10 Ways for Brits to Integrate Into America More Quickly

Keeping up with the news. (Photo via AP)

Get down with the lingo, befriend some locals and read a paper: these are just some of the tricks that will help ease your U.S. assimilation.

1. Learn how baseball and “football” work
Being able to hold your own in conversations about the sports Americans hold dear will make you feel like less of an interloper. But avoid saying stuff like “Football is just rugby for wimps”, which will have the opposite effect. 

2. Use the American words for things
Calling aubergines “eggplants” and rocket “arugula” will make your interactions with shop assistants smoother, plus you might actually find it fun. I do, however, draw the line at “poop”. Presumably, whoever pioneered this linguistic horror was trying to make good old British “poo” sound cuter by turning it into a palindrome.

3. Make friends with Americans
When you settle abroad, the comforting, safe option is to surround yourself with other expats – and there’s no harm in this. But it will serve you better long term to let a few locals into your inner circle. At least Americans won’t bugger off back to Blighty once their contract is up, leaving you friendless and sobbing.

4. Watch and listen to the news
As painful as it may be, because U.S. news shows are either witheringly dull or patronizing and partisan, paying attention to domestic current affairs will make you feel more grounded and attuned to your adopted nation.

5. Read American newspapers and magazines
If you can afford it, go the old fashioned route and have one delivered to your house everyday, or at weekends. The ritual will help you acclimatize and you’ll learn something, even if you only read the cartoons.

6. Add some local dishes to your repertoire
Whipping up a jambalaya or a pumpkin pie (with canned pumpkin, naturally) from a U.S. recipe (i.e. one that uses cups instead of weight) will make you feel like a real American.

7. Meet your neighbors
Expat integration is as much about feeling like you belong in a new neighborhood as a new country. So join local groups and get to know the folks next door. You could even go full on American and hand-deliver a casserole every time someone new moves onto your block. Of course, in some edgy urban areas this might arouse more suspicion than thanks.

8. Celebrate American holidays
Pack a picnic for the Fourth of July, cut a face in a pumpkin for Halloween and pre-order a turkey (however much you prefer other tastier meats) for Thanksgiving. Hell, even pledge to not wear white after Labor Day.  That’s what proper Americans do, right?

9. Let your natural accent wane
If you’re really serious about assimilating, practice softening your hard vocal edges and let your British “t”s morph into Yankee “d”s. This will mean no more having to repeat yourself 15 times every time you ask for water (“wadder) or butter (“budder”) in a restaurant.

10. Find things to love about your adopted homeland
There will be days when homesickness bites and you won’t be able to hide your (temporary) hatred of everything American. And in a land that’s cherished by its people unconditionally, you risk standing out like Mr. Spock at convention for people with small ears. When these feelings hit, make a list of everything you admire about your new territory: from moon pies to 24 hour shopping.

How’s your transition into American life going?

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis
  • dw

    “U.S. news shows are either witheringly dull or patronizing and partisan”

    Those words better describe this blog.

    Please drop the increasingly inane and inaccurate top-10 lists. How about some stuff that is actually true and useful?

  • Liz

    Why so hateful? We have come to embrace and love almost all things British and you just keep insulting us. This isn’t even good dry British humour; you just got mean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chidodi Lizzie Lovey

    You don’t have to know about football or basketball I’ve lived here my whole life and still don’t get either

    • JamesKelso

      All you really need to know is, Don’t interrupt the game.

    • Matt R

      Typically the rule is don’t talk unless it’s a commercial.
      And American Football is definitely rugby for wimps.

  • Doctor Who fan 76

    I’m american an I find this amusing but entirely unnecessary. I would’t change for someones country so why would someone have to change for ours and Budder sounds ignorant. Its Butter.

    • Doctor Who fan 76

      and* typo sorry.

    • JamesKelso

      If yer fae Scotland, It’s Butterrrrrrr

  • Pat

    This is all rather patronizing. And there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I miss about England – the smallmindedness exhibited in this blogpost is a big part of the reason I left in the first place. The good parts of Britain (BBC News, BBC World Service) are widely broadcast on NPR and PBS.

