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How to Piss Off a Brit in the United States

United States Student Work
by Stacy Ullenes Nov 7, 2014
Ask us if we’re Australian.

Nine times out of ten I get an “Oh, you’re from Australia?” when talking to an American for the first time. Um no, no I’m not. And, FYI, we sound nothing alike. I humbly correct them and tell them where I’m actually from. “Oh, you’re English? I thought it was one or the other,” they always say. I’ve taken to responding with: “Oh, don’t worry, Canadians always get it wrong.”

Put ice in our tea.

No, no, no, no, no. Please stop putting ice in my warm, soothing beverage. If you do this in England, you will be sent to the Tower of London. It is treason. We are a nation obsessed with tea; it’s sewn into our cultural identity. We like to serve tea in tearooms, indulge in ‘afternoon tea’ and ‘high tea’ maybe accompanied by sandwiches (no crusts) or scones with cream and jam. It’s not only a social event, it’s our answer for everything, our comfort blanket.

“Oh you’ve had a bad day? Here’s a nice ‘cuppa’ tell me all about it.”

“You’re in shock? Don’t worry, have a nice ‘cup-o-tea’ and it will all be ok.”

Tea is our:

    • healing drink,


    • refreshing drink,


    • maker of friends,


    • healer of broken hearts,


    • ‘in’ with our builders,


    • deepest-apologies drink,


    • warm-you-up drink,


    • de-shock drink,



But most of all: it’s OUR drink.

Tell us we’re about to consume one thing and then serve us something completely different.

When I’m hungover, I always crave a thirst-quenching, cold, fizzy can of lemonade. The sugar, the fizz, it all helps with my morning-after-the-night-before-head. Then BAM! Disappointment. Non-fizzy, lemony water, labelled lemonade strikes again. We have stuff like this back in the UK, but it’s called water-with-lemon in it. There’s no disguising it, the label says what it is.

Then there’s pie. “Who want’s a slice of pie?” The question echoes through the house. I get excited, salivating over the thought of a yummy dessert. Lemon meringue, apple, what? No, pizza. That’s just so misleading. If you want something sweet, you have a piece of pie. If you want something filling, you have a slice of pizza. So what do you call your pie pies then, huh? PIES?!

Do impressions of Austin Powers whilst mimicking our accent.

Ok, I get it. Let’s make fun of the ridiculous looking, crooked-tooth, English man played by a Canadian from that film made in the 1990s. He is funny, and he is ridiculous. But tell me something: Why can’t you mimic his side-kick Vanessa Kensington — played by the beautiful (and British) Elizabeth Hurley? I’d prefer that please. She’s more like it.

Ask us if we know the Queen, or any other member of the monarchy.

As much as I’d love to be invited round for afternoon tea with Lizzy at Bucks Palace and be on Kate and Will’s upcoming baby shower guest list, it sadly isn’t the case. I mean, they are just too busy shaking hands with world leaders.

Constantly ask us to repeat ourselves.

Nobody understands me. Well, I mean a majority of Americans still have trouble with my accent. I don’t have a regional-English accent. I’m also not Scottish, Welsh, or Irish, mine is straightforward and rather dull, but it’s English. I understand everything an American says, so why isn’t it the other way around? I also get extremely shy when you ask me to repeat ‘water’ for the fifth time in front of a queue of people. It’s not THAT funny!

Tell us to stop saying sorry.

We do say this quite a lot. I admit it. But what’s wrong with that? It could be worse, right? We could not say sorry but then we’d feel rude. You see, us Brits use it more as a sign of good manners, a throwback to the British class system, which still dominates daily life in the UK. We aren’t always actually sorry; we don’t mean it 100% of the time, but sometimes we like to chuck in an offhanded “Sorry!” to strangers to help avoid or diffuse a potentially awkward situation. If I nearly walk into you, I’ll say sorry. If you walk into me? Yes, I will say sorry then, too.

Not find any of my jokes funny.

In England I’m deemed mildly witty at best. In the US, my puns and sarcastic jokes are met with a confusing raise of the eyebrow and a shrug. As if to say: “You know, like she’s English, it’s ok if we don’t fully get her.”

In Britain, you see, we are brought up with a healthy dose of realism. We don’t want to celebrate things too soon for fear of failure and disappointment and this is reflected in our humor. Socially, we tease and take ‘the piss’ out of our friends. We use sarcasm abundantly in our every day speech as a shield and a weapon. We try to avoid sincerity unless it’s absolutely necessary. But our brashness is charged with equal portions of self-deprecation, which is why it’s okay for us to dish it out. Hey, we can take it. Sorry if you can’t!

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