Editor’s Note: While going through old notes I took on our last trip to England in May 2012, I found a bunch of observations that got lost in the shuffle and buried at the bottom of my note program. I thought it would be fun to put them together into one post. So, while the topic is a little dated, the information is timeless.
We’re a little late in getting this out as our trip was several months ago. But while we were on the road, I noted down many observations that I planned to gather into one long post.
So, where are some random observations I made while we traveled in England last May and June.
One thing that struck is that we saw litter everywhere. In the city centers, in the countryside, it was everywhere. It was rather unpleasant. It was particularly bad in the city of Bath. But we found out later there was a garbage strike while we were there – so that didn’t help matters!
Women like see through clothing or not much at all
Mrs. Anglotopia will hate me for saying this but there was a surprisingly number of women wearing clothing that was either see through or left nothing to the imagination. It was rather shocking to see what was in fashion. Mrs. Anglotopia was equally as shocked.
The British love yet complain about the heat at the same time
While we were in Britain, they had beautiful weather. It was sunny and warm every day. Yet, people still managed to complain about it. So, our conclusion is that while on the one hand the Brits we met lauded their beautiful weather they would almost inevitably complain about it in the same conversation.
Service is better outside London
We got far better service outside of London than we did while we were there. There’s a major cultural difference between Londoners and those not in London. Most service staff outside London are actually English whereas in London most are Eastern European where communication is an issue.
Not afraid to put pseudoephedrine in their drugs
This is a strange point to make but as I got sick halfway through the trip, I had a need for good cold medicine and Mrs. Anglotopia went down to the local pharmacy to get something. The helpful staff gave her an over the counter cold medicine called Sinutab. It pretty much knocked my cold completely away. I had no symptoms (until the medicine wore off). The key ingredient? Psuedoephredine – a drug that’s been removed from most cold medicine in the States (it can be cooked into meth so it’s hard to get now).
Britain’s toilets are better than American toilets.
There I said it.
They’re better for several reasons.
First, toilets have two buttons for flushing. They usually have the option to have a light flush for lighter things and a heavy flush for… heavier things. This is a major water saver and so simple.
Second, they’re shaped better and more comfortable. They’re usually more square shaped than round, which means they fit one’s posterior better.
Also, public bathroom stalls (British slang: cubicle) are better as well, the walls usually go all the way to the ground and sometimes each toilet has its own cupboard sized room. Much more private for something that’s rather private.
Bath has a pigeon droppings problem
Bath is a stunningly picturesque and beautiful city, but they sure have a problem with pigeon droppings. It’s everywhere. It’s so bad that you can’t even put your hands in the famous hot spring waters at the Roman Baths because they’re contaminated. The copious droppings also ruin the statues and architecture. The pigeons also stalk you when you’re eating. London successfully kicked out the pigeons from Trafalgar Square, Bath needs to do the same.
No such thing as free refills
About halfway through the trip, I realized something. At no point on our trip had we ever had the opportunity for a free refill in our drinks. Not only does this make drinking anything more expensive as you have to keep paying for more, but it made me realize that this may also contribute to Americans being so overweight. When we returned from our trip we were about 10lbs lighter due to all the walking and exploring. As an experiment we decided to no longer opt for free refills (and drink far less soft drinks) – and we kept the weight off until the Christmas holidays rolled around.
Paying for Water
In most restaurants, when you ask for water, you’re going to end up paying for it. They generally don’t bring you tap water – they bring you bottled water, which is not cheap. So, be sure to specify tap water, which should be free.
Be Prepared to Talk about the Weather
Always have something to say about the weather. It’s really true that it’s the first thing most Brits talk about it. It’s an important social interaction with British people. It’s how they break the ice, it’s how they begin conversations into other matters.
However, under no circumstances should you complain about the weather (but by all means let them do so).
Hosting for Tea is So Important
When you have friends over for Tea, it’s important to put out a full spread. That includes not only the tea, but cake, biscuits, etc. Tea is like the weather – it’s an important social interaction that will help you make long-lasting British friends and also show them that you respect them. It’s also much easier to have a conversation with your nursing a cuppa. And where you got your spread is a good conversation starter.
Air conditioning is not the default
While Britain is a first world nation, they do not have first world standard of cooling. While most newer buildings will have it, most older ones won’t. And Britain is full of old buildings.
It doesn’t even get that hot in Britain – 85 degrees to them is sweltering – but because you don’t have much air conditioning, you never have a chance to cool down. So, you’re always sweating in the summer.
Be sure to pack lots of deodorant.
Watch out in Supermarket Parking Lots (Car Parks)
It’s well known that Britain has a problem with illegal immigrants. One discovery we made on our last trip is that many of them end up working on supermarket car parks running mobile car washing operations. They offer to wash your car while you’re shopping and they do it cheaply. We found this rather distasteful and the workers were rather pushy (we had a rental car so didn’t need it washed). It’s also a good excuse to make sure you lock your doors and take any valuables with you.
What interesting lessons did you learn on your last trip to Britain? Let us know in the comments!