Monday, February 2, 2009

On Being British

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I love being British. Much as I love America (and I do) I am very happy to live in a country where we don't have hurricanes, earthquakes, guns or fifteen-year-olds driving cars, and I rejoice in free healthcare, the BBC, and being able to get from anywhere to anywhere else by car in less than a day. Of course we also don't have Disneyworld, Taco Bell, drive-through banks and post offices or LDS bookstores.

I am well aware that most readers of thus blog will be American. I think the map on the right proves that fairly conclusively. I could go on for weeks about the differences between the Brits and the Americans – in culture, outlook and language, but I’m going to choose not to. There are plenty of other blogs, sites and books on the subject - I especially recommend Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Country and Notes from a Small Island. So I will leave it at an observation that any American whose name is Randy would be well advised on no account to introduce himself to anyone British, and rather than comment on differences, I would like to use this forum to ask a some of questions about America which have been bugging me for a long time. Feel free to reply in the comments section.

1. If what we call Petrol here is called Gas there, what do you call Gas?

2. Are American pigs a different shape? The only bacon I could find during my visits to the US was streaky. Why don’t you have lean bacon?

3. When everything there is so much bigger than it is here – houses, fridges, cars – why are your bathtubs so small?

4. How much annual leave do you get in a year? When we went to Florida we booked two weeks in our accommodation. This seemed to cause terrible confusion at the office, leading to us having to move to a different apartment halfway through our holiday. They explained that they never have guests who stay more than a week. I get 4 weeks off work each year, plus public holidays and the week between Christmas and New Year, and that’s pretty standard here. Do American workers not get much holiday?

5. Please will someone bring Taco Bell and Wendy’s here? Oh, but Thank You for Subway. We’re going there tonight. It’s the only place in Britain where you get free refills for your drinks, and so we are darn well going to drink the soda fountain dry.


Annette Lyon said...

We call gas--gas. Which makes for interesting conversation. Once in college my car almost ran out, and barely made it to the gas station. After I refilled (and had a bunch of friends in back) I said something like, "It's feels good to have gas." They gave me some seriously funky looks until they realized I was talking about FUEL.

And yes, Europeans have much for vacation time the Americans. That's something we really need to fix!

Jennie said...

1. - Hmm, gas is gas. See Annette's comment above.
2. We have regular bacon, lean bacon, low sodium bacon, bacon bits, turkey bacon, and salt pork. I'm not sure what you mean by "streaky." Is that alternating meat and fat?
3. Bathtubs come in all sizes here. The one in our master bath is big enough for two adults and is jetted. The other tubs are not bad, but not as deep or wide. With the growing proportions of our citizenry, bath tubs in new homes and hotels are growing larger.
4. We don't have a set national leave time. We get as much time off as unions or individuals can negotiate, plus most holidays. New hires generally start off with two weeks, then this amount is increased with time on the job and promotions to higher grade levels.
5. You want Taco Bell and Wendy's? If it were up to me, I'd be happy to send them to you and I wouldn't even miss either of them.

Gale Sears said...

We do have a non fatty bacon here in America, Anna. We call it Canadian bacon. Confused?
We fill the tanks of our automobiles at the gas station. Sometimes these places have eating establisments connected. You can sometimes see large signs advertising the fact that you can, EAT HERE--GET GAS.
Silly Americans!

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

I'm laughing! What a great post and great responses. As for the tubs, mine is on the smallish side and I want a big, jetted one. I end every day with a book in a hot bubble bath.

Personally, I think Subway is a much better deal than Taco Bell or Wendy's. Although I do like Wendy's baked potato...

Cheri J. Crane said...

I have to visit this country someday. =) Great blog, Anna.

Lynn Gardner said...

Loved your blog, Anna! When we were in England, there was a sign posted on one of your petrol stations that said in effect, "your car will be clamped if you can't pay for your petrol." We got a great laugh out of that.
I'd love to have you continue this vein of thought in your next blog!

Jeri Gilchrist said...

My sister in law is from England and she has told me a few of our definitions for words verses England's definitions and how they vary. Some are quite funny.
Interesting to see the differences.
Great blog, Anna!