5 Clues That You’re Becoming Americanized, Brits

(BBB)

Is there a such thing as elevator etiquette? (BBB)

Brits may claim that their accents haven’t changed, mine hasn’t after more than twenty years here (see what I mean?) but there’s no doubt that, after a while, Americanisms seep in all the same. From the ever-so-slight rhotic R to the “Have a nice day”, we all succumb to some degree.

1. Talking at a raised decibel level.
Many Brits quickly notice that the average conversation in the U.S. tends to be fairly loud, but how many of us eventually find ourselves projecting too? Although “I’m standing right next to you” is second only to “Because I said so” in my lexicon of parental guidance, I must confess that I can often unwittingly match the kids in volume. When I’m back in Blighty, I’m accused of shouting at least once a week; I suspect that’s because my detractors are desperate for any signs of Americanization though.

2. Taking a child-like delight in Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day. 
Guilty, although in my defense I have a small child and we are having his friends round this Halloween. Even so, the house looks like a set for a semi-scary movie. It’s also excusable to get into the spirit of Valentine’s day as a parent because many schools have a class celebration and children are encouraged to bring treats or cheap cards for their friends. As a sometime crafter, I might have been known to put together twenty red net favor bags full of Hersheys kisses for pre-schoolers. I draw the line at seasonal Christmas wear though.

Even Bridget Jones wore hers begrudgingly. (SSA)

3. Saying “holidays” for Thanksgiving and Xmas, and “vacation” for holidays.
“What are you doing for the holidays” in the U.S. isn’t a question about your plans for next summer, it refers to either Thanksgiving or Christmas, depending on when it’s spoken. “Holiday weekend” refers to what Brits might call a “bank holiday” although naturally they’re not the same. Here, the biggest ones are Presidents’ Day  (February), Independence Day (July 4th), Memorial Day (May) and Labor Day (September); all but July 4th  always fall on a Monday, making for nice long weekends.

4. Chatting to complete strangers.
Hailing from the North East of England, where you can hear about the aches and pains of your fellow bus passengers within five minutes, I’m not fazed when addressed by complete strangers, but I hear many Brits comment on how often this happens in the U.S. And it’s true, it’s almost rude not to speak to the only other person in an elevator. I forget how American this is until I do it to unsuspecting Brits, including British tourists in the U.S. On a recent trip to Legoland in California, my ten year old and I were guesstimating the wait for one ride; the English kids standing behind us were, we believed, grossly over-estimating and worrying unnecessarily, so I turned to them and, with a big smile (and an English accent) said, “Oh it can’t be more than fifteen minutes I’m sure.” You’d have thought I’d asked them if they’d like to come with me to see some puppies! They literally fled to find their mother, who returned, clearly rankled by the stranger danger.

5. Rinsing dishes. 
It’s true. I’ve crossed the cultural divide; when hand-washing dishes, I run them under cold water to get rid of the suds. I even do it at my mother’s in the U.K. and she only has one sink. (By pouring water over the dishes when they’re in the dish rack, in case you’re wondering.) So sue me!

Do you have any additions to the list?

See More: 
10 American Habits Brits Will Never Understand 
10 Things American Do That Drive Brits Nuts
Five Things American Women Should Know About British Men

Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a Brit who has lived in the USA since 1990. She currently lives in Chicago with her husband and children and writes about US/UK matters when not putting out domestic fires. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom, (St. Martin's Press). She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV explaining British things to Americans.

See more posts by Toni Hargis
  • James Barnwell

    Interesting? When You english move here to live, What are you expecting? I had a english neighbor who worked very very hard to not become americanized. When i first met his wife, she was in the front yard,and very loudly swearing in british english at my country, my state and my fellow americans! When i defended my country she almost became violent! So I guess #1 would fit her like a glove!
    As for #3 they were interested in the Thanksgiving Holiday both as celebrated in Canada and USA. Of course this also brought out Mr.Blands sence of humor! Since i was 14 y/o at the time,his humor went over my head and i caught on years later,lol! Interestingly his wife didnt find what he said amusing, as as i was on their front porch.(returning Mrs blands pistol) i overheard their “row” and didnt understand what he said to me that made his wife so angry! This couple was a wonderful example of the best of england!

    • Always a stranger

      James Barnwell, it’s challenging to get your point across, or to be taken seriously, when your command of the written English language is so awful..

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      ???????

    • Guest

      how do you delete?

  • Guy Montag

    “It’s also excusable to get into the spirit of Valentine’s day as a parent.”. Er, no, it isn’t.

  • rallybug

    Huh, my (American) wife has taught me to rinse the dishes in hot water, not cold.

  • Serena Franchini

    i thought everyone rinsed dishes?!

    • Michele Johnston

      Yeah, I thought the desire not to have soap-seasoned food was universal…. ?:-)

  • Brett

    If you dont rinse the dishes the soap will give you the trots.

  • katty kleo

    Regarding the openly chatting to strangers part in the U.S., it depends a lot on the situation, what part of the country you come from, and the ages and genders of the people involved. It’s not always the same when you have two adults speaking to each other versus an adult to a child, or even a man and a woman speaking with each other. “Stranger danger” is actually embedded pretty deeply in the American consciousness. And it’s definitely sexist. As a child and especially a female, you are essentially taught to distrust men far more than women. For example, I’m a young woman, and when I’m standing alone on a street corner and a strange man pulls over to the curb to ask me directions, I don’t like this at all. I still answer and try to be nice, but I’m definitely wary and a little standoffish. But if it’s a woman who pulls up, I usually feel more comfortable and open. Kids, and really adults as well, in big cities are taught to be pretty wary and distrusting whenever they’re alone in public. But kids from towns in the Midwest, say… not so much. But yeah, in an elevator in a busy building in the middle of the day, or in a line for a ride with moms and dads of other kids, people will generally be more open and trusting. When Americans do have a good feeling about a situation and the people around them, I admit we have a compulsion to have a bright conversation. For me personally, having a bright conversation spreads goodwill and gratitude to the other person for being, at least, a seemingly good egg. I really appreciate the good eggs, because I know the world has a lot of bad ones.

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  • nj mom

    The one thing I missed most about America when I was in Britain was the way no one has any interest in speaking with you randomly. I love random social interactions with complete strangers. You never know who you both know, or you might make a friend, or hear a great story. I felt a bit lonely. Sitting in a park once, I saw a British mom with her baby. I commented that her daughter was beautiful. The woman looked at me like I was trying to make off with the kid. When I came home the US customs agent said to me “Welcome home, we missed you while you were gone. Things weren’t the same”. Strange sounding to a Brit maybe, but it was heaven to me.

    • vegemighty

      What a terrific customs agent. Never met one that cool.