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American people are some of the loveliest you’ll ever meet and make us expats feel all warm, cuddly and very welcome. But just occasionally they do or say something that we Brits find a tad… eccentric.
1. Saying “I love your accent!”
Before I moved here, I never imagined that my dreary London burr made me sound smart or lovable. At first the compliments were nice, but then a New York tiger mom asked me to talk to her snoozing two-year-old in the hope that it would rub off. A bit much, I thought.
2. Putting last names first
The fashion for inflicting quirky monikers on babies started with American parents giving their kids surnames as first names. Remember Sex and the City’s Smith? Absurd. Then last week at the launderette I got chatting to “Anderson.” Could not take him seriously.
3. They take your plate away too soon
Americans love to please, and nowhere is this more evident than in restaurants. If I want a side of pickled kitten lungs or a splash of spaniel milk in my coffee, then by God they’ll make it happen. On the flip side, over-eager waiters will whip away an individual diner’s plate the second it’s empty. In my case, that’s long before anyone else at the table has finished. And people are like, “Seriously, did you even chew?” No. No I did not.
4. The relentlessly sincere cheer
If I’m having a bad day, or a good day – make that any kind of day – I do not want people in shops whom I’ve never met to swaddle me with their sticky, earnest, exaggerated niceness. In America, actual humans say things like “Ma’am, you have been an awesome customer today,” just because I bought a box of tampons from their store.
5. Their overzealous patriotism
We get it, you’re proud to be an American. It’s not like Brits are immune to nationalism, but perhaps we’re better able to separate feeling glad (I was lucky enough to be born in a country with democracy and Kit Kats!) from feeling proud. Shouldn’t the second one be reserved for my actual achievements? Oh, and to your average Brit, hanging a giant flag from your house is a tiny bit creepy.
6. They treat their pets like people
Recently, at a flea market, I saw a woman pushing a buggy. Nothing strange about that, until I looked inside and noticed that her baby was a dog. One of those petulant micro-yappy types who thinks just because it’s short you should love it. I’ve also seen twin pugs out for a winter walk dressed in a full-body knitted suits and ties. And a friend of a friend’s cat is on Prozac.
7. Insisting that turkey is tasty
There’s a good reason why Brits only eat this galumphing fowl once a year, then bitch about it behind its carcass. No matter how many saltwater baths you give your bird, turkey meat is dry, insipid and stringy. Yet Americans put the powdery poultry in everything – from burgers and chili to meatballs and lasagna – and make it the culinary centerpiece of not one but two celebrations.
8. Spelling words the wrong way
I might as well pry the letter “u” from my keyboard for all the good it does me in over here. (But you know which letter made it big in America? “Z”! Only, they pronounce it wrong.) My point? Remembering to remove ‘u’s from words like “colour” and replace “s”s with a more abrasive “z” is a headache and I resent it. So there.
9. Pretentious pronunciation.
Americans, please note: saying “erb” instead of “herb” and pronouncing “fillet” without the “t” is not clever or sophisticated. You are not French. Make an actual socialist your president and then we’ll talk.
10. Saying “panties,” “fanny” and “bangs”
We’re all aware from watching Americans onscreen that these are the words for knickers, a bottom and a fringe. But when you live here, occasionally you’re forced to deploy these abominations in real life sentences. Only the other day, I said, “Can you trim my bangs, please?” I felt dirty afterwards. But “panties” is much worse, somehow infantilizing and oversexualizing ladies’ unmentionables. No word should do both these things.
What other American quirks make you want to scream? See also: 10 things BRITS do that drive Americans crazy
Writer Ruth Margolis will be discussing her piece this Friday (August 23) at 1 pm/et via @MindtheGap_BBCA on Twitter – tweet using #MindTheChat.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.