Dispatches from England: Strange British Things I’ve Had to Google Since Moving to the UK

I’m coming up on my 6-month anniversary of our move to England. I laugh now at some of the most basic things that confused me when we first moved here, and yet I still find myself puzzled by certain cultural differences. I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the things I’ve had to turn to the internet for help with over the past few months as we settled into daily life here. Here’s a small snapshot of my Google search history.

What’s a conker? Throughout the fall season, I kept reading about “playing conkers” or encouraging your kids to find conkers. When my son came home from school talking about doing an art project with conkers, I figured I’d better get a handle on this. Apparently it’s the seed from a chestnut tree, and also a popular children’s game here. (I’m guessing Brits moving to the American Midwest probably end up googling “what’s cornhole” for a very similar reason!)

Will they sing God Save the King? Upon the birth of the Royal Baby, I got to wondering what happens to the national anthem when a man sits on the throne. Turns out, it will change to God Save the King, naturally. I’ve just never heard that version, given how long the Queen has been running the show.


What is Pudsey Bear? A few weeks ago, the whole country rallied around the charitable cause of Children in Need. There were school fundraisers, coffee mornings, and nationally televised telethons all to raise money for various children’s charities. My son’s nursery encouraged the kids to dress up like Pudsey Bear one morning. I had no idea who or what it was, but it is the charity’s mascot, pictured above. (Sort of like Smokey the Bear represents the prevention of forest fires in the U.S.)

Where is Wayne Rooney from? My husband and I are big sports fans, so we’ve tried to watch plenty of football matches (note that I’ve learned enough to know not to call it soccer!) Wayne Rooney is one of the most popular players here, and we were watching an interview with him after a match. We think it’s fun to try to distinguish the various accents you find around the UK and his was particularly unique. Turns out he’s from Liverpool.

How do I cook a frozen pork pie? I’ve had to research a lot of stuff about cooking since moving here. Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius, ounces to grams, etc. When we first moved here, someone gave us a pork pie as a gift. I didn’t want it to go bad, but I also didn’t really know what it was, so I put it in the freezer. Just the other day, I was scrambling to come up with something to make for dinner and saw it in the freezer. We now know all about pork pies and how delicious they are, but I didn’t have a clue as to how to turn it from the ice blob that it was into a tasty meal.

I can’t help but wonder what expats did before the invention of Google. It certainly makes my life easier on a daily basis, providing everything from postal codes to nearby parks so that I can find my way there, to figuring out which stores ship to the UK.


  1. avatarJennifer says

    :) Sixteen month-er here and I still Google a lot…..a new one to me the other day was “a puncher” which was my flat tire.

  2. avatarMinerva says

    Most people eat Pork Pies cold…as they would for a picnic or as part of a ‘cold table’ with pickles, cooked meats & salads……but a hot Pork Pie is a joy……the jelly (when cold) turns into runny, meaty, dribbly juices that run down your chin when you take a bite.
    Just don’t ever buy a dreadful factory-made Pork Pie from a Supermarket…………if it’s not a ‘Melton Mowbray Pork Pie’ it isn’t worthy of the name!

    Oh, & one small correction….’Conkers’ come from Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) trees, not to be confused with Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa), the fruit of which you can eat.

  3. avatarTbonetedh says

    I’ve been here two years, And still have to ask my Brit bride from time to time. I even got my UK drivers licence… And passed my life in the uk test… Wheee

  4. avatarFrancie says

    Ahem. His name is SMOKEY BEAR. NOT: Smokey “the” Bear. :( If you’re describing him, yes, you can say Smokey, the bear, to differentiate him from Smokey, the dog. LOOK IT UP.

  5. avatarMichele R says

    Nicole, what people did before Google was so ubiquitous, was join a FAWCO club like the American Women of Surrey. The clubs are indispensable for helping expats get along in their new home. And they have loads of fun things to do: monthly meetings, charity Christmas bazaars, interest groups (quilting and stitchery club got me loads of great friends), etc. It is very much worth it. I lived in the UK for 8 years and AWS was a huge help. I did have the added advantage of a British husband, but AWS saved my sanity. As for that conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius and other problems, check with the Great Little Trading Company or Lakeland (the kitchen store, not the leather goods store) for great conversion charts on a fridge magnet. Absolutely one of the best purchases I ever made and I still use it.

  6. avatar says

    It’s so funny-strange. I have NEVER heard it said “Smokey Bear” on TV or elsewhere. Only “Smokey the Bear.” Maybe it’s said differently in different states in the US?

  7. avatar says

    I had the same trouble when I moved to the USA. I thought they spoke English over here. This was years before any PC. I just asked someone. Got a lot of odd looks, especially when I asked ”why would someone sell their garage, and keep their house” guess you had the same reaction about a boot sale. Hope you enjoy living in the good old UK.

  8. avatar says

    When I left the UK in 1994 the temperature was always in farenheit so no problem here in the US. When I returned, a scant 5 years later, everyone seemed to have totally forgotten about farenheit. Which was bizarre because people STILL talk about things like old money and still use feet and inches and pounds and ounces.

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