,have we?

    I love the US,and its people,have been there many times,but Americans do continue to get these weird ideas about us.It seems to swing from one extreme to another.We are either all tea drinkers,or all drunk.From reading this forum,we all drink Barley water,eat Toast as a treat???? and watch rer-runs of Monty Python!!!
    the truth of the matter is,we pretty much watch similair stuff to you on TV,drink the same drinks,eat the same stuff at breakfast.
    One last thing,we really don’t care for false-friendlyness…especially from people in the service industry…the “have a nice day” thing,that really winds up your average Brit
    Have you seen the film “Office Space”?when the guys are having a coffee in Jennifer Annistons TGI-Fridays type diner?The guy who comes to serve them?That’s what i am talking about.As has been said,we probably wouldn’t complain about that,or generally bad service,as,its no big deal is it,?we don’t like to cause a scene,plus,the person concerned is doing a low-paid job

    • avatarGordon says

      Well, I like Barley Water and, yes, I would regard toast as a treat during the day.

      Is there any hope?

  140. avatarMike M says

    London is more than a City – it is a Metropolis – it’s always bigger than you – you will never master it.

    I love the place and visit (from Dorset) about three or four times a month for work. It is always a treat and a delight. But the Brits who dont live in London – find it too fast paced, crowded and sometimes overwhelming. They might go once every 5 years to see a show – but that is about it.

    The general feeling is that it will wear you out.

  141. avatarElaine says

    It’s nice to see such intelligent comments. (^Lewis) *rolls eyes*

    Firstly, i’d like to say that i am a thirty *mumble* year old British woman living in a small town about 15 miles outside of Bristol. I’ve lived here since i was 7 but was born and raised in Bristol until then. Most of my relatives still live there. I have never been outside of Britain, furthest from the mainland was the Isle of Man, basically because i’ve never been able to afford it, (closest i get to a holiday these day’s is staying with my mum and/or aunt in Bristol).
    I’ve been reading Anglotopia for about a year now, as i find it very interesting how other nationalities seem so enamoured with our strange little island. Because, let’s face it, it does have it’s quirks ;)

    I’d like to comment on your observations, if i may. Which, unlike some it seems, i am taking in the spirit with which it was written. As i hope you will receive mine. So here goes:

    Barley Water: An aquired taste even when consumed in the correct manner (small amount in the bottom of a glass then filled, almost, to the brim). I, personally, don’t like it. But then i’m not too keen on cloudy squash either. Give me the clear stuff any day. RIBENA RULES! And if, as a lady somewhere above said, american ‘squash’ is pre-dilluted, it’s no wonder you took a swig from the bottle, which i am assuming you did, and promptly gagged! Pre-dilluted would never work over here as everyone has a different preference as to how weak/strong it is. If it’s Ribena, i usually use about a sixth of the bottle before adding water, other ones, a centimetre will do.

    The Drinking: Usually, you’ll find that it’s teenagers and 20 somethings getting all out legless most nights, with a sprinkling of older folks thrown in for good measure (can’t let the young ‘uns have ALL the fun). The rest of us are quite happy to just have a few jar’s with friends and/or family in a pub, having a good natter and a good time. You don’t have to worry about not drinking in the pub, i too don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol. I’m not a teetotaler, but i just can’t see the point of drinking alcohol if i have absolutley no intention of getting bladdered, i’d rather have a non-alcoholic drink that i really like and stick to it, i always drink coke when we go to the pub or out for a meal. You could always have a shandy or a larger and lime.

    Toast as a treat: I wouldn’t say it was a treat, as others have mentioned, it’s more like a comfort food to most people, or an ‘i can’t be arsed to cook, there’s nothing to eat in the house’, or ‘i don’t know what to have for tea… summat on toast, that’ll do’ type thing. And sometimes, you just fancy a bit of toast smothered in butter or the topping of your choice. Especially if you use freshly baked unsliced bread mmmmm!

    Cynicism: It seems to stem from the fact that, if you’re used to getting your hopes up that, whatever it is, is going to be great, only to have those hopes dashed time and again (England Football Team, i’m talking to you here), then cynicism tends to become a part of life. Take the Millenium fireworks display in London, it was built up to be this amazing visual display, and what happend? The whole lot went off in one go and it was a complete disaster. Every year since, they have been trying to make the new year display as good as possible so we’ll forget all about 2000. (we never will, by the way, it’s not in our nature). It’s for this very reason that most of us followed comic creation, Al Murray the pub landlord’s line of ” London 2012…it’s gonna be a bit s***t ” Imagine our surprise and joyous bemusment, that it all went so bloody well! The collective phrases that flew around the nation was “Can’t believe WE did that!! First time for everything i suppose & well we can’t screw it up ALL the time”. Bottom line, if you’re used to things going wrong, you expect them to go wrong. Hey presto! Cynicism.

