8 All-American Pastimes Brits Could Learn to Love

Check out your local bowling alley, there may be a league. (KU)

Check out your local bowling alley, there may be a league you can sign up for. (KU)

Once you’ve settled into your new American life, chances are you’ll want to indulge in some good, clean U.S.-style fun. Perhaps one of these will take your fancy.

1. Bowling
Fred Flintstone and The Dude (of Big Lebowski fame) aren’t the only Americans who like to bowl. An estimated 60 million don funny shoes and attempt to knock down pins at least once a year. The first public bowling alleys were built in New York City in the mid 1800s, and although the sport has declined in popularity since its 1950s/60s heyday, there are still around 6,000 centers operating in the U.S.

2. Baseball
Growing up in the U.S., you get your first taste of this cherished American sport as soon as you can close your tiny fist around a ball. But as an expat coming to it late, you don’t actually have to hold a baseball or anything else to get involved. It’s a massively respectable spectator sport. But be warned: it can be a bit of a snooze fest, with games very occasionally lasting over seven hours.

3. Football
Like with baseball, no one expects fans to actually play the game, unless of course you want to. Watching is just fine. And honestly, you don’t even have to do a very good job at that. Many Americans turn up to games for food and beer. Look closely at the crowds and you’ll see that a significant proportion of “fans” aren’t actually paying attention to anything further afield than the mustard stain on their shirt. For the uninitiated, American football boils down to two major types: College and Pro, which is dominated by the National Football League (NFL).

4. Couponing
Clipping discount vouchers, either online or from the booklets that will somehow find their way to your doormat even if you don’t remember signing up for anything, is a hugely popular and lucrative hobby in the U.S. If you know what you’re doing then you can reduce you grocery bill by hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year. Here’s a useful beginners’ guide.

5. Coaching Little League
Any Brit offering to teach children the intricacies of baseball may need to prove they know their stuff before the local moms and dads consider letting them loose on their winning offspring. But it’s a right of passage for sport-loving parents in America, so by all means put your name forward if you’re raising children here. But go in armed with everything you need to know. Start by reading this.

6. Cheerleading
When you think of cheerleading, you probably picture inappropriately attired teenage girls shaking pompoms and leaping about. It might surprise you to learn that the sport (some argue that it is one) started life as an all-male activity. Now, it’s on offer from middle school upwards, and both genders are usually welcome to participate. In fact, four U.S. presidents have been cheerleaders: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower and FDR.

7. Line dancing
Hardcore British fans of country music may have already tried their hand (or foot) at this back home, but line dancing is much more mainstream here. It first pinged on the public’s radar in 1992 when Billy Ray Cyrus released “Achy Breaky Heart”. Curiously, line dancing has European roots but as far as most Brits are concerned, it’s as American as pumpkin pie.

8. Hunting and fishing
When macho Americans want to bond and not wash for several days, they might go on a killing furry/scaly things spree. Whatever your thoughts on the morality of this, there’s no escaping that it’s the go-to escapist pastime for many alpha Americans. Plenty of women too, I might add.

What’s your favorite pastime? 

See More:
10 British Things About U.S. Cities
8 American Sports Idioms Brits Won’t Understand
Football vs. Soccer: A Translation Guide for Brits and Americans

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.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • gn

    I’ve never heard “couponing” described as a hobby before

  • noliving

    I have never understood #8 stereotype that it is people wanting to or even acting macho when going hunting. I have never met any hunter that acts macho during a hunt. I wonder where that stereotype comes from.

    • frozen01

      Probably depends on what your definition of “acting macho” is.

    • Jeff Buck

      Too many people hold the same stupid stereotype (largely fostered by that ugly plague called “Hollywood.” I’m an avid fisherman and I used to hunt (when my family had land). While I thoroughly enjoy(ed) the sports, I never felt the least bit “macho.” Sometimes pleased with the outcome but never macho. As far as hygiene goes, I’m probably cleaner than most brits.

  • frozen01

    #3: The reason why most people aren’t paying attention is probably because the only affordable seats are so far away that you can’t see what’s going on, anyways. Not to mention, the action stops so frequently (I think someone timed it and found that the ball is only in play for an average of 11 minutes each game) that actually following along can get a bit tedious after a while.
    Last time I was at a football game, we spent $70 each on preseason tickets, only to be sat so high up that we were afraid to leave our seats for fear that we would plummet to our deaths if we tripped, and the half-time “show” where they brought out a couple kids’ teams was more exciting than the actual game because they continued to play instead of stopping every 3 seconds to reset, take a timeout, or go to commercial. Not to mention, it was dead sweet… those kids were probably very excited to be playing in an actual professional stadium!)
    Much better to watch it on TV, because at least there are commentators to fill the gaps.

  • Blake

    What about Marching Bands? I heard y’all don’t have them. I’m on my high school drumline and I love every second of it. There’s about 200 people involved in my school.

  • Erik

    I’ve known men to go hunting for years without success – it seemed to be more about drinking and bonding.