Just British Things: An American’s Perspective

My time in London is rapidly coming to a close. The month that I’d thought would be so long has flown by, and I now find myself with only a few days left in this city that I have quickly come to call home.

I’ve been able to check much off of my to-visit list: Buckingham Palace, Emirates Stadium, Tower of London, London Eye, Big Ben/Westminster, Oxford Circus, Windsor, Cambridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, Ascot, Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio, Jack the Ripper tour, London Dungeon, etc.

Throughout my travels, I have learned much about British culture, which is surprisingly different from American culture. Here are twenty strange things Brits do that have made me realize just how American I truly am:

1. Driving
You drive on the left-hand side of the road.

2. Cars don’t yield for pedestrians
I’m convinced they try to run us down.

3. Tube
On the Tube escalators, you stand on the right and walk on left. Don’t forget to mind the gap!

4. Quids
You call bucks “quids.”

5. “Queue”
This one took me a while to understand. Apparently it can be a noun (a line) or a verb (to stand in line).

6. Spelling
Color and favorite become colour and favourite, organization and apologize are organisation and apologise (something Brits like to do a lot), and soccer is incorrectly spelled as football.

7. Pounds
The low numbers on price tags are misleading—convert to dollars and slowly put the handbag down.

8. Chips
French fries are chips. Chips are crisps.

9. Taxis
Taxis are black, and you can sit facing backwards in them. Trust me, this is really exciting.

10. Smoking
Smoking is much more common here than it is in America. But what is even stranger is that most people I’ve met here roll their own cigarettes.

11. Air conditioning
Apparently no one here has heard of it.

12. Trainers and jumpers
I think you mean sneakers and sweatshirts?

13. Cadbury
I have yet to see one Hershey bar in England. Cadbury seems to be a religion here.

14. Harry Potter
As a huge Potterhead, I’ve been super excited to be in England. Although here, the Sorcerer’s Stone apparently belongs to a Philosopher. And no one else seems to care that Millennium Bridge in London was in the sixth HP movie.

15. Vegetables
For those Americans struggling in British restaurants: courgette means zucchini. Aubergine means eggplant. You’re welcome.

16. Military time
I still have to subtract twelve from every hour after 12:59 to understand what time it is.

17. “Are you okay?”
The first few times I was asked this, I was really confused. Did I look sad? Should I not be okay? Americans say this phrase when they think something is wrong. Brits just use it commonly.

18. Cuppa tea
Tea time was an exciting experience for me. But Brits drink tea all the time, and they seem to believe that it has the power to fix everything.

19. Teeth
Unlike Brits, Americans are obsessed with having perfect teeth. People spend thousands of dollars on braces, retainers, oral surgery, teeth whitening—you name it, we do it.

20. Loo
What Americans call the bathroom or restroom, Brