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Let’s be honest, Brits on holiday can be a little bit dreadful. Alas, we’re often not much better when we’re living in another country, stubbornly refusing to bow down to the local customs and quirks. Here’s how we disgrace ourselves in the U.S.
We moan about tipping
Even Brits who’ve been in the U.S. for years can’t get their heads around how much American wait staff expect in gratuity. It’s like they think they’re tipping one percenters – not, as is more often the case, some poor kid who’s considering eBaying their body parts to pay for college. And so we don’t put down enough, or we complain about it at volume. Sometimes both.
Our understanding of the American Dream is this: so long as you’re on U.S. soil, you can eat what you like and somehow still have the thighs of a cheerleader. This is why normally health-conscious Brits ditch their food rules as soon as they land in the U.S. and start inhaling burgers. It’s a manageable lapse if you’re on holiday for a fortnight but rather more problematic if you’re planning to live here. Generally, it’s around the one-year mark that we notice none of the trousers we arrived with do up.
We refuse to use the American words for things
Just because some Americans think it’s fun and exotic to say “loo,” it doesn’t mean expats can bandy about British vernacular in the U.S. without raising eyebrows — and hackles. Still, many Brits persist. We invented the language, they say, so Americans need to accommodate our “correct” terminology and phrasing. While it’s understandable that most of us don’t want to give up our native accent, I’m afraid learning new words and applying them correctly is part of the deal when you emigrate.
We buy expensive British things
On a trip to a local British-themed shop a while ago, I impulse bought a box of suet for roughly nine times the price it would have been in Sainsbury’s. This, despite the fact that I’m not entirely sure what suet is for, once it’s finished coating the kidneys of farmyard animals. Still, I had to have it. Two years later, it’s nearly out of date and living out its golden years behind some stale walnuts.
We neglect to arrange health cover
Whether it’s travel insurance for a short-term stay or a proper American healthcare plan, a scary number of Brits think nothing of rocking up with no coverage in place. It’s on the to-do list somewhere south of “rent a flat” and “learn how to make pumpkin pie.” There are not enough column inches on the Internet for me to adequately express how stupid this is.
We “forget” to carry ID
If you look like you could be under 30 then you will most likely be asked to show identification, either when buying drinks or before you’re admitted to an establishment that sells alcohol. Still, many Brits purposefully leave their ID at home preferring to lock horns with doormen and bar staff, who almost definitely won’t back down because they could lose their job. Believe me when I say, you are the douchebag in this scenario.
We think we can walk everywhere
British cities, towns and villages were designed with pedestrians in mind; America’s not so much. But visiting and expat Brits refuse to accept that they can’t head out for a stroll so can often be seen determinedly plodding where no sensible American has ever plodded — like along the side of a five-lane freeway.
We underestimate how long it will take to get anywhere
Because you can drive from one end of the U.K. to the other in under a day, Brits assume this is the case wherever they are. It takes years to rework your geographical expectations to fit a massive slab of country like America. I’ve been here 28 months and still find myself telling friends visiting Chicago that they can easily “pop” over to Brooklyn. Funnily enough, while Brits would bristle at a mammoth road trip between two cities in the same country, Americans think nothing of driving 12 hours for a weekend away.
What silly mistakes do Brits make when they travel or live abroad? Tell us below:
See more posts by 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.