Dispatches From The South – Ten Things I Miss About the USA Living in Britain

I have just passed my eight-year anniversary. On February 28th 2002, I left the US with no home, no job and a new appreciation for what it means to be homeless—as if most homeless people are flying off to Europe on a trans-Atlantic jet. My fiancée’s parents took me in, so I didn’t actually have to sleep on the street, and things began to look up after that.

Now on the cusp of my ninth year in the United Kingdom, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look back and see just how anglicized I’ve become. While I do speak the language (I’ve been bi-lingual for several years) I have not developed an accent. And although I have readily adopted many of the customs of my new homeland and its people, there are a number of things I still cling to, and an equal number of things I simply cannot get the hang of no matter how hard I try.

Here is my Top Ten List of Things I Still Cling To:

1. My flag: I had an American flag flying from every place I lived in the States and I see no reason not to have one here. My only concession is, now that I am a dual citizen, I put up the Union Flag on Remembrance Day and replace it with the American flag on Memorial Day. My neighbors think I’m a nutter.

2. The “H” thing: Sorry, but it’s “urb” not “herb.” Herb is short for Herbert. And besides, it drives my wife potty, like when I say “a LUM in um” instead of “al you MIN i um.”

3. The “Z” thing: Whenever possible, I use the letter “Z.” For instance, instead of referring to “Company ABC…,” I always say “Company XY ZEEEEE,” just to let them know they’re saying it wrong.

4. Coffee: I brought a thermal pint coffee mug over from America with me. I still use it.

5. Thanksgiving: if you’re an American, it’s in your genes; you must celebrate.

6. Rinsing the dishes: I know this tradition of leaving soapy dishes in the dish drainer is becoming out-dated, but many people—my wife included—still subscribe to this habit. To an American, it is just wrong. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! Consequently, I do the dishes.





7. Fruit of the Loom underwear and white tube socks: Just before I moved overseas, I went to Sam’s Club and bought a bale of each. I still have them. Here’s why:

US Undies

US Undies, After Eight Years

UK Pants

UK Pants, After Eight Months

8. Ketchup: The universal condiment; it goes on everything, except French toast.

9. Expecting good customer service: If we go into a restaurant and no one comes to take our order in the first ten minutes, I’m ready to walk out. This thoroughly embarrasses my wife who, like most British people, has an overdeveloped cringe gland.

10. Driving on the right: I still drive on the right side of the road, as God intended. It keeps my passengers alert and the looks on the faces of the people in the oncoming traffic are priceless. (Note to the serious minded: I’m just kidding.)

Next up: Things I Still Can’t Deal With


  1. avatar says

    The dishes thing drives me crazy too! When they aren’t rinsed the dishes taste like soap and rinsing off the soap ensures that bits of food, bacteria and other undesirables are also rinsed off. I have seen Aggie MacKenzie correct people on this very thing on “How Clean Is Your House?” before, so at least I know its not a cultural difference and actually a widespread very bad habit.

  2. avatar says

    Congrats on your anniversary. I am the opposite. A brit who has been in USA for 8 years. Your post made me laugh – these are the things I argue about with my American husband – thanks.

  3. avatarpriscilla says

    Sorry but it is herb! in the English langauge the ‘h’ is pronounced [ uness you're a cockney in which case it never is!] as is the ‘t’ in fillet!! and [many Brits get this one wrong too] valet with a ‘t’

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