Britain has long held an attraction for me. As a small child I was “smitten with Britain,” after seeing Mary Poppins for the first time. Charming chimney sweeps, ancient cathedrals, Big Ben, high tea–all those famous icons said to me, “London’s calling.”
And I responded. At age 18 I boarded an airplane for the very first time, in Los Angeles, and flew to England. I had a blast chumming around London with other teens, getting around on the tube and double decker buses.
My new friends thought it was odd that I could drive a car, and got around in L.A. without public transportation. And, of course, I thought it was odd that they relied so heavily on it.
There were other things I thought were strange. I’ll save those for another article.
In the meantime, I ran across a list of things one Brit thinks are weird about America. It’s from the article, “20 Weird Things about America that Americans Don’t Realize Are Weird.”
I’ve picked 10 to refute. Maybe we do realize they’re weird, but we like them anyway! Or, they’re not weird. Watchoo talkin’ bout, Brit?
1. Price tags without tax. How do you know how much you are spending until you get to the cashier?
The British taxed our colonists, you know before the War of Independence. A little incident we like to call the Boston Tea Party comes to mind. Ever since then we’ve had a knack for displacing taxation, like burying it in fine print or lumping it into gasoline prices. All because we suffer from 18th century PTSD, post taxation stress disorder. But still we press on . . . our retail tax fluctuates. So, we do the math.
2. Tipping. It was incredibly hard for me to wrap my head around how much is appropriate for the service.
Another math problem. Let me help out. Tips, originally T.I.P.S. meaning To Insure Prompt Service, is somewhat subjective. But here’s a rule of thumb: If you never get your food, leave nothing. If the wait person is prompt, pleasant and polite (3 P’s) be generous (20% is the norm now). If the service was somewhere in between, you figure it out. It’s like an opinion you express with your money. We’re free thinking like that.
3. Aerosol cheese. Like seriously I would try it, but that s*it looks like cancer.
Um. Okay. I got nuthin’ to refute this one.
4. Your hidden love of pickles. I have been in the States for 8 years, and you guys have a pickle with everything.
First of all, it’s not a “hidden” love. We put pickles on our plates out in the open, right next to the sandwich and potato chips. Sometimes we eat them, sometimes we recognize them as a garnish. We exercise our option to eat the pickle or not. Another way of asserting our independence.
5. Portion Sizes.
What about them? Too small? Too big? I suspect you mean they are big. That’s why we invented the “doggie bag”. Food, it turns out, is transportable. You can eat some now, and take the rest home for later, to give to Rover, or let it sit in your gigantic double wide fridge until you eventually throw it out. It’s the American way.
6. Free flowing soft drinks and free refills.
Now you’re just jealous. And you forgot about ice. Yes, at the beverage stations in McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, etc. we can fill our cups with free flowing soft drinks AND ice. Ice is that frozen water that is so hard to come by in the UK and Europe. Ice is that elusive thing that Brits haven’t yet discovered the wonder of. It makes cold beverages better. And, again, we have the freedom to choose none, some or a lot. Gotta love that.
7. The sheer amount of commercials on television and their lack of quality.
Whoa, wait a minute. You can pick on our pickle fetish and free flowing soft drinks, but not television commercials. We have a love/hate relationship with our media advertising. We love the good ones (Superbowl widows will even come into the media room at half-time to watch the debut of commercials) but we reserve the right to DVR our shows and FF through the ads, if we want to. Here’s to American ingenuity and free choice.
Besides, commercials provide us with lines that become enduring American colloquialisms. We’ve adopted catch phrases like, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” “Where’s the beef?” and “Got milk?” We’ve got legendary jingles, and pop culture celebrities like Flo from Progressive, Gecko from Geico, and Mayhem, the recurring character for Allstate, and the “Can you hear me now” guy.
8. “Oh, really.” Most of the world interprets this as an indication of disbelief, when in reality it’s just Americans way of saying, “Interesting, can you elaborate.” One Italian was red in the face because for an hour he thought the Americans in the group were challenging everything he said.
Dear Brit, you’re mostly right on this one. But, there are times when ‘oh really’, does, in fact, mean “I doubt you know what the hell you’re talking about.” Stay in the states another 8 years, you’ll figure it out. Really. I mean it. You will.
9. Massive gaps in the stalls around toilets in public restrooms. You can put a man on the moon, but I can’t have a dump in comfortable privacy. Sort it out, America.
Oh, really? Massive gaps? Sort it out, America? First of all, most of us don’t want to see you taking a dump, so we don’t look. Secondly, you don’t have anything we haven’t already seen. So, unless you’re doing something illegal or immoral in there, relax. It’s not healthy to stress out when taking ‘a dump’.
10. Advertising prescription drugs. That was the weirdest for me. ” . . .ask your doctor for brand x antidepressants” type commercials. In the UK, your doctor tells you what drugs to take, not the other way around.
Here in the U.S. we believe in becoming educated consumers, as the saying goes “The more you know.” The more the average consumer knows what’s available, the more meaningful his discussion with his doctor will be. Oh, really? Yeah, right. More importantly, we like options. So, it makes sense that mega-rich pharmaceuticals should promote their products to the masses, educating us in 30 seconds about the benefits (5 seconds) and side effects (25 seconds) of their fool-proof medication. Besides, doctors don’t know everything; they need our help.
And there you have it, 10 Things Brits Think are Weird of Americans, but aren’t weird at all.
by T.M. Burroughs
Sign up to get alerts from Joe!