  • Randy

    I do find that a lot of these lists have an undercurrent of dislike for America and/or Americans. Oh, and you would have a newspaper delivered *on* the weekend, not at it.

    And I’m sure you’ll get a tee hee at my name too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Williams/100000299977270 Jessica Williams

    Football and basketball ARE played by wimps. Now “hockey” is a sport played by REAL men.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sstatom Sandy Statom

    The best thing about this country is that we embrace everyone from everywhere. I wouldn’t want someone from another country to change to fit in better. All the things you talk about will come naturally or it won’t, it just doesn’t matter. As long as you are friendly, Americans will be friendly back. Its that simple to fit in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.whittles Paul Whittles

    Don’t be a supercilious, patronising ass with a superiority complex? I found I integrated into So. Cal society from Northern England just fine following this one simple rule. oh, and btw, the reason Americans can’t understand the British pronunciation of ‘ water’ is not because of the ‘t’ rather than ‘d’, but because (unlike the British) Americans pronounce the terminal ‘r’. HTH!

  • http://twitter.com/ShadowSeeker ShadowSeeker

    Uh really? First off, half the people who watch baseball and American football don’t know anything ABOUT the sports. It would have made more sense to tell someone to pick a team, know the history and never waver. Loyalty is more important. Second of all, getting rid of your accent is pointless, stupid and well just stupid. Why? Well, here’s the thing. Americans aren’t as simple as this thing wants you to believe. We do know what you’re saying even with an accent. Might it take a minute to figure out? It might…. but that depends on where you are. If you’re used to hearing English spoken with an accent (if you live in a big city, chances are that you have this one down pat.) you’ll pick it up rather quickly, if you’re in or from a small town and not exposed to it, yeah probably harder for you. There’s not reason to lose the accent to make it easier. In case you didn’t know, Americans speak “English” too. The only thing that even remotely might be useful is to think of the difference in what we call certain things. Mostly because some of the differences, we’ve just never heard of. Yeah, most wouldn’t put it together that eggplant was an aubergine. Probably because that’s a color (or some “foreign” word to the under-educated) and don’t stop to think what color it is and why it is and make the connection. Arugula…. even I don’t understand the rocket connection. Then again we do recognize some of the most common differences. We have television and the Internet you know. We are lucky enough to see plenty of British film and programs here. We get it. Seriously… we do. Also on the accent thing? Americans like British accents (even if we can’t tell the difference between Scottish, Welsh or English) and that might actually help you make these American friends this thing talk about. We like them a lot actually.

    Mostly, this is just a pointless, not so veiled sardonic piece of crap writing. I wish I could laugh at it, but it’s not even witty and certainly not original in observation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mary.somers.5 Mary Somers

      I wouldn’t have had a clue what an ‘
      aubergine’ was. However, tell me it’s produce, purplish, about ‘this’ big and I’m sure we could figure it out! Be willing to help me figure out the terms you use and we’ll all be happy campers!

      • http://www.facebook.com/beesonthenet Geoff Kipps-Bolton

        The strange thing is that if say the American ‘tomaito’, ‘budda’ or ‘wadda’ in England, you might get a funny look but they won’t misunderstand. If you say tomato, water or butter with an English pronunciation you’ll probably get blank stares.

        (I’ve been here since 1998, I still have my Surrey English accent, but I use American words and pronunciation) I sometimes get ribbed about it, but I take the stance that if it’s English, and I say it, that makes it correct! :-)

        And I try not to be a pillock!

    • http://twitter.com/gladleynet Gillian Ladley

      To be fair, even though Americans and Brits alike speak English, there are plenty of turns of phrases and words that are SO different and it can cause confusion. When my mother-in-law asked if I wanted to get some ‘proders’ with her I said yes, why not, and only found out when we got to the market she meant ‘produce’ or what I would call groceries.

      Don’t even get me started on the time I had to convince my US husband that tea was a meal and not just a drink.

