10 Things Brits Do That Drive Americans Nuts
1. Over cooking your vegetables
The authentic British way to prepare edible plants is to immerse them in boiling water for a fortnight. Americans think this is weird and unpleasant, to which I say: “Until you’ve had a carrot disintegrate on your tongue, you haven’t lived.”
2. Being standoffish
When strangers in shops and people I pass on the street make eye contact, nod or say “Hi!” I like to reply with an icy stare or low growl. Lately, I’ve come to understand that this is not the done thing, but I can’t help it because I’m British. I was raised in a land where a sneer is worth a thousand smiles.
3. Thinking all Americans are flag-wielding fatties with firearms
Oh you crazy Yanks with your big guns and trousers that could fit three normal people in each of the legs! However inaccurate, we Brits love to believe this is the blueprint for every American. Understandably, they’re not amused.
4. Not tipping
Most Brits would rather undergo weekly colonoscopies than leave a fat stack of bills for their poorly paid waitress. You might think you can get away with leaving skimpy tips but the locals have noticed and now we have a reputation.
5. Your reluctance to “share”
The British stiff upper lip is considered a disadvantage over here. By all means, Americans, breakdown and cry – tell us something deep and dark – but do not expect us to reciprocate. But Brits be warned: your silence will only buy you pitying looks and unsolicited therapist referrals.
6. Believing that Americans have no sense of irony
This myth persists amongst Brits to the irritation of many an irony-literate American. What you will notice is that, on occasion, your new countrymen won’t pick up on our brand of sarcasm. That’s because to the untrained ear, a British person being serious sounds almost exactly the same as one in mocking, sardonic mode.
7. Having terrible teeth and neglected nails
As any American will tell you, the British suffer from a severe case of hand, foot and mouth. If your teeth look like chipped, moldering tombstones and your fingers are topped with jagged, dirty claws, don’t expect to get many party invites.
8. Not being able to tell a fifty from a five
To us, all dollar bills look alike: greenish oblongs with a dead bloke on one side and a spooky pyramid on the other. Poorly manicured hand on heart, that’s the reason I keep putting down ones instead of twenties at the supermarket.
9. Moaning about missing curry and Marks and Spencer.
Wherever you are in the U.S., there’s wonderful food just waiting to be snaffled, but I guarantee it won’t be a fragrant chicken dansak or a dreamy M&S steak and ale pie. My US friends are sick of hearing about the curry and pie-shaped hole in my life and stomach.
10. Your lack of interest in health
Doctors are for wimps. Much better to ignore that pulsating lump in your abdomen and go to the pub. This is not the American way. Here, if you’re not having regular swabs, scans or biopsies, you’re doing something wrong, and your American friends won’t hesitate to stick a pin in your bravado.
10 Things Americans Do That Drive Brits Nuts
1. Saying “I love your accent!”
Before I moved here, I never imagined that my dreary London burr made me sound smart or lovable. At first the compliments were nice, but then a New York tiger mom asked me to talk to her snoozing two-year-old in the hope that it would rub off. A bit much, I thought.
2. Putting last names first
The fashion for inflicting quirky monikers on babies started with American parents giving their kids surnames as first names. Remember Sex and the City’s Smith? Absurd. Then last week at the launderette I got chatting to “Anderson.” Could not take him seriously.
3. They take your plate away too soon
Americans love to please, and nowhere is this more evident than in restaurants. If I want a side of pickled kitten lungs or a splash of spaniel milk in my coffee, then by God they’ll make it happen. On the flip side, over-eager waiters will whip away an individual diner’s plate the second it’s empty. In my case, that’s long before anyone else at the table has finished. And people are like, “Seriously, did you even chew?” No. No I did not.
4. The relentlessly sincere cheer
If I’m having a bad day, or a good day – make that any kind of day – I do not want people in shops whom I’ve never met to swaddle me with their sticky, earnest, exaggerated niceness. In America, actual humans say things like “Ma’am, you have been an awesome customer today,” just because I bought a box of tampons from their store.
5. Their over-zealous patriotism
We get it, you’re proud to be an American. It’s not like Brits are immune to nationalism, but perhaps we’re better able to separate feeling glad (I was lucky enough to be born in a country with democracy and Kit Kats!) from feeling proud. Shouldn’t the second one be reserved for my actual achievements? Oh, and to your average Brit, hanging a giant flag from your house is a tiny bit creepy.
6. They treat their pets like people
Recently, at a flea market, I saw a woman pushing a buggy. Nothing strange about that, until I looked inside and noticed that her baby was a dog. One of those petulant micro-yappy types who thinks just because it’s short you should love it. I’ve also seen twin pugs out for a winter walk dressed in a full-body knitted suits and ties. And a friend of a friend’s cat is on Prozac.
7. Insisting that turkey is tasty
There’s a good reason why Brits only eat this galumphing fowl once a year, then bitch about it behind its carcass. No matter how many saltwater baths you give your bird, turkey meat is dry, insipid and stringy. Yet Americans put the powdery poultry in everything – from burgers and chili to meatballs and lasagna – and make it the culinary centerpiece of not one but two celebrations.
8. Spelling words the wrong way
I might as well pry the letter “u” from my keyboard for all the good it does me in over here. (But you know which letter made it big in America? “Z”! Only, they pronounce it wrong.) My point? Remembering to remove ‘u’s from words like “colour” and replace “s”s with a more abrasive “z” is a headache and I resent it. So there.
9. Pretentious pronunciation.
Americans, please note: saying “erb” instead of “herb” and pronouncing “fillet” without the “t” is not clever or sophisticated. You are not French. Make an actual socialist your president and then we’ll talk.
10. Saying “panties,” “fanny” and “bangs”
We’re all aware from watching Americans onscreen that these are the words for knickers, a bottom and a fringe. But when you live here, occasionally you’re forced to deploy these abominations in real life sentences. Only the other day, I said, “Can you trim my bangs, please?” I felt dirty afterwards. But “panties” is much worse, somehow infantilizing and over-sexualizing ladies’ unmentionables. No word should do both these things.