    Poor Service: As someone who has worked in the service industry for 5 out of 6 jobs, i can tell you that most, and i stress most, not all, of the people who work in it, would really much rather be doing something, ANYTHING, else with their life than serving customers. Now, i fully understand how annoying, frustrating and down right infuriating it can sometimes be as a customer (i’ve had those day’s myself), but i can assure you that BEING a customer is far, far better than SERVING them. At least as a customer you have the options of putting up with it for as long as it takes to do what you need to, complaining to someone in authority or just turning around and walking out. When you work there you don’t HAVE a choice. Well, you do, but it means either staying put and dealing with *Them*, day in, day out, or losing your job. And when you NEED the money, the latter really isn’t an option. I would much prefer to be a customer and complain about poor service, than serve the little s***ts. You could be the nicest person in the world, but the moment you cross the threshold you become one of *Them*, the dreaded customer!!!!! Can you tell i’m glad i don’t work in the service industry anymore! ;p

    Xenophobia: That’s a complicated one. Unfortunatley, there are a lot of people in this country who ARE xenophobic and spout some pretty prejudice, racist and xenophobic rhetoric, most of it complete crap. But, there are also those who have justifiable reasons for ‘sounding’ xenophobic, i say ‘sounding’ because that’s not what they are, it just comes across that way. Take some of my relatives, what they are concerned about is what others here have previously mentioned, that there are a lot of people from other countries coming over and expecting to get a free ride (health care, housing, benefits) without contributing anything. We can barely take care of ourselves at the moment let alone opening the doors to international spongers (we have enough of our own thanks). And, again as others have said, this is a very small island with a limited amount of space, and at the rate things are going, this ‘green and pleasant land’ won’t be that way for long if we have to keep building houses and ammenities to accommodate all of these spongers as well as the increasing native population. This is what annoys those relatives of mine, and they get so passionate about it that, sometimes, they can ‘sound’ xenophobic to those who don’t know them (i even cringe myself sometimes when i hear them talk). Bottom line: if you’re coming here with the intention of working, integrating (to an extent) and contributing to the economy and the services this country supplies then ‘Welcome one and all, with open arms. If not…. then don’t let the door smack you in the ass on the way out! Unfortunatley, in the act of trying to stem the tide of spongers and illegal immigrants, the laws end up making it extremely difficult for the honest, hard working foreign nationals, who have every intention of contributing, from living here. And that really is a great shame.

    Monty Python: Personally, i love Life of Brian, The Holy Grail and some of the Tv sketches (dead parrot is hilarious), but i do have to be in the mood to watch The Meaning of Life and the Tv series. As popular as it was, and to a fair extent still is, no matter what some of the other commenters might think (i have seen Flying Circus on both Comedy Central and G.O.L.D. in the last few years), MP is not the be all and end all of British comedy, and no-one would, or should, berate you for not liking it. (They may pull your leg and/or take the mick) but certainly no-one will berate you for it, and if they do, there’s something wrong with THEM not YOU.

    Anti-Londonism: We just hate the fact that London seems to put itself above the rest of the country, that they matter more than we do. That other countries see London as England, Britain or the UK. London gets everything, if there’s an international event happening here it’s almost always held there. Also, London itself is a different beast to the rest of the country, it’s almost like a country in its own right. (They do things differently in London). London is not England, nor is it Britain or the UK, it is merely a city within those three geographical areas, albeit the Capital.

    Tearing down the succesful: I will admit that our tabloids are experts at doing this, and, unfortunatley, most of those who read them lap it up and follow suit. The rest of the country just has a problem with those who make it big and become d**ks, lording it over the rest of us, believing they can act how they like, do what they like and don’t give two s**ts about anyone else. No-one likes a bragger, or an asshole. Become one of those, and by god will we enjoy every minute of it when you fall flat on your face. In fact we’ll be waiting, praying for it to happen. And as for “celebrities”, when did shallow, talentless, brainless, feckless idiots become people to look up to? I mean, TOWIE, Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea, JORDAN! Come on people, these are NOT role models!

    And one thing that has got my goat a bit in some of these comments…. London is NOT the SOUTH!! As i said above, London is A CITY not a region. Would the lovely people from up north PLEASE stop confusing southeners with Londoners!!!!
    There are five distinct regions of southern England: the south west, the west country, the south, east anglia and the south east in which London sits. And as i’ve already said, London is a whole other beast.
    I love visiting London, don’t get me wrong, but i couldn’t live there, way too manic and crowded for my liking.
    Just like Bristol (West Country). I LOVE visiting Bristol, it has a lot too offer and in certain areas (mainly the oldest parts) is absolutely beautiful, especially by the Clifton Suspension Bridge, (even though i couldn’t live there permantly, crowded city and all that). But people, especially other brits, don’t seem to even notice us. Bristol University is in the top ten best Universities in the country, did you know that? It, and the city itself, is especially popular with foreign students as you can read here: http://www.bris.ac.uk/international/student-experiences/ And a few years ago comic relief did a study of all the cities in Britain to see which was the happiest aaaaaand…. Bristol won!!! (see here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2776971.stm )

    Sorry. Went on a bit of a tangent about Bristol there, did you notice? *sheepish*
    Well, that was my two-penneth anyway.

  142. avatarBenjamin says

    1) My mother is from England (Bradford, West Yorkshire to be exact), so I’m somewhat knowledgeable of the culture. I’ve only been to England once, but we visited for nearly a month. For one, I agree with the OP about the British’s cynicism. I respect critical thinking, and I understand the world economy isn’t great, but there is a point where it reaches blatant pessimism and hopelessness. I prefer to be optimistic, even when it seems like there isn’t anything to be happy about. Otherwise, you’ll go insane.

    2) I’ve never noticed any ill-feelings towards the rich or foreigners, especially from my mother. But my mother has also been living in America for 25+ years and has admitted that she prefers life here now (though she does miss some of the old places and traditions). I’d like to think that Brits aren’t as classist or judgmental of immigrants as the OP stated. Though, knowing England’s economic past and low availability of living space, I can’t say I’m surprised.

    3) As for the toast, that’s something we only enjoy on the occasional Sunday’s brunch after a family-outing or church. It’s a treat. We use American breads, but something about the way my mother prepares it (or maybe it’s the brand she buys) makes it tastes so good. It’s so basic, but in the best way possible.

    4) Never had barley water, but it does not sound appetizing. I’ll pass.

    5) I have a love/hate relationship with Monty Python. Have to be in the mood for the dry humor; otherwise, it’s just extremely obnoxious.

    6) Poor service and good service exists everywhere. Some servers genuinely care, others just don’t give a shit I suppose. Here in the US, I have more complaints about the customers than the servers.

    7) As for the drinking, it is deeply routed into British culture. Nothing against it, as long as you have a handle on it (i.e. as long as you’re a functional adult). It’s really crazy how a Brit can handle a drink, too. I found a picture of my then-65 y.o. grandmother downing a pint of beer next to dish full of lit cigarettes, sitting right next to her new boyfriend who was nearly a decade younger than him. Guess she knew how to party!

    8) London, what can I say? It has its dirty and crime-ridden areas, just like New York City, Paris, Toronto and most oversized cities in the world. Guess you just have to live with it. I don’t think, however, that all of England outside of London is a far cry difference. There are many beautiful areas in the UK, but looking at pictures and reflecting back, Bradford is an extremely dirty city, too. I remember there being a lot of litter everywhere and many rotting industrial buildings and blighted row houses. Obviously, cities like this exist in the US as well (there are a couple towns like that in central Pennsylvania, where my dad’s from). But my point being everywhere outside of London isn’t a quaint, clean village with medieval churches and castles overlooking it. Just like not every place outside of NYC are colonial-era towns in New England like Cape Cod.

    All in all, I guess I can’t say I’m a super big Anglophile, but I do say England has its charm. My personal turnoffs: the cultural attitudes (which I know are held in varying degrees with every individual, so I try not to hold it super against everyone) and the constant gross, rainy weather over there. And the fact that I’d have less of chance of getting a job over there, being a young person, isn’t super thrilling either…

  143. avatarEvelyn Morgan says

    I visited the UK once in 2000. After a 2-week stay, I was a little homesick, but I would go again in a flash. There were, of course, some things I didn’t appreciate, but I thought the people were generally friendly, in London and elsewhere.
    What I didn’t like:
    1. mushy peas-don’t get the appeal
    2. fish paste sandwiches-only politeness kept me from spitting out the first and last bite
    3. no screens on windows-shared my meals with insects
    4. figuring out the money-no quarters

    Things I loved:
    1. scones-anytime, anywhere
    2. English breakfast-everything you can think of
    3. plenty of parks for walking
    4. so many different accents
    5. roundabouts
    6. being called “Luv” or “Ducks”
    7. the money-so colorful and interesting

    My favorite places to visit were Stratford-upon-Avon, Chester, Edinborough, London, Stonehedge, Lindisfarne(Holy Island), Bath and York. Too many to mention.

  144. avatarTasha says

    Well this is very funny … I’m from Manchester which is up north… I love how this makes us out to be right grumpy gits…. We aren’t actually as pessimistic as this makes us out to be and I actually really dislike toast…. The xenophobia bit isn’t strictly true … I reckon the info has been taken from the news…. Also London is different to places like Manchester and I always find it interesting going there as its just a different atmosphere …. I’ve never heard of barley water before … Don’t think many people drink it …. And service is slow in tourist resturaunts …. But service is slow in every country ….. And monty python is meh … Alan partridge is better … Or maybe dads army … But anyway it’s funny reading this as someone from England especially being a northerner

  145. avatarCindy says

    Having lived in Europe for 7 years with husband #1 and now married to a Brit (13 years) and living in the the US I feel like I can intelligently respond to this. Some things I agree with but some not so much. Give me Monty Pythion any day over Benny Hill. I find that their sometimes mocking of their own standards, Upper Class Twit of the Year, love of nature oriented documentaries- I once watched one on dung..!!! Anyway, moving on, toast, shmoast, I like it, prefer it warm, when I want it, I want it. You forgot Marmite. Yucko!

    London, yes love it, BUT not the be all end all. There are lovely areas and cities that NEED to be visited and if you can’t figure out how to use a train schedule and preplan, and even use the city/town bus systems then you shouldn’t leave the USA!!

    One thing that does both make me nuts and makes me laugh at the same time is the quite common British mocking us for the USA, USA chants and the touting of the the US as the greatest country in the world. Why do they mock? Because I find them to often in turn feel that England and the English are superior to anyone and everyone else. I have been an Anglophile for 50 years, but rather than being in awe of England, I am appreciative. For the most part od my ancestry it is, after all, the Mother Country, BUT I am a Yank (don’t ever call me a Septic though!!) and proud of it.

  146. avatarpat says

    I haven’t read all this but it simply shows me how you have to belong to a culture-especially a very very subtle complicated one like Britain’s, to make valid comments. For every suface complain, I could almost write a book of explanation.

