Monday, June 3, 2013

Return to the UK - Things not to do

So I'm off to the UK this weekend and I need to start practising being "English" again. It's not that I've gone particularly native living over here, but there are some things I am always politely reminded I need to rein in when I cross the Pond.

Things like - talking to complete strangers. OK, growing up in the North East of England, this was quite the norm. You couldn't stand at a bus stop for more than two minutes before knowing the abridged life story of the little biddy standing next to you. Moving south, I soon found out that not everyone in the UK does that.

Here in the mid-west of the USA however, it's open season; anyone and everyone talks to you and you do likewise. I was recently reminded how un-British that is at Legoland in California. Walking up to one of the rides, I heard two British kids in front of me complaining that it was at least a 30 minute wait. Given that I could hardly see anyone in the line/queue, I simply said "Oh it can't be that long. I'm sure it's about 15 minutes at most." I had my own son by my side so the the "stranger danger" alarm bells couldn't possibly have been going off, but to my amusement, they went scurrying off to their mother, who herself (even though she heard my accent) gave me strange looks throughout our wait for the ride. Hmmm.

And then there's the customer service impatience, of which I whole-heartedly admit I'm guilty. I'm not saying that US customer service is all that, but it's fast. Sometime I feel like I could die waiting in England. Last year's example was going into a restaurant in the MetroCentre just outside of Newcastle. We were shown to a table - and then left for fifteen minutes. No menu, no order taken for a drink. Nothing. In the end I had to get up and go in search of someone to serve us, and even my mother admitted that I was 'well within my rights'.

And finally - ease up on the car horn. Such is the driving in the States that I am frequently compelled to admonish people with a quick beep of the horn. Sometimes, when someone has really overstepped the mark, I'll leave my hand on the horn for a few seconds. Apparently this might even be against the law in England, so I'll have to duct tape my hands to the steering wheel while driving.

Is there anything I've missed?


  1. There's a certain age group (that I'm in) that ALWAYS speaks to others at bus stops. (Providing they are not younger than 50 because they tend to look at you as though your off your head! otherwise)
    Hoping you have a wonderful time over here and that you soon slot in again, as I'm sure you will.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  2. Honking is also against the law in New York City!

    Sadly not on Long Island, where I am always been beeped by impatient drivers in huge SUVs just because I am going at the actual speed limit...

  3. It's against the law? Ooooops...

  4. Don't forget to queue. Even if there isn't one.

  5. I'm sure you'll drop the Americanisms fairly quickly. Have a great time!

  6. Nah the talking thing is very British, only people in the south east ignore each other , the rest of us don't shut up! Especially in toilets...... Yes don't forget to queue and don't you dare complain. Mutter under your breath by all means, you could about it later, but never tell.someone the truth at the time. Nod politely, say everything's wonderful :)

  7. Ps anyone and everyone
    about the weather!

  8. I can't believe it, but I have actually been to the MetroCentre! We have friends in Newcastle and once visited them for two weeks.

    I recommend having various meds with you at all times. We took a bus to the Metro Centre and while there my 8 years old came own with stomach cramps. She needed some Imodium in a bad way. I went into the pharmacy, leaving her in tears with her father. Good lord. I was give the third degree by some young woman and never did get the Imodium. I finally understood why these drugs are called "Over the counter." But not over the counter in the U.S. mind you! Here we can just pick up a box and pay for it and some young pip squeak doesn't try to make you feel like a bad mother for trying to give your kid Imodium!

  9. Those all sound fair enough.

    I like the friendliness that you generally get in the US, although I must admit that there are times when I'd be happy to not have to bother with the small talk. (I am seen as curmudgeonly by some!)

    All the honking and some of the aggressive driving can irritate me too, although there is politeness often as well!

    I dread having to deal with some of the poor British customer service. I've got used to the American way...

  10. So I can't talk to strangers if I go? Or honk? Well, I don't honk anyway. Unless you count a tiny slap beep at the guy with the phone stuck in his ear at the green light.

    As long as I don't have to call it that, I can queue with the best of them.

    Have a good time.

  11. I recently tried to talk to a child in a queue. Same experience as you. I might as well have said "I'm going to abduct you right now".

    And customer service. DON'T GET ME STARTED...

  12. That talking to strangers thing? I have to really work on that one. Not because everyone does it here, but because every time I walk into M&S Food, or Waitrose, back in the UK, I feel an almost overwhelming temptation to grab an innocent passerby and say 'Do you know how lucky you are, with all this yummy stuff here and affordable? DO YOU KNOW???' Strangely, they don't get it...

  13. I think I might actually be American. At least on the talking thing. I love talking to strangers - one of the best things about having moved out of London (where you live cheek by jowl with 7 million other people yet spend your entire life pretending you haven't noticed them) is being able to make eye contact and polite chit chat.

    So as I say. I think I'm American. Or very talkative.

  14. It was announced today that you'll be fined for tailgating and hogging the middle lane in the motorway, so don't do those! Oh, and you can't push in in a queue of traffic. Bad news for BMW drivers ;)

  15. Working Mum- I saw that although I thought it was a proposal. I'd definitely better be careful as I always hog the middle lane.

  16. I think the talking to strangers is more of an age thing. I talk to shop assistants, other shoppers etc far more than I used to. Turning into my mother.

  17. I know exactly what you mean. I lived in Italy for a couple of years, where honking is so very much part of daily life...


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