10 Adorable Things Americans Do (According to Brits)

When in doubt, bib it. (AMC)

These Mad Men aren’t above wearing bibs. (AMC)

It’s time to take a breather from telling you about all the American things we Brits think are weird, daft or amusing. Some of the stuff they do is just plain delightful.

1. Going out for dessert
Like wide-eyed Lost Boys, Americans live for the sweet stuff. And this means it’s perfectly fine to head to a restaurant and just order ice cream. Or, you might eat your main course somewhere, then move on to a venue that exclusively serves sweets. In the U.S., dessert is its own miraculous thing, and the star of any meal. You’ll never catch an American dismissively calling it “afters”.

2. Making pancakes that look like animals
Telly tells us this is how American parents spend their mornings, so it must be true. But preparing pancakes in the shape of beasts is a logical (and thoroughly cute) next move, after you’ve mastered entry-level roundish splats. If I do nothing else for my American daughter, I WILL get batter to sit in the shape of puppies, kittens and elephants.

3. Groundhog Day
America’s cutest weatherman is a rodent. On February 2nd, a celebrity groundhog emerges from its burrow. If it’s cloudy, then spring will come early. Apparently. If it’s sunny, it’s believed that the wary groundhog will see its shadow and head back inside. Consequently, the winter will last six more weeks. Most adorable folklore EVER.

4. Persisting with imperial measurements
Even though Congress endorsed the metric system back in 1866 and encourages its use in industry, most Americans have doggedly stuck to inches, feet, tons and ounces. The only place you’re likely to hear talk of “centimeters” is on a hospital maternity wing.

5. Pumpkin worship
For a country that cherishes beauty, it’s perplexing that a vegetable that looks like a satsuma’s gnarly, fat uncle is so cherished. But I say, gourd bless ‘em! Please America, carry on slipping the mighty pumpkin into every conceivable food and drink.

6. Being nice to everyone
Most Americans make it their business to be not just functionally polite but warm and welcoming, even in the face of a stranger’s surliness. Brits in particular can find this cloying, but take a moment to consider the alternative. If you have and you still prefer it, move to France.

7. Saying “happy holidays”
The first few times you hear an American utter this diluted, fuzzy greeting, it’ll feel funny and uncomfortably forced. But it’s coming from a good place. America is a multicultural, multi-religious society with a cluster of festivals falling in those end months. Okay, the idea that you might actually offend someone by accidentally wishing them a happy Christmas is faintly ridiculous. But setting out to make sure you definitely don’t upset anyone is not only adorable, it’s admirable.

8. Buying newspapers from a dispenser
So, you put you’re money in the machine, open the hatch and there are all the newspapers, just lying there in a tempting stack practically begging to be pinched. Yet the great big corporations that put them there have faith that you will walk away only with what you paid for. Totes adorbs, media moguls!

9. Antiquing
I love how shopping for second hand toot has acquired its own charming American verb. Next time you’re shuffling around a junk shop and accidentally inhale a musty cobweb as you can reach that colonial era porn mag, you can cutesy up the story of your day by opening with: “So, we were antiquing in Maine…”

10. Grown ups wear bibs to eat seafood
Cuteness-wise, this is the human equivalent of putting a wig on a dog. Yes, there’s an inherent sensibleness to covering up your clothes to eat food that splatters and stains, but it’s also delightfully undignified.

Do you have any additions to the list? 
8 Situations When Brits Behave Differently from Americans
10 Common British Expressions That Baffle Americans
What NOT to Do at Christmas: A Guide for Brits

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
  • andy

    Bake colossal amounts of Cookies for friends, neighbors and work colleagues. The fact they are called cookies is sweet itself, excuse the pun!

    • pathfinder_01

      .

      • Ked

        My family lived in North Yorkshire for 4 years. My English friends and neighbors thought it was so nice and thoughtful that I would deliver fresh baked cookies to them on Christmas Eve.
        On the same note we always loved getting a tin of Quality Street Candy in return from the neighbors. I sure do miss it!
        I’m bound and determined to live in North Yorkshire again one of these days!

  • Protocol417

    The dessert thing is very true. There are some absolutely amazing dessert shops here in the US that need to be experienced to be believed. I mean, the kind of desserts that are so good that the moment the first bite hits your lips you find yourself instinctually insisting that all your friends try it, because the amount of guilt that you would feel knowing their lives did not consist of this experience when you had the opportunity to rectify that would drive you crazy.

