#1: The Plants Are Out to Get You

England is overrun with sadistic flora.  It’s everywhere.  Excepting the concrete expanse that is London, of course, it lines every sidewalk, footpath, rural road, and urban street, so don’t be tempted to absentmindedly brush your hand along the greenery as you stroll (as I did).  You will get bitten.  (As I did.  Many times.)

 

 

#2: The British have a special talent for inventing place names

This came to my attention on a visit many years ago.  Gazing out the car window while hurtling down the road, I noticed signs for the towns of Cocking, Dorking, and Lickfold.  After wiping tears of mirth from my eyes, I knew I had to keep an eye out for more amusing place names.  On our most recent trip I didn’t happen upon any with quite so much, uh, sexual innuendo, but there were still plenty of delightfully quirky British place names to be found, including Pulverbatch, Twitchen, Newton Unthank, Peckleton, Kirby Muxlowe, Picklescott, and Lickey End.  (Wait.  There might be some sexual innuendo in that last one.)

Ludlow (9)
Don’t forget New Invention!

#3: The British have a penchant for inventing unappetizing food names

The Brits have a knack for taking something appealing, like food, and giving it a very unappealing name.  Regardless of how delicious these foodstuffs might be, their inventive appellations may create a psychological barrier for the less adventurous eaters among us.  To my mind, four of the biggest offenders are clotted creamtoad-in-the-hole, Digestives™, and spotted dick (!)  Just hearing those names is enough to put me off my mushy peas.

Digestives
Despite the repulsive name, which for me, elicits thoughts of stomach bile, Digestives™ are a rather tasty accompaniment to a cup of tea.

#4: And the winner is…

As both a lifelong resident of the United States and a frequent traveler to England, I’ve naturally developed certain opinions about things that one country does better than the other.  I’m not talking about castles or royalty or majestic mountain peaks or other obvious things in which one country has no hope of besting the other.  I’m talking about the small stuff.

USA beats UK

  • Faucets: In England, these are known as taps, but the nomenclature is not what gives them their losing status.  What makes them inferior is that often there are two nozzles coming out of the sink – one for hot water and one for cold water.  The nozzles are far enough apart that you can’t cup your hand and receive water from both taps at the same time, which, if you could, would result in room temperature water touching your skin.  Instead, one hand gets frozen while the other gets scalded.  Really folks, there’s a much more pleasant way to wash your hands: merged taps!
Newark (27)
Why?
  • Window screens: Never once have I seen a window screen in England.  I don’t know why this basic convenience hasn’t made its way across the pond.  Most of my visits have been in summer, so I can say with certainty that despite what you may have heard (and what I may have said) about cold summers in England, it can get warm enough to warrant opening windows.  And it’s not like they don’t have insects.  They do.  So how do the English cope?  They just open their windows and whatever happens to fly or crawl in, well, so be it.  It boggles my mind.
Newark (48)
Welcome, flies.  Make yourself at home.

UK beats USA

  • Bacon:  If you’re a bacon-lover, you’re probably going to disagree with me on this one.  I am not a bacon lover.  I’ll eat it, but I never order it in a restaurant and I only cook with it if a recipe calls for it.  English bacon, though, is a (awkward metaphor alert!) whole different kettle of fish.  It’s more like Canadian bacon.  Translation: it’s not all greasy and fatty.  Bacon that resembles what Americans eat does exist, though they call it streaky bacon, and it appears to me to be much less common, which, for me, gives them the win!
  • Charitable giving:  I’ve never been to a more charity-forward country.  Though perhaps not as obvious in London, my time in smaller English communities has shown me that England is very focused on helping the needy.  Charity shops – whose proceeds are usually dedicated to a specific cause, such as cancer research or abandoned animals – are ubiquitous, and it seems that nearly every race of every kind is done to raise money for the less fortunate.  Good on ya’, England.
  • Shopping carts:  They resemble ones you see in American supermarkets, but with a distinct advantage: all-wheel drive.  Smooth and maneuverable, you can practically steer what they call shopping trolleys with your pinky finger.  Who knew grocery-getting could be such a blissful experience?
  • Escalator culture/etiquette:  It’s not even an unwritten rule.  In most tube stations it’s written as plain as day: Stand on the right.  Because Britons adhere to this sensible escalator edict, two things become obvious.  First, you can often tell who the foreigners are.  They are the ones standing on the left, forcing all the Brits to say, “Excuse me.  Pardon me.  Stand on the right, please.”  Second, it’s much easier to race to the top (or bottom) if you’re in a hurry.  Especially right after a visit to the UK, riding an escalator in the US can be a maddening experience.  If someday you hear a news report about the world’s first case of “escalator rage,” you can be pretty sure I was the perpetrator. 😉

