WHEN AMERICAN TOURIST Scott Waters decided to write some things he learned on a recent visit to small-town England, he probably wasn’t expecting his list to be shared more than 81,000 times on Facebook.
It’s a lovely, funny post, and now my only dream is to put Waters and Bill Bryson in a cosy Yorkshire pub, set a couple of pints and a nice roast dinner between them, and listen, delighted, to their observations on life on each side of the pond.
From Waters: “I was in England again a few weeks ago, mostly in small towns, but here’s some of what I noticed:
1. Almost everyone is very polite
2. The food is generally outstanding
3. There are no guns
4. There are too many narrow stairs
5. Everything is just a little bit different
6. The pubs close too early
7. The reason they drive on the left is because all their cars are built backwards
8. Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms.
9. You’d better like peas, potatoes and sausage
10. Refrigerators and washing machines are very small
11. Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter
12. People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbors or the government
13. Their paper money makes sense, the coins don’t
14. Everyone has a washing machine but driers are rare
15. Hot and cold water faucets. Remember them?
16. Pants are called “trousers”, underwear are “pants” and sweaters are “jumpers”
17. The bathroom light is a string hanging from the ceiling
18. “Fanny” is a naughty word, as is “shag”
19. All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.
20. There’s no dress code
21. Doors close by themselves, but they don’t always open
22. They eat with their forks upside down
23. The English are as crazy about their gardens as Americans are about cars
24. They don’t seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they’re just less messy than we are
25. The wall outlets all have switches, some don’t do anything
26. There are hardly any cops or police cars
27. 5,000 year ago, someone arranged a lot of rocks all over, but no one is sure why
28. When you do see police they seem to be in male & female pairs and often smiling
29. Black people are just people: they didn’t quite do slavery here
30. Everything comes with chips, which are French Fries. You put vinegar on them
31. Cookies are “biscuits” and potato chips are “crisps”
32. HP sauce is better than catsup
33. Obama is considered a hero, Bush is considered an idiot.
34. After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food
35. The water controls in showers need detailed instructions
36. They will boil anything
37. Folks don’t always lock their bikes
38. It’s not unusual to see people dressed different and speaking different languages
39. Your electronic devices will work fine with just a plug adapter
40. Nearly everyone is better educated than we are
41. If someone buys you a drink you must do the same
42. There are no guns
43. Look right, walk left. Again; look right, walk left. You’re welcome.
44. Avoid British wine and French beer
45. It’s not that hard to eat with the fork in your left hand with a little practice. If you don’t, everyone knows you’re an American
46. Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks
47. There’s no AC
48. Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper
49. Gas is “petrol”, it costs about $6 a gallon and is sold by the liter
50. If you speed on a motorway, you get a ticket. Period. Always
51. You don’t have to tip, really!
52. Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall really are different countries
53 Only 14% of Americans have a passport, almost everyone in the UK does
54. You pay the price marked on products because the taxes (VAT) are built in
55. Walking is the national pastime
56. Their TV looks and sounds much better than ours
57. They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven’t put them all back up yet
58. Everyone enjoys a good joke
59. There are no guns
60. Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere
61. There are no window screens
62. You can get on a bus and end up in Paris
63. Everyone knows more about our history than we do
64. Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good
65. The newspapers can be awful
66. Everything costs the same but our money is worth less so you have to add 50% to the price to figure what you’re paying
67. Beer comes in large, completely filled, actual pint glasses and the closer the brewery the better the beer
68. Butter and eggs aren’t refrigerated
69. The beer isn’t warm, each style is served at the proper temperature
70. Cider (alcoholic) is quite good.
71. Excess cider consumption can be very painful.
72. The universal greeting is “Cheers” (pronounced “cheeahz” unless you are from Cornwall, in which case it’s “chairz”)
73. The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, £1-£2 coins and £5-£10, etc bills. There are no quarters.
74. Their cash makes ours look like Monopoly money
75. Cars don’t have bumper stickers
76. Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America
77. By law, there are no crappy, old cars
78. When the sign says something was built in 456, they didn’t lose the “1”
79. Cake is pudding, ice cream is pudding, anything served for dessert is pudding, even pudding
80. BBC 4 is NPR
81. Everything closes by 1800 (6pm)
82. Very few people smoke, those who do often roll their own
83.You’re defined by your accent
84. No one in Cornwall knows what the hell a Cornish Game Hen is
85. Football is a religion, religion is a sport
86. Europeans dress better than the British, we dress worse
87. The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable
88. Drinks don’t come with ice
89. There are far fewer fat English people
90. There are a lot of healthy old folks around participating in life instead of hiding at home watching tv
91. If you’re over 60, you get free tv and bus and rail passes.
92. They don’t use Bose anything anywhere
93. Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste
94. Every pub seems to have a pet drunk
95. Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it
96. Cake is one of the major food groups
97. Their coffee is mediocre but the tea is wonderful
98. There are still no guns
99. Towel warmers!