  • Revolution

    I don’t really feel that great about being an American after reading this poo. We threw the the Brits out once before. Maybe it’s time we do it again!

  • Chad

    As an American, I disagree with much of this post, except for the football bit. Rugby is unquestionably more intense and interesting than our ‘football’ (a game in which the ball rarely touches anyone’s foot). You’ll miss the obsession with ACTUAL football (call it soccer while you’re here to avoid confusion), but you can always get tickets to see your beloved Beckham play, albeit in a smaller venue with smaller, less enthusiastic crowds.

    I certainly don’t cherish my country unconditionally, nor do most thoughtful Americans. I find that the sort of Americans who say ‘America is the greatest country on earth’ are those who have never travelled outside our borders. The rest of us – particularly those of us from the northeast and west coast – remember things like Vietnam, segregation, killing off most of the Native Americans and interning the rest, slavery, the Iraq war, etc, too well to believe we are infallible. For the most part, mindless nationalism is more common in the south and midwest than in the more urbane, cosmopolitan areas in the northeast and west coast.

    Our news networks leave much to be desired, but it is easy to find a good balance: I get my daily dose of news from the BBC both online and on the daily PBS (Public Broadcast Service) broadcast, and if a specific event interests me enough, I turn to our most nonpartisan network, CNN. For print journalism, the New York Times is as reputable, intelligent, and well written as any paper in the world.

    As far as accents go, I think it would be a mistake to try to lose your British accent as quickly as possible. To American ears, a British accent (Dickensian Cockney accents notwithstanding) sounds intelligent, refined, and well-informed, if a bit stuffy at times. Advertisers in the US have taken advantage of this fact for many years, and so should you.

    Regarding food, globalization has made many American dishes familiar to diners around the world, and brought foreign dishes to American tables as well. The only British foods you’ll have trouble finding here are those which are increasingly difficult to find in the UK as well – a decent pub here will carry your standard sausage and mash, but don’t expect to encounter anything as horrid and old-school British as a jellied eel pie (does anyone still find that appealing?). Unfortunately, if you want the horrorshow that is a full fried English breakfast (how can anyone eat baked beans first thing in the morning?), you’ll have to make it yourself. There are plenty of online shops, and in places like NYC, actual stores, which carry British staples, such as rashers (our bacon is very different from yours, but equally delicious) and familiar brands of candy and other snack foods.

    I would condense this list to a list of simpler differences, mostly relating to the “Two nations divided by a common language” (and the Atlantic Ocean, as Eddie Izzard points out) phenomenon. We have trucks, not lorries; carriages/strollers, not prams; highways, not motorways. Chips are fries and crisps are chips; biscuits are cookies, and our biscuits are something like a savory, unsweetened scone.

    In short, I think British expats will find the US to be more familiar than alien. You’ll also benefit from the fact that in spite of our tendency to distrust and/or mock most of the outside world, we cherish our ‘special relationship’ with the UK. Despite the squabbles our nations had in the 18th and 19th centuries, we still see ourselves as Britain’s children, now grown up, out of the family home and living on our own, but with enduring bonds of familial affection.

    • Terri Dullnig

      Well said, Chad. I would add a caveat as an appeal to my fellow Americans who travel in Britain: be aware that the British are as passionate about their history and culture as we are about ours. If you take the time, trouble, and expense to travel to Britain, be respectful, please.
      As an American who has spent time in Britain, I have been so embarrassed — no, appalled — at the rude comments I have witnessed other American travelers make to well-meaning British docents and guides. British history is not boring, and British culture is not to be measured by the U.S. as a standard. Be nice. Be kind and respectful. Be interested in our unique, stimulating differences, and appreciate our comforting similarities.
      Otherwise, stay home, visit Mt. Rushmore, and glory in your ethnocentrism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissapaganoleech Melissa Pagano Leech

    I make my pumpkin pie with fresh roasted pumpkin but I forgot … you hate america and LOVE sterotypes!