So there you have it folks – random findings gleaned from two decades of visits around the husband’s homeland.  But surely there are more.  What quirky English traits, habits, cultural norms, or other features did I miss?

 

33 thoughts

  1. British homes have certain quirks which can puzzle people from overseas, like the taps or pull cords instead of light switches in bathrooms. It’s precisely the same in Ireland – I’ve always wondered why there are two taps completely separated from each other in the same sink, but after a decade we got used to it. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My understanding of this (it baffled us, too, to say the least…) separation of faucets is that traditionally cold water was guaranteed to be potable, but the hot water held no such guarantees (who knows what happened in the hot water heater…), so separation used to be safer. Traditions see, to persist.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I e never been to the UK (hopefully something I’ll “fix” soon) but I remember a lack of shower curtains in the European countries I visited many years ago. I wonder if that’s still true? Funny about standing to the right on escalators… I would have thought it would be to the left since that’s the way they drive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe it’s strictly a village thing, but I never saw as many fundraising events in the US as I have since moving to a Cornish village. They’re half social events, half fundraisers. And that’s not even talking about all the donation boxes by cash registers that you can drop your pennies into. As for place names, come visit Cornwall for Splatt, Washaway, and Pityme.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lol, splendid list! I never knew about the sadistic greenery, thanks for the heads up, it always felt lush and inviting, will handle with care. Another one for the list might be the desire to soak up any bit of sun, so if the sun reveals itself, people will take advantage of it even if the sunning happens on a street in London 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. About the escalator thing, it was the same in Moscow. If you’re on the left, you’d better be walking or people will shove you out of the way. Europeans in general are SO much better about getting the hell out of the way. No one lingers in the left lane on the highways in Italy. It’s just not done. But here, where we have all the space in the world, people are complete assholes about letting other people get by. That’s one huge cultural change I’d love to see happen here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Agree: bacon and window screen. Being English, I’ve never heard of the latter (what are they made of ?) but sounds like a good idea to keep out insects!
    Disagree: clotted cream – just hearing the name makes me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Screens are made of a thin wire mesh. They’ve even improved them in recent years to the point that you sometimes can barely see that they’re there. I’m sure I’d like clotted cream in the right culinary situation. It’s just that the name makes me think of blood clots. Eeew!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your list of town names had me laughing. I do wish that I may someday visit Picklescott whilst eating my Digestive [which I rather like] after a morning breakfast that does not include English bacon [which I recall as being awful]. What a great place to visit and you make it fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Those place names are pretty epic. I’ve been taking photos of the strangely named businesses I’ve seen in SE Asia, but most of these are unintentional. I can’t believe they don’t have window screens. You’d think that is something they’d all have over there. An open window listening to the rain sounds delightful in England. I”m with you on digestives. It sounds like something you eat after going to Delhi to make yourself feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We had separate taps in our old S Mpls house for about a dozen years until we did a bathroom remodel. I miss it for the tub, because you could get a hotter trickle of water to run the whole tim you were in the tub in the winter, but the sink would require some crafty shifting of hands back and forth!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hahaha I loved this post! I had never considered before how sadistic our fauna can be, you are so right! Getting trousers, tops and skin ripped on brambles is definately a common occurance, forgiven only because of blackberries being so yum (especially when added to vodka!)

    Liked by 1 person

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