  147. avatarChris says

    There’s nothing to be proud of by getting rich. You’re lucky if you do, but getting rich for its own sake is just dirty behaviour. There are qualities to aim for like kindness, charity, voluntary work, caring for the planet, etc., but certainly not getting rich. Wise up.

  148. avatarMark says

    Cynicism

    Best summed up by Al Murray, AKA the comedian “The Pub Landlord”:

    No boys, we don’t do “The American Dream” over here- mainly because we f***ing wake up !

  149. avatarYvonne says

    OK except for the Xenophobia and the bringing successful people down thing. I pretty much don’t agree with you . Toast is great, Monty Python Rocks and Cynicism Brit style makes my sides burst with laughter. I love my country (USA) but we’ve become so damn politically correct and careful to step over everybody’s feelings that we’ve forgotten to laugh at ourselves and our human flaws. I’m glad the Brits haven’t lost that! But I suggest a trade, let’s bring a little cynicism back to the USA and let’s have Brits embrace the fact that it’s great to encourage people in being successful.
    Oh Johnathan, I also don’t drink but I had the time of my life at the Pubs. You just need a little imagination.

  150. avatarRoy Reeves says

    I lived in England for two years back in the 1950′s. I have re-visited on two separate occasions over these many years. I admire the Brit’s very much. They are the most civil people on earth and I love their toast and eggs with tea.

  151. avatarSteve B says

    I’m a so called Brit, lived in on the island all my life. Yes toast is OK depending on the quality! It’s ‘Class’ that bothers me, that is the word that figures on every Brits concience, if you have image you are liked and you can do anything. But if you are so called ‘lowlife’ as catagorized by many a British person you are controlled like work fodder (a word that so accurately describes the attitude to the general British worker to be exploited) There is no equality in Britain and the work situsation just gets worse. Hence why most lowlife Brits would rather emigrate and escape the dull place!

  152. avatarLeigh Ann says

    Jonathan – if you need a partner to close a deal in England at the pub, you’ve found your “man” – while this is going to sound like I’m an alcoholic to some, I happen to like the taste of alcohol and enjoy having a few pints after work or on the weekend. I’m having to scale back – on a diet, losing weight, so not eating as much and it’s hitting me a lot quicker but I’d sure be happy to lend a hand! HAHAHA ;)

  153. avatarMichelle says

    So Jonathan…..did you or did you not dilute the barley water?

    Never mind the xenophobia and cynicism…let’s talk cordial.

  154. avatarrhcpfan says

    the thing is, we drink a lot because there is always a pub round the corner, no matter where you are, i can easily list 3 pubs that are a 5-10 minute walk from my house, and another 3 if your willing to walk for 20, they all resemble The Queen Vic from EastEnders, and are all full of the same kinds of people… more than likely feeding the stereotypes… Ahh well. I’m proud to be 100% British!

  155. avatarChristine says

    I lived in the UK for three years & was pregnant twice during that time, leading to me not drinking. Despite this, I never found it problematic to be in the pub; I’d simply order a tonic water without the gin. The social aspect of the pub is the thing; you can also dine there and experience some of the best food. My biggest issue with Britain was that pubs & other public places were NOT “smoke free” as restaurants already had been for several years when we were there in the late ’80s.

  156. avatarNeil says

    I was born in London and my parents took me to Fort Lauderdale , Florida when I was 12 and we never came back . I 100% agree with you when you say British are less motivated I recently returned to London for summer time to help a family members business out and don’t know what planet I’m on . British people seem like they don’t care if they have nothing where Americans have goals in life and want to succeed .

  157. avatarClaire L says

    As a Brit, I laughed out loud at this. We are a confusing bunch of individuals. I wonder if I might be able to provide any clarity around the confusion for you?

    Barley Water
    Jonathon, can I just check re: the barley water. You did add water before you drank it, didn’t you? It’s concentrate (we call it ‘squash’ – a cordial that you add water to). I really hope you didn’t drink it neat! If you did, I completely agree with you that it’s gross. If not, well, some people like it, some people don’t. As kids, we are given it usually in hot summer weather during breaks in sports, and it is the most refreshing drink ever on a hot summer’s afternoon. Perhaps those kinds of memories are what makes it one of the traditional favourites?

    Drinking Culture
    Yep – alcohol is a real part of the culture here, and you’re seen as a bit strange if you don’t indulge at first. Jonathon, you can go to the pub and not drink alcohol. You will get probably get teased, but actually that wears thin pretty quickly and your peers get over it, especially if you make fun of yourself when they are teasing you. I quite often don’t drink when I go to the pub – either because I’m driving or I quite honestly don’t feel like it. Please don’t feel you have to miss out because you’re tea total! Going to the pub is about spending time with friends and relaxing, not just the alcohol.

    Anti-Londonism
    Can’t really comment – I’m a Londoner. That said, I don’t live there any more. I think a lot of foreign tourism is directed towards London, and we have loads of other amazing sights to see in the UK. London is also hideously expensive for tourists. Normally, the ‘get out of London’ comments are normally about encouraging people to see more of our lovely nation, and save some cash in the process – a kind motive. There is also a lot of social identity stuff tied up in the anti-londonism (see cycnicism and xenophobia!)

