Photo by David Grant

7 American Habits I Lost After Moving to England

by Matt Hershberger Feb 6, 2015

1. I stopped wearing shitty clothes when I left the house.

I love wearing shorts and sweatpants. I wore each out into the city of London once, just to nip around the corner and get some groceries, and I have never felt more intensely stared at in my life. “Look at that American slob,” all of their stares seemed to say. After about a week, I only allowed myself to wear “comfy” clothes when I was in my flat, and I made myself look presentable every single time I left home.

2. I stopped saying “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”

There is literally no reason to wait till 5 to start drinking.

3. I stopped shouting in bars.

The stereotype of the “loud American” has some level of truth to it, but what I’ve realized is that it actually has relatively little to do with our natural volume, and way more to do with the volume level of the bars we go to. Bars in the United States play music, and they usually play their music too loud. If you want to have a conversation in an American bar you have to shout and strain your ears to hear whomever is talking.

You’re more likely to strain your ears to hear the music in English pubs than you are to strain your ears to hear the person sitting across the table from you. So after a few visits to the pub, I started naturally quieting down, as I’d finally realized I could be heard regardless.

4. I stopped saying hi to strangers on the street.

I’m from Ohio, where it’s considered rude to not at least nod at a person and smile when you pass them on the street. In England, this is an incredibly confusing and possibly creepy thing to do to a stranger. “Do I know him?” The person I’d just waved to would ask themselves as I brushed by in the darkened alley, “Or should I expect him to murder me in the next 20 minutes?”

5. I stopped using my English accent at parties.

I’ve always liked doing accents, and I prided myself on my English accent, which was basically a rip-off of Jason Statham in Snatch. Dick Van Dyke would’ve been ashamed of it. After a single attempt at sounding quasi-English (and after what was the hardest I’ve ever been laughed at in my life), I decided to stick to sounding American.

6. I stopped taking my coffee black.

The world seems to think that because the UK is more of a tea country that it doesn’t have good coffee. This isn’t particularly true: it’s been Starbucksified like the rest of the world, and there are plenty of independent cafes as well. But there is one strange side effect of the UK’s tea obsession: they serve their coffee at the same temperature that they serve their tea. Which is to say it’s basically just under boiling when they give it to you. So unless you want to wait a half an hour before you can even think of sipping your coffee without scalding yourself, you have to cool it down with milk or cream.

7. I stopped eating meat.

Okay, I didn’t totally stop eating meat. I still had the occasional Sunday Fry-Up, and occasionally, when I was feeling drunk and homesick, I’d stop at KFC. But I didn’t have to eat meat in London. For the first time in my life, going veg felt like a reasonable possibility. The reason was because the UK respects vegetarianism as an actual life choice, and not just as a method for being pissy and obnoxious. As such, the vegan/vegetarian options at most restaurants were delicious and weren’t just damp salads with a little bit of oil as dressing. Not to mention all the vegetarian Indian food: compared to the US, England is a vegetarian Mecca.

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