It is common knowledge among regular readers of Mind the Gap that we Brits do like to reminisce about the things we miss from back home. However, there are perhaps just as many aspects of British life that—instead of filling our minds with longing—escape our minds entirely. It isn’t necessarily that these elements conjure up negative images in our heads; rather, it is often that they share no direct equivalent on this side of the Pond and—for better or worse—become almost obsolete from our daily lives. Here are eight aspects of British life I came to forget.
Separate hot and cold taps
There’s no getting around it—we all need water to survive. This, of course, means turning on the tap occasionally. However, as I recalled only recently, “taps” are often separate in Britain, with one tap pouring cold water and the other hot. I have become so utterly accustomed to American sinks, with hot and cold water mercifully pouring from one central faucet, that the plug was eventually pulled on any lasting memory I’d had of British taps. And speaking of plugs…
Plug socket switches
With a growing number of electrical devices beeping and bleeping their way across the landscape of the 21st century, plug sockets are another necessary—if not altogether glamorous—part of our daily lives. In the midst of casual conversation, my wife recently remarked that she loved the functionality of U.K. plug sockets, equipped (she insisted) with on/off switches. Bemused, I genuinely had to consult the Internet to see if these switches were a false addition to her memory or a failing of my own. Turns out it was very much the latter.
Perhaps owing to the convenience that comes with owning a washer/dryer set, the process of hang-drying clothes doesn’t seem as widely practiced in the U.S. As a result, and as someone who has little patience for laundry in general, I had forgotten that back gardens in Britain are quite often illuminated by the presence of clothes flapping in the wind.
Scraps from the chippy
A popular mainstay of British life is the chip shop—known mostly for selling fish ‘n’ chips. And while that particular food combination is actually readily available in the U.S., there is one free add-on that is not—scraps. For the uninitiated, scraps are just leftover bits of fried batter, typically served with chips (fries). Meanwhile, the very concept of scraps only re-entered my thoughts very recently, when a close friend from England made reference to them during an online conversation.
“Love” as an affectionate term
When you spend the better part of six years with few other Brits in your life, it is inevitable that one or two colloquialisms will eventually escape you. For me, this happened with the word “love,” used as a term of endearment (e.g. “How are you today, love?”). Americans replace this, of course, with the word “honey” or its shortened counterpart, “hun.”
While May 1, it turns out, is celebrated by some Americans, it is not recognized nearly on the same scale as in Great Britain, where it is not only a public bank holiday, but a celebration of springtime fertility. Over the years, I can barely recall hearing the term “May Day” emerge from the lips of my Indiana neighbors and, as such, I’d forgotten about its very existence ahead of writing this article.
Eggs—including those of the boiled variety—are certainly in no small supply in the U.S. However, the mere suggestion that these can be placed inside a specially-made cup and used as a dip for your bread soldiers (strips of bread) is usually met with bewilderment. Moreover, the scarcity of egg cups in U.S. grocery stores probably contributed most of all to their omission from my memory.
It might have something to do with the fact that I reside in an inland state, but after I had lived in the U.S. for several years, I somehow came to remember Britain as just London with some green hills dotted around it. I couldn’t help it. American depictions of Britain don’t exactly paint the country in a light different from this. However, after watching episodes of BBC AMERICA’s Broadchurch—set on England’s Southwest coast—all those childhood memories of devouring ice cream along idyllic British beaches came flooding back. So, by the way, did the name of that ice cream.
While Cadbury Flakes are anything but absent from my memory, the image of a 99 Flake ice cream had nonetheless failed to maintain a presence within my cerebral cortex. This might be due in no small part to the fact that—unlike various Cadbury bars—the 99 Flake is seldom recognized by Americans. For our U.S. readers, a 99 is simply a Cadbury Flake—a candy bar made with thinly folded layers of chocolate that gently “flake” off—protruding from the top of a soft-serve ice cream cone. Six years and an admittedly high number of Ben & Jerry’s later, it is only now that my craving for a 99 has resurfaced.