    Cynicism and Xenophobia
    You have to be a very ‘special’ kind of person to read the Daily Mail. I bought it a few weekends ago because they had a free Hairy Bikers Christmas cookbook in the supplement. Needless to say I pulled out the bit I wanted and threw away the newspaper ;-) As for the cynicism, it’s not really cynicism (I completely understand that it might seem like this to people who aren’t British). It’s about social identity and bonding. It’s also very humourous to moan about what’s wrong with the world. It kind of makes you feel better to moan when things feel sh*tty, and people bond by having a moan and putting the world to rights, rather than pulling down the mood. Harry Enfield (a comedian here) does a sketch illustrating this. If you are familar with the work of Tajfel, the social psychologist, this may go some way to explaining this.

    Python
    You either get it, or you don’t. My nan never got it!

    ‘Tearing down the successful’
    It’s more to do with modesty, being humble, and respect for others. It is just not the done thing to scream from the rooftops about your achievements or be the ‘best at everything’. It doesn’t mean that achievements this side of the pond are not recognised or appreciated (they are, but it’s unspoken like a covert code), but if you talk about them at any great length it will be seen as bragging, and at times commented on (either to your face or behind your back). I remember I was talking to my US friends about my PhD thesis and said that it was great it was finished because now I could use the bound thesis as a doorstop (underplaying my achievement by using a bit of humour, when the essence of what I was saying is ‘I’m proud of what I’ve done’). Now if I’d said this to my UK friends, they would have laughed, maybe said well done and left it there. After 10 minutes of being told by my US friends that it was a great achievement to get a PhD and how I should take myself more seriously and not put myself down, I had to politely ask them to stop, because it was making me feel uncomfortable. I know I’ve done something that is a real achievement, I’ve got a lot of skills to offer, and an academic voice, but we don’t need to harp on about it. You get on with it and don’t put yourself on a pedastal, because perhaps others within earshot haven’t achieved that and you don’t want to make them look inferior in any way, not because you or others don’t think you’ve done a great job. We generally don’t like other people (or indeed, other nations) who ‘big themselves up’. It’s seen as really quite impolite and immodest, even though that may not be the intent. I think it must really be quite hard to get your head around that if you are from a culture where it’s good to be so focussed on achievement. I’ve certainly struggled when I’m put into environments where I’m supposed to focus on presenting ‘how great I am’ outside of the UK, not because I don’t think I’m great, but because I don’t want to brag about how great I am – it’s rude!

    Service
    The service is an interesting one. I’ve had my fair share of good and bad service. If I don’t get good service, I don’t leave a tip. If I think my server did a good job, I do leave one. That’s kind of how tipping works here – it’s over and above as a gesture of thanks, rather than something that is expected to make up someone’s wages (on my first trip to the states I had nightmares about the US tipping ‘rules’ being really afraid that I might offend I was texting my friend asking them about what was expected on the tipping front every 5 mins!). That said, what my US friends consider good service, I have found appalling in the states. Sometimes my plate has been cleared so rapidly that I have barely finished chewing my last mouthful, and I’ve been attended to so frequently that it diverts my attention away from the lovely food I’m eating. This leads me to think that it’s cultural expectations of time and timing. I’d actually like servers in the States to slow down a little and leave me alone a bit more!

    Toast
    I *never* eat cold toast! My husband however insists on letting it go cold. I’ve never understood that at all ;-) However, warm toast is a simple, but beautiful thing, particularly on a cold day. If it’s not your thing, then it’s not your thing.

  158. avatar says

    As a Brit expat living in the states, I can understand seeing these things from a different perspective, but honestly, the list just reads like you’ve had a bad day. Most of the issues described are also here in the States, just a little differently. Xenophobia, for example, is just as bad on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s portrayed in different ways.
    Toast is much like tea, more about taking time to sit and chat and enjoy food in general. Americans, in general, are not good at taking the time to savor/savour their meals. I like toast because it’s normally part of an experience. Usually done with soft boiled eggs in cups, and cut up in “soldiers” for dipping.
    I’m from “up north” and when I was younger, service was not ideal. My visits back, however, have proven much different. I have had good service almost everywhere I have been.
    Additions to the list of things to see outside London, and yes I agree London is fantastic, but so is a drive along the Pembrokeshire coast, having lunch on Cardiff Bay, taking in a play at the Lowry in Salford, and while you’re at it, walking in central Manchester. I ditto the remark on Trough of Bowland, especially eating and staying at the Inn at Whitewell, and driving north from there to a tower at the peak, where you can look down on the Lune and see Blackpool Tower. Whitby can’t be missed, or the drive from there to Lindisfarne and Berwick on Tweed.
    Hope you’re having better days since writing this.

    • avatart says

      Lee – I’ve only ever been to Cheshire, and Manchester. Chesire is lovely. The British countryside is gorgeous… especially in Spring.

  159. avatar says

    I think it’s a mistake to say it’s hard to get out of London “for tourists”. Perhaps it should say “for Americans”. In the rest of Europe we also have loads of passenger trains so it’s not at all hard for us to book tickets and head somewhere other than London even if we also love London. London IS the epicentre of the world, bless, but not as English as the rest of the country as you must know who love Dorset (I tend to come across more fellow Swedes there than Brits). Today, train travel couldn’t be easier with internet bookings too. Just buy in advance to avoid the high costs.