    I’ve also had my Floridian accent called adorable by Brits, by the way ;)

    • Andrew Pogue

      You have not lived tell you have had Coldstone Creamery Ice cream.

      • Jwb52z

        Combine that with a Krispy Kreme, which I don’t know for sure if it exists in the northern US, donut and you might just get a jolt of ecstasy combined with a sigh.

      • MeiTow

        I said this too until I had the ultimate pleasure of having ice cream made fresh from a small town dairy. That stuff will put any big chain ice cream store to shame.

        • Andrew Pogue

          cold stone is made daily in the shop. with fresh stuff I know cus I was the ice cream maker at one years ago.

    • Mady

      ^ So have I. And I just thought it was normal for everyone to go out for dessert.

  • grace

    i am american and i never do any of these things….

    • Sara

      Grace, do you always use metric measurements when baking and measuring things? How could you “never do any of these things”?

    • D. Young

      Thank you for making all Americans look stupid Grace. Capitalize your effing sentences, is it really too much to ask?

    • Mady

      You’ve never had pumpkin pie? Or used inches? Or gone out for ice cream? These are all pretty classic American things.

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

        I think some people are so eager to find the exception to the points in any post that they forget to read the piece as a whole. Same as when a sentence begins with “In general” or “For the most part”, there will always be someone who says “We never did it like that.” No, that’s why the author said “In general”.

  • James O’Neill

    True enough, I am trying to home brew a Pumpkin Porter! Pumpkin Ale is just not robust enough!

    Even Americans with birdcages NEVER take more than one newspaper!

    • Sara

      I used to find that so odd about the newspapers but then thought what I could possibly want with more than one newspaper at a time, so I guess it make sense to only take one. I read all my news online now anyway.:)

    • terentiaj63

      What many people, even in America, may not know, is that it isn’t a giant publishing corporation that stocks those dispensers. It is usually a kid-”the paper boy.” He pays for all those papers and then recoups the money. If they get stolen, the corporation doesn’t lose money, the kid does.

      • Andrew Pogue

        Kids don’t do the dispensers, they have huge vans that go around and do the dispensers. But Its normally an adult paper boy if that makes any since.

        • terentiaj63

          Probably true in large cities but in smaller towns, it is frequently kids. Or at least it used to be when my kids were younger. Now my grandson works for a single mom who has a driving route that includes senior citizen high rises and stores with dispensers. But the premise remains. It isn’t the big corporation that loses if people steal the papers, it’s the kid or the single mom.

  • James O’Neill

    P.S. re persisting with imperial measurements, when was the last time you ordered a half litre ale at the pub?

    • http://americaletter.blogspot.com/ Mark Smith

      I assume it was a reference to the differing size of pints in the US and UK (16 vs. 20 oz, I think).

      • dw

        Fluid ounces are also different.

        • http://americaletter.blogspot.com/ Mark Smith

          They are.

  • Andrew Pogue

    I don;t care about happy holidays or what you say….But it has ALWAYS bothered me that you brits say happy christmas, not Merry Christmas. Not sure why as I don’t even celebrate it.

  • Tony

    The last sentence of #7 is the stupidest statement I’ve read in probably over a year.

    • Jwb52z

      You really think that making sure you don’t offend people is stupid?

    • Allison

      It was the “totes adorbs” in #8 that did it for me.

  • MrsSpooky

    Speaking of animal shaped pancakes: A friend I was with in Tokyo got pancakes that were cut and stacked in the shape of a teddy bear head. It was almost too cute to eat even though it looked delicious. :)

  • dw

    The US uses “imperial measurements”?? Not for the fluid ounce, pint, and gallon, it doesn’t.

    • http://americaletter.blogspot.com/ Mark Smith

      The hysterical part is that they’re referred to as “English measurements” :-)

      • dw

        Hysterical — but also historical. They were used in England before the switch to the “imperial” measurements in the early nineteenth century.

        • http://americaletter.blogspot.com/ Mark Smith

          Oh very good :-) Yes, as I’m learning, many “weird American” words are just British words that fell out of favour on the right of the Pond.

  • dw

    My first December in the USA, I innocently wished a colleague a merry/happy Christmas. It turned out that she was Jewish (and mildly offended).

