Thursday, February 18, 2010

14:00 Is Not 4-o'clock And 9 Other (British) Life Lessons

An Incomplete List of Life Lessons Here in Blighty

1.  Known as "military time" across the pond, we don't use it, nor do we understand it.  "Meet meet at fifteen hundred hours only works if you are actually in the military."  Or if you're European.  To get "actual time" from a military time reading, subtract 12.  Or, if you're not mathematically inclined subtract 2 and drop the first digit.  (14:00 - 12 = 2 pm. or 14:00 - 2 (forget the 1) = 2) Simples.

2.  Standing in line (aka queueing - yes, that's right, it is apparently part of their citizenship test!) is a big deal.  Just don't budge.  We all learned this in elementary school. 

3. The road signs are in miles, the temperature is in Celsius.  Recipes measure in metric, but yesterday when I bought some timber (DIY goddess, remember?!), it was in feet and inches.  Apparently consistency is a little too much to ask for, so you'd best brush up on your 9th grade science (1 in. = 2.54 cm!) before a visit.

4.  Don't take anything anyone says seriously.  Easier said than done, as I've taken many a-joke very personally.  British "humour" is what I would call snarky, rather than funny.  But alas, it's a "joke" nonetheless.  And if you don't adapt, joke's on you.

5.  Don't like bread?  (Stupid question...more like, don't eat bread although you're tempted every minute of every day?)  Too bad.  Everyone eats it, all the time.  Plus chips (ahem...fries) and crisps (ahem...chips), It's a carbivore's paradise, and Dr. Atkin's nightmare.

6.  If you like to get excited about things, don't expect any natives to join in your enthusiasm.  A demeanor of calm, cool and collected must be maintained at all times, really funny things to be smirked at and the end of the world to be met with "well, figures".  Like to display your enthusiasm via the volume of your voice?  Be prepared for stares.  And by stares I mean if-looks-could-kill-dagger-stares.

7.  Don't eat the "Mexican".  I promise you disappointment.

8.  Drink the beer.  And the cider.  I promise you the exact opposite of disappointment.

9.  As much as the Britons whinge (ahem...whine) about the weather, it really isn't that bad.  The press will have you thinking that after two inches of snow you will be stranded for weeks, after four days of sun a drought is nigh, but really, for those of us that have truly lived through weather (read: tornadoes, floods, deep-freezes, actual droughts, etc, etc) the weather is actually fantastic.  It really didn't get below freezing the entire winter.  And the snow melts the day after it falls, hence there is green year-round.  Beautiful.

10.  British people like you as an American, yet have an undisputed dislike for "Americans".  Because, if you can spell your own name and put together a sentence you are smarter than the rest of the "Americans".  They picture us all as regular George Bushes.  I won't mention Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Thomas Edison and all those I know and love who are not, in any way, George Bush.

How to Be British


  1. a wonderful and oh so true list. i was nodding and laughing away. when you put it all out like that us Brits do look a bit odd, don't we?

  2. Just remind the Brits we as a nation actually voted for the other guy.

  3. Funny -- I tried to post this before, but I'd really like to say I truly enjoy your blog and love this current post. I agree 100% about the bread here -- I can't escape it!

  4. I love the bread here! And I agree with a lot of your observations.... But I have to say that not all of England falls into the calm & staid category. I'm not sure what's in the water around here, but the ladies in my village all seem to be pretty raucus and exhuberant in all they do. We hang out cackling in the school yard, hold our PTA meetings in pubs, drive others from restaurants when we go out in groups, and break out dancing and singing Wii games when we stay in.

    Compared to the women here, I feel like all my old American friends are pretty uptight and reserved, if you can believe it! I hope you are finding your tribe there!

  5. Ahhh, the bread. Had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is absolutely inescapable.

    Amy, I agree that the women are less "uptight"...once you get to know them, which is a different story in itself! (Although that said, I've met a lot of great women - problem is they all live in different places around London, and it is such a pain to do so much travelling!)

    P.S. Go USA hockey!