  • Lindsay

    …I’m an American and don’t have the foggiest notion about baseball or ‘football,’ (Ice Hockey however…) In addition, I wholeheartedly agree that Rugby is more both more intense and interesting!

    I’m not certain who came up with these rules, but honestly, just be yourself. There isn’t a science to fitting in and there isn’t a need to become like us so we’ll like you. Simply remember that you’re in a different country and we may do things a bit outside of what you’re used to- Integration isn’t necessary! I’m from the small town mid west (Kansas) and even out here where meeting someone from another country isn’t an every day occurrence while towing a boat to the lake to fish is we are still accepting and respectful no matter who you are.
    In addition, unless you’re into high fashion, no one cares about wearing white after labor day!

  • Lynanne

    Simmer down, fellow Americans, a few jokes at our expense won’t kill you. I’m from the Southern United States and I know that I’ve made several jokes about Brits. Every time I read a “Mind the Gap” blog it makes me laugh because most of it is true — it’s tit for tat, y’know?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenmguidry Jennifer M Lefering

    #4 is mostly truth… but get your news from other nations, or you’ll have nothing but lies and misinformation. As for #9, a big NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love accents!! Most people do. If my company expands to Europe, I am going if they let me. And to be sure, I will “adapt” to local custom, but I won’t lose what makes me ME. If you come to the States, please do not lose what makes you YOU.

  • NE Rex Fanatic

    As an American…ok, ok; a U.S. citizen, I loved the list. I do find it telling when people criticize football/baseball who don’t like/DON’T WATCH them. The same is true of cars! We watch Top Gear in the U.S. not only because it’s fun, but Brits seem more able to poke fun at their PC predilections than many of our BBC lov’n über-liberal sect.
    In the U.S., if you are honest, neighborly, and true to yourself, we are far more likely to show you respect; leave being LIKED to the politicians/pandering class!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chig.foley Chig Foley

    RV (caravan) around the country and eat in Diners and Truck stops often

    .

  • Jess

    This entire article is unture. I’m a born American that has lived in every region of the country and I can tell you that you should just be yourself. Also, don’t force yourself to lose your accent, most American love it. Remember that this country is made up entirely of immigrants.

    • YMF

      Well. Not ENTIRELY of immigrants…

      • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.spencer.1671 Sarah Spencer

        Ditto. I’m Native American. We still exist.

  • seattlemariner

    I’m an American who lived near Beaconsfield for a few years. The reverse is true, we used British terms, spelled the British way (tyre, theatre, ..it took me months to revert back to American spelling) ate British food (loved it), watched British shows (River Cottage is one of our favorites), and hung out with British friends…and only one expat family. One word of warning if you do this, we quickly became native and when we moved back the US we found it very difficult because we embraced everything British.

  • CaptFishy

    It’s not just US broadcasts that are patronising it seems. Looks like the standard of British journalism on the BBC is twindling, or is Ms Margolis on some sort of work experience ticket ?

    • CaptFishy

      or even * dwindling *

  • Susan C.

    I am an american and I hate sports of all kind (ok I like soccer/football). And I may be biased as my husband is a Brit but it’s not that difficult to understand the difference between Wah-tah and Wad-der. I have people asking my husband to repeat things so many times that he lets me speak for him sometimes. It’s really irritating to me that people do not understand his accent. He has a non regional English accent. Cmon! Really?? And with the whole hunger games thing more and more people don’t even take the time to realize he said Peter not Peeta…arghh..

    • Susan

      It really depends where we are. Some places barely notice it. Some ask him to speak just because they love his accent. Some people ask him to repeat things over and over again like he’s speaking another language.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1134731394 Timothy Ace Holleran

    I am enjoying this series greatly. I’m an American who’s never been to Britain. I believe to truly understand our country, one should learn more about the three B’s: blues, barbecue and baseball.

  • Ari

    Oh, and another thing- if you like sci-fi, look for American Whovians. We’re everywhere, and if you will coach us in British accents/slang, we will instantly love you. :D