    As for the anti-London thing, that’s also common in the rest of Europe. Go to Malmö or Gothenburg and listen to people talking about Stockholm…it’s a capital thing.

  160. avatarHeather says

    I absolutely agree with everything you have written. I am currently working on my visa to settle over in the UK with my husband who is from there. I have traveled there many times and have witnessed everything you mentioned.
    As I think about moving over there, I already know what will be challenging but yet also what will be exciting with a fresh new experience. I am looking forward to reading more blogs like this :)

  161. avatarRachel says

    Please, for the love of god, do not think that anything written in the Daily Mail is representative of British culture as a whole.

    • avatart says

      Good point. Like as if the NY Post represents American culture. Arent they both run by that degenerate Australian?

  162. avatar says

    Well, I would like to address a few of the points you made in this article, as I believe them to be quite ignorant and insulting.
    I’m half English. Half Iranian, and have lived in both countries, mostly England. I was born in London, but now I live near Liverpool.
    I would firstly like to address the comments you made about xenophobia, as I find this ridiculous, and quite frankly insulting. Saying a large percentage of Britons can’t stand foreigners is a lie! I am half Iranian, and thus a BROWN person… I have not encountered racism since I was like 12… I am 23 now. Most of my friends are white Britons. We are a multi-cultural society, always have been, always will be. We never had segregation, we’ve always had equal rights for people of all colours and religions. I do believe, in fact, when African American soldiers in world war II came here, they were invited to the bubs by British soldiers, and were dragged out by the AMERICAN military police. We have open boarders, however, as you can imagine, we are a small country, a size of a small state in the US, but e have 64 million people living here, so it’s pretty crammed, and thus, we have to be more strict on the boarders, but we’ll never be strict when it comes to asylum seekers. Also, out benefit system allows foreigners to come here and live off of benefits (not that most of them do, but that is a problem, and that’s why people get angry, because people whom have not contributed to out welfare system and NHS come and use it, then leave. that is also, why people don’t have a problem with people who come here and work hard…. i.e. 90% of foreigners living in the UK.) There is a small minority of people who are racist, but they don’t even make up 2% of the population. You get racist bigots everywhere… here they’re in the EDL or BNP! As for Brown people being “Bad” foreigners.. utter total rubbish, again only in the eyes of those few idiots, whom I have yet to encounter in the last decade.
    It’s true, there is a lot of anti-Londonism, especially in the North West, where I live, and I get the mick taken out of me quite often, but it is all in jest. There’s not real hatred, just talk. However, a reason for that is that the more north you go, the less the people are taken care of. The welfare system is not as good as it is down south, the roads aren’t as good, nor the city centres or anything else the government has to deal with. The northerners feel neglected, and they are right to. It’s not an anti-London thing, we’re all proud of our Capitol city, it’s more about how the south looks its nose down at the north, and how southerners are looked after by the government. The north is mainly filled with working class people working hard to get by, or stuck on benefits that are continually lowering because there are no jobs. This is a fact, and that’s why there is a divide between the north and the south.
    The reasons stated above, are the reasons behind the cynicism. Britain has been through a great deal over the last century, 2 world wars, in one of which we were severely bombed, The Thatcher years (they speak for themselves) A couple more wars, including with Ireland (which again involved a bombing or two) and a whole lot of economic problems. In my life time we’ve gone through two, and I’m only 23. and so, the cynicisms is passed down, but we’re only really cynical about politics, not about life in general, yet we like to have a good moan, but we tend to make a good laugh about it. You need to go to Liverpool because Scousers are the funniest people on the planet, and that’s coming from a Man United fan, that says A LOT! Also, we drink a lot to drown away our cynicism, I thought that would be clear… ahaha
    Toast is AMAZING! I do believe you stated in another post that British bread, especially Hovis is incredible, and you understand why Brits eat so much toast. You’re right, British bread is amazing… next time try Roberts Extra Thick… BEST.TOAST.EVER!
    Anyway, sorry about the essay, I got a tad bit carried away.

  163. avatar says

    I’ve visited Britain, and travelled all over it and never felt a bit of xenophobia! and don’t know how you treated the British but, to me, they were always more than nice and I’m not a native speaker, or do I have a very Caucasian look… another think, and I stopped reading here: YOU CAN’T STAND MONTY PYTHON?! I’m sorry, I cannot respect a person who can’t stand Monty Python… Come on!?!?!

  164. avatarLovBrighton says

    What a lovely post. I have a dear friend who is English and she came to the US for the first time last summer. I live in Savannah and she commented on how lovely it was, I always tease her because I would move to London tomorrow if I could. Unfortunately I can’t because I am not British. I do think some of the immigration laws there are a bit rough, even she has commented on the huge immigration especially in Beth al Green, Tower Hamlets etc, and she finds it difficult to accept the fact that Americans, Germans etc are not allowed what she calls a free pass into the UK. As far as the differences, well Month Python isn’t a strong influence anymore yes I love Python bit let’s face it the show is dated, and not so much in tune with today’s culture. The East End was always one of my favorite places to go, I loved the fact that there are still ruminants of Victorian era buildings there etc, now however I don’t want to be there very long, it just isn’t the same and limited time spent there in my opinion anyway is best. Yes there are other beautiful places besides London to go, hell Wales has some beautiful places also and it’s not that hard to get there. I do agree that if a tourist spends all their time in London they are DEFINATELY missing out on the beauty of the country.

    • avatarMalcolm Hodges says

      You said in your comment that Americans and GERMANS are not allowed a free pass in the UK. You may be right about saying this about the Americans…..but are totally wrong about the Germans

      Both the UK and Germany are member states of the EU – European Union. it is a fundamental right in the EU that people, goods and services can move freely, without restriction between member states

      Any German Citizen ( or French, Italian or any other citizen of any EU Country ), can if they feel like come to the UK to live or work. they don’t need no visas etc….they just show up and are entited to the same rights and conditions as most Brits…they even vote and/or stand for most British elections

      As a Brit I likewise can go live and work in Germany or anywhere else in the EU I feel like going to….I cant be stopped as it is against the rules of the EU

  165. avatart says

    1. Food in England sucks. Really, it does. It’s just abominable. This explains why toast is revered…. cause it doesn’t totally suck and even a English person can cook it successfully. Having said that crumpets are really really good … I mean they are essentially a form of toast really, and I think they are the originators of the Thomas’s English Muffin we get here in the states, although they are much better … not crunchy just delicately textured.

    2. If you don’t like Monty Python, how can you be a fan of British humor in general?

    3. Some Brits I’ve met are terribly anti-American. Not to say they don’t have their reasons. But still… it borders on a psychosis for some that I’ve met.

    4. Americans are happier cause the weather here doesn’t suck nearly as much. If you lived in England full time you would be unhappy with life cause the weather is terrible.

    5. British beer is fantastic and hanging out in a pub is very different than an American bar. Pubs tend to be much quieter, intimate places whereas in the US a bar is as a rule a loud raucous place with loud music and …lately (sadly) televisions on every surface. Americans think something is wrong if they walk into a bar and it is low key.

    6. American culture demonizes the poor which in my opinion is far worse than being suspicious of the wealthy, and especially in England where the “posh folk” are very much a closed society and working class division are much more engrained than here in the US. Your insensitivity to this is incredible for someone who considers themselves an Anglophile…

  166. avatar says

    Hi there, I am a swedish citizen, and i have been visiting both the USA and UK. I have to comment something in this things that from my front is very fun from my point of wiew. As a turist in USA i have always had problems with the bread at breakfast, it is not bread it is sweet buns and muffins. For me and the rest of Sweden that is for coffee breaks. Or when you invite friends for coffee and cake. The toast is as least bread and you can have it brown and tastes warm delicios. Service, as a turist both living camping or at hotels, bed and breakfast I have always got a very good service. People in both London and the rest of the country has always been friendly and open. It is much easier to get in contact with people there then here. In the USA the staff is always friendly, but can be to much so it doesnt always be natural, can be seen as playacting. I do love Monthy Pyton, the ability to laugh at your self is a big gift. You musn’t always take your self so seriously. XX

  167. avatarSusan B says

    Maybe if you lifted a few, you would get Monty Python.
    I have found the Brits were not against immigrants as such, but rather against immigrants that wanted to change things. They move to a wonderful, beautiful land and immediately want England to change to let them do things their old way – different laws, etc, etc.
    Can’t blame them for getting ticked about it really.

  168. avatarTammy Meikle says

    This post was AMAZING!!! Seriously amazing. My husband is Scottish and while I know he does NOT think of himself as Brittish some of the culture is similar. And I can say after being married to him for almost 14 years these very topics have puzzled me. The toast and the negativity and the no need to push yourself attitude. But that Scottish accent is going to make me stay every time. :) I love some of the Monty Python but there are some of the Movies and the TV show that I cant stand. And as for the snubbing of people not from their country I noticed that right away. As you say the moment I opened my mouth people were making comments and calling me a Yank (not in a good fun way). And basically implied that since my husband was married to a Yank he was also one of us. I have to admit that made me a bit uncomfortable. I did not notice any lack of service or hospitality when we visited and I loved the food. Cheese and onion sandwiches are wonderful and I had the best leg of Lamb Ive ever tasted.

  169. avatarPete says

    Having read all that it’s difficult to write anything that hasn’t been said, but heres just a couple of thoughts: Everyone now has probably heard of Bletchley Park and the Enigma code, this is where the first programmable computer was designed to crack it. Everone there had to sign the official secrets act. But this went beyond what the Americans would probably have gone:The full extent of the work done there was only revealed by a newspaper in the 70s. many of the people who worked there were very upset about that as they had not even told their wives/husbands, mothers/fathers. OK, now it wouldn’t last a week without someone tweeting it, but it did show how reserved the British were then, and possibly only Brits could have maintained that silence?

    Beny Hill: More appreciated abroad in the South of Europe I think. I remember cycling in Crete in 79 and finding myself in a dark hillside with no signs of civiliization, when I heard the laughter and spied a glimmer of light. It was a taverna, peeping in the window I saw a dozen or so Cretans rocking with laughter at a TV showing Benny Hill.

    Accents: There are many and even variations on those. It is a minefield, but any polite Brit would slow down and speak more accepted English, for any American.Emma Watson has been interviewed many times in the US and many comments on Youtube were saying how they loved her accent. Emma does not have an accent. She speaks perfectly correct English as it should be spoken in its purest form. I think.

