What do you get when you have American optimism and a British sense of humor? You get Valerie’s unique (and often hilarious) take on life as an expat in the UK.
You think you know what’ll be on this list, don’t you? “Tea!” you exclaim, “and bad teeth!” “Awkward English but totally adorable gentlemen who go to four weddings and at least one funeral!” you insist. While all obvious choices, none made the list. Here are 10 other things the British do better than Americans.
1. What’s in a name?
British pubs and their names never cease to crack me up. Sometimes they’re kind of absurd: The Ferret and Trouserleg, The Drunken Clam or The Pig-in-Whistle (they like to have whistles in the pub names here)! Some are snicker worthy, and yes, my favorite kind of name. As far as I’m concerned, giggling is good! These would include: Spread Eagle, Dirty Dicks or The Cock and Mouth, interesting how roosters are so popular. For the record, I am giggling as I type this.
2. Driving Miss Daisy
I have no road accident statistics to back up this claim, but trust me when I tell you the standards of getting a license here are infinitely higher than in America. Having recently run the gauntlet myself, I am a much better driver as a result. On top of that, they have these odd things called “roundabouts” which combined with teeny-tiny lanes and complex road systems means I have a lot of respect for British driving! Mind you, the Brits probably do “road-rage” better than Americans too. They are indeed an angry bunch behind the wheel of a car.
3. Iron side
Since tumble dryers are not commonplace, the average Brit faces otherwise crinkly clothes and thus needs to iron…a lot! And not just special clothes for special occasions. They iron their jeans! And since practice makes perfect, I’m quite confident in saying the Brits do this much better than Americans.
Blink and you might miss it! The campaign elections here last all of weeks. One minute there’s one party in power, the next a general election is called (yes, you can “call” one, it’s not done in set intervals), and within a few short weeks, the election is here, votes are cast and the new government is in power. They just get it done. Wham, bam, thank you, your Majesty!
5. Not National Lampoon’s Vacation
The ever-so-civilized British system allows for at least 4 weeks’ vacation a year plus 7 bank holidays. And they have so many countries on their doorstep to visit; they clearly outshine Americans when it comes to vacations!
6. I’m sorry for living
The British could run a master class in apologizing. No one does it like them. Let’s say someone bumps into you at the grocery store. You, grumpy and cross at the injury, turn and say, “Oh, so sorry!” Yes that’s right my dear, sweet, unknowing American friends. You apologize…even when it’s not your fault. That’s how it works here. It’s a weird type of diffuser of angst or aggression. Most likely the person who ran into you with their shopping trolley will apologize in response (which we can all agree is appropriate) but then the two of you will do an awkward but essential social dance as you each apologize more and more profusely to the other. Then you go your separate, peaceful ways.
7. Money management
Try getting paid monthly; one monthly sum and having to manage the entire following month before the next pay day. For most professionals in Britain, you only get 12 paydays a year, that requires some good budgetary management skills if you ask me!
8. Doctor, Doctor!
Oh how I love and appreciate the National Health Service. No worries about health insurance or co-pays with a flat rate for prescriptions (about $11 per prescription), unless you’re unemployed in which case they’re free. Say what you want, I think socialized medicine is amazing (and for the record Glenn Beck, I’ve never had to talk to a bureaucrat or anyone other than my doctor about anything to do with my health!)
9. Pour me a pint
Take your pick at any local pub: lager, ale, stout, shandy, bitter, cider, Guinness (which is apparently a good source of iron by the way) …they have endless varieties of what Americans would generally (and erroneously) label as “beer”. Even the little town of Ringwood where I live has a brewery. The Brits are pretty good drinkers and they sure have a variety!
10. Taking the Mickey
Is there any culture that laughs at themselves better than the Brits? It’s one of my absolute favorite traits of the British. It is so freeing! Laughing at others is also a strength, but it’s the ability to also acknowledge one’s own idiosyncrasies and see the humor, well that’s brilliant. Let’s face it; we Americans can take ourselves a wee bit too seriously. And if you are American and have taken umbrage at this, you have just proved my point, so thank you!
Valerie / Expatica
Valerie is a guest blogger on Smitten by Britain, the world’s first blog for Britophiles. You can read Valerie’s musings at: www.valerietanswell.com and follow her on twitter: @whatvalthinks. She also loves movies and TV and feels the need to write about those too: www.whatvaleriethinks.com