    I’ve never made that mistake again.

    • Angie Poole

      I don’t mind anybody wishing me a nice holiday I don’t observe. It’s a kind thing to say, regardless of what it represents, so I’m an American who thinks Happy Holidays is a wishy-washy non-committal way to coddle overly sensitive strangers. Wish me a happy whatever holiday you observe all year!

    • http://www.chicagocarless.com MikeDoyle

      Agreed. Many more Jews in America, especially major cities, than Brits will be used to from the UK. (I’m one of them!) And some people do feel very insulted if you assume they celebrate Christmas. I’m not one of those people, but it is in no way “faintly ridiculous” from an American perspective that you might insult someone. Especially in the workplace.

  • Messa

    Sorry to disappoint you, but as a born and bred American, I can’t count how many times I have innocently wished someone “Happy Holidays” only to have “It’s Merry CHRISTmas” screamed in my face by a religious nut job. Sadly, we have plenty of those here.

    • Eva Foster

      It’s not a religious nut, it’s people that are upset that they cannot celebrate their holiday openly, as was done for a long time, without being reminded they worship a fake “sky god.” Both sides are wrong in their judgmental attitude towards the other. The Christians are free to celebrate it, but only so long as it conforms to the Atheist desires, no public displays in cities, no Nativity scenes on court house lawns or any government areas. Christians cry fowl, the whole thing gets really annoying.

      • CCK

        I tell people “Happy Holidays” because I cannot tell from looking at you whether you are Christian, Jewish, Atheist or what. I have no idea what you celebrate by your physical appearance. If you are Christian, I am by default wishing you a Merry Christmas. If you don’t feel free to celebrate because I wish you a Happy Holiday instead of a Merry Christmas, that’s your problem, not mine.

        • Eva Foster

          Maybe you need to read my response again. I never said I was offended, I said both sides take it to far. And that the whole discussion about it gets annoying from both sides.

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  • sierria

    the problem is in public schools they only teach imperial

    • jadekitty

      Also, almost everything in life would have to change. The size of paper, 2x4s, baking measuring cups…it would be a really painful switch for the entire country. Likely not worth the effort.

      • John Schrader

        Such as 32F is freezing while 32C is decidedly not.

  • Mairéad Scully

    Hate to bust your bubble but pumpkin is a seasonal thing. Adding it to everything is a festive measure haha. As for measurements, most actually prefer the metric system for its convenience, but changing everything would be a huge hassle for everyone and cost a good amount of money.

    • Evan Conas R. Allen

      My only problem with your guys’ tendency to keep the imperial system because it’s easier than to change it is that teachers don’t start teaching both in school.. Like imperial is much more complicated to understand and that teach that. If they just brushed up on metric, especially in science classes, it would allow the transition to progress naturally.

  • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

    Ruth Margolis finds us ‘adorable.’ I can finally sleep at night.

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  • Julie

    I was raised to be nice to everyone by my parents I don’t think it has anything to do with me being an American. I treat people the way I want to be treated,karma folks.

  • :)

    I never thought to take more than one newspaper! You just don’t do that. Number 9 though, first I thought they meant antiquing as in throwing a bag of flour all over an unsuspecting friend lol.

  • Kim

    One of the things I love about my country is how genuinely polite strangers are to each other. It’s really great :)

  • Kbittleston

    I can’t decide if this journalist is being sincere or if this is the standard dripping-with-sarcasm description I often hear from the British when talking about my country.
    Either way…bless her heart!

  • Heinz57

    My parents are true yankees (PA/NJ), I was born in Montana, raised in southern CA and later CT. Joined the military and lived several years in VA and TX. I now live in PA and I agree with 9 of the 10 as being norms in America, but the pancake shaped like animals one, I think is unusual.

    I think our overall tolerance of different beliefs is great, but there is a huge media backed movement to minimize Christianity to extremes.

    • MeiTow

      My mom used to make us teddy bear pancakes every once in awhile. I agree, it was a treat, however, as they are hard/annoying to do. lol

  • Barry

    The groundhog thing is very weird. The first I heard about it (before the movie) was the day after I landed in the US for the first time. Still jet lagged I turn on CNN to their piece about the groundhog. No context, no explanation, you’re expected to know about this. It made no sense whatsoever, made me think my brains were even more scrambled than I realised.

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