    Alcoholic Drink: a hangover (pardon the pun) of our past. In the 9th C a visiting cleric from the Continent wrote home of the Brits appetite for drunkenness.While a Norman in the 12thC wrote of the habit of the English not going to church on holy days, but go to ale houses, sit and drink ale and pray and passed this habit to the Normans: ‘They were accustomed to eat till they became surfeited, and to drink till they were sick. These latter qualities they imparted to their conquerors’;

  170. avatar says

    I was quite enjoying your post until you stated that as a nation we are racist. As a proud Brit I actually found that offensive.
    You were right about one thing and that was our multicultural pride.
    If you talk to many Brits of different colours and with forign accents you will find that they are just as concerned about immigration as the Brits with ancestry in this country. It’s not about disliking foreigners it’s about living in a country approximately the size of Kentucky with nearly 70 million inhabitants. We are concerned about population growth, unemployment and rising house prices not the arrival of “Johnny forigner”. As a country that is largely aware of international politics and a member of a huge political union with no borders and an awareness of the world around us we might well sound racist in our comments to you but you need to understand we are talking about international demographics and basic economics not the colour of people’s skin.
    Before you call us racist please remember we don’t call our largest ethnic group of overseas low paid workers ‘illegal immagrants’ which is what in my experience what most of your underclass is called.
    I’ve lived and worked all over the states and found the racism which I constantly heard whispered in the north and proudly proclaimed in the south to be beyond belief. We don’t have African Brits we just have Brits and if I called my black friends as African they would be offended because they are as British as me.
    If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard an American complain about illegal Mexicans I would have quite a lot of cash in my draw. I’ve heard people say that Mexicans should go back if they can’t speak ‘our language’. Even though half your population speaks Spanish as a first language?
    Please look at your own people and watch Fox News if you want to hear about racism!
    Rant over

  171. avatarMikunda says

    Freshly landed in England, new job. This article was written about me, lols:). It’s absolutely, completely and astoundingly right on. The negativity, how generous they are when they want to say something bad to you and how they like to gang up on you and act mean just for the fun of it is what is killing me. My daughter is going through the same culture shock at school. She cried a bit in the beginning because “no one was nice and no one was smiling at me”. Oh, and I don’t eat toast because I eat gluten-free. I really hope my optimism will always be my true forever companion, cannot do without it here.

  172. avatarMilica says

    I come from Eastern Europe and I’ve always been in love with Britain, its culture and history. My biggest dream was to visit London, and when I did, I was really sad by the way people changed from friendly to reserved when my sister and I told them where we came from. It’s the only thing I still don’t get it, especially because in my country people love foreigners and tourist and are happy to help them! I just hope that British stop judging foreigners based on what they read from newspapers :) Anyway, British Isles are the most wonderful place on the Earth to me ;)

  173. avatar says

    Barley Water: You do know it’s supposed to be diluted with cold water ? You didn’t drink it neat ?

    Pubs: Not everyone goes to the pub every night after work. I rarely do that, usually at weekends with friends.

    Toast is not a treat, not in the sense that chocolate or a meal at an expensive restaurant is a treat. It can be eaten any time of the day, 24/7.

  174. avatar says

    I’m a little startled as to how you equated barley water with orange juice, probably because it’s not a product I really look for or notice in the aisles.

    I identify with the section on London completely. As a student at a uni in London, and having lived in London, I lean more towards the hate side of the love-hate spectrum, especially when it comes to rush-hour on the tube. Tourists on my campus irritate me but I find them amusing at the same time. I will help you if you’re lost, I’m proud of knowing my area. Just don’t get in my way when I’m late for class

    I feel the same about my native Essex. It gets bad press, it irritates me sometimes, but it’s home.

    Toast is a delicious snack though, especially with marmite.

  175. avatar says

    I’ve lived in the UK for over 2 years now and I agree with most of the things mentioned, except for 2, the bad service and “toast as a treat”.
    I had barely any bad experiences when eating out over here, staff is usually very polite and helpful (if British or Eastern European doesn’t make a difference).

    And as for toast as a treat, I obviously don’t know every single UK household but from what I’ve seen in my boyfriend’s family and the families of my uni friends, people don’t usually eat toast as a snack. For breakfast, yes. For lunch, yes. But if they want a treat, they usually open a small bag of crisps (preferably salt and vinegar or prawn cocktail… urgh ) or have crackers and cheese ;) .

  176. avatarMary says

    As a native brit, I can agree that our service industry may not be quite up to par with yours, however I feel you may just be being hypocritically xenophobic to pin this on the influx of (much harder working) EU migrants. In the low paid jobs sector, it’s the degradation,lack of financial security and representation (few unions) that gets us down, not multiculturalism. With immigrant parents, I can tell you that the influx of workers is one of the few factors holding up industry though out the last 50 years (from Irish in the 60′s to Romanians today).

    While there has been a rise in conservatism, this has been largely due to the plummeting of the economy, leading to mass job loss. The anger towards migrants is often misplaced anger regarding peoples livelihoods. The UK still remains one of the most culturally and ethically diverse nations,and is prospering because of it. It feels hypocritical for you to accuse us as a racist nation, and then while blaming another “flaw” on cultural diversity.

    I’m sorry about the rant, but please provide more educated, less stereotypical analysis regarding this countries flaws. I agree with you yes, but please don’t be lazy and racist- I wouldn’t want to even have to infer the stereotype here.

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