10 Things Americans Love About Living in BritainAugust 31, 2012
Like many true Anglophiles, my eyes light up at just the thought of making a visit to the U.K. I adore being abroad; anything is possible. While every day may bring a new adventure when living in Britain, here’s a list of the most common things Americans fall in love with, almost as soon as we get there:
Yes, yes, British accents are charming, singsongy and feel like cotton candy for your ears. The dullest story sounds lovely. The thickest person sounds brilliant. At the same time, American accents are just as attractive to our counterparts. You definitely feel special. It’s almost as if you don’t have to try so hard. Just being American makes you stand out and draw people in.
What’s PLU? Well, “People Like Us” of course. Brits are misconstrued as stuffy but really are a welcoming crowd. The term PLU sort of means, “Hey, we like you! Do you want to hang out with us?” It's been my experience to suggest a weekend visit and be invited to stay for a few weeks. Even if you're not an official house guest, your dance card will be filled every night.
Brits don't really take compliments well. They may give you a shy, wobbly smile back. In the same vein, Brits aren’t known to freely give out compliments. In the U.K., if a compliment does make it your way, you will then know it is genuine. A simple “thank you” will suffice rather than going into an elaborate story.
Aw, dry wit. It just wouldn’t be GB if everyone was on their best behavior. You will surely get into some fun banter sessions, and you’ll be required to be quick on your feet to keep up. If for some reason it turns sour you’re likely to hear, “Aw, mate, just taking the piss!” Which in American terms translates into, “No hard feelings, I was just joking around with you.”
The U.S. has a rich, diverse history, but we are a fairly young country compared to GB. The people of the U.K. are extremely proud of their centuries-long history and happy to share with you their stories. Of course, the magnificent museums hold plenty of stories of their own which you can move through at your own pace. The stellar architecture – ranging from Roman ruins to 5th century cathedrals to row houses on cobblestoned streets – is history on its own. It’s everywhere!
The royals are intriguing to many Americans simply because we don’t have them. Right, we have "Hollywood Royalty" but it’s not quite the same. The British monarchy is a media phenomenon on this side of the Atlantic. While celebrated in the U.K., it is just the norm to the common folk. It’s always a bit of fun to go visit Buckingham Palace and take a cheeky turn with the guards. If you’re lucky you might spot the Queen entering the palace. You might think, “What do the royal family actually do behind closed doors? Are they PLU?”
7. High speed trains and flights to Europe
The high-speed train Eurostar or "the Rocket Train," as I affectionately call it, will get you to Paris, France in two hours. You can also pick up a train at King’s Cross in London and travel throughout England … or, sit back and make your way to Scotland. In addition to the rocket train, other means of transport include an overnight ferry to Ireland. Heathrow is an international hub connecting you to almost anywhere. Gatwick is a nice option for short, convenient flights to, say, Spain.
8. Grocery stores
The food shops like Tesco and Waitrose are heavenly. The stores are smaller than a typical U.S. grocery store, which makes it more manageable. You will find recognizable staples like eggs and bread but of course some new fun treats to tickle your fancy like PG Tips or Walker crisps. The best perk is that there are tons of fresh pre-made meals that you only need to heat up. Going on a shopping trip feels almost like an event.
9. Topping up
“Can I top up?” is a phrase you will be hearing yourself saying a lot. It means getting that little bit more, and it makes life a bit easier and situations you may typically drag your feet in doing way more pleasant. If you go to the phone shop, you may ask to “top up” your minutes. Some flats have a key for the electricity unit. You actually take the key to the shop, for instance a Tesco, and ask the clerk to “top up” your key and voilà, you have more electricity! (Make sure to keep it full or your lights may go out at the wrong moment.) As well, at the pub, you can “top up” your pint.
The Brits started celebrating "the holidays" even before Christ was born. How’s that? Festivals would take place in the Winter months to praise the sun and hope for its return in the spring. The early festivals expanded after Christ’s birth. If you’re living in the U.K. over the holiday season, you’ll see that it’s quite an event with streets elaborately decorated, cards twice the size of your head, paper crowns, crackers (prezzies pop out), a roast fit for a king, pantomimes and annual Christmas specials of popular shows like Doctor Who and EastEnders. If you’re not quite getting how special the holiday is in Britain take a peek at Fraser McAlpine’s ten-part series A Very British Christmas. It doesn’t end there. The day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day, is the day Brits box up their presents. It’s a recognized Bank Holiday, which means that people have the day off from work. Another reason to celebrate!
What do you like most about being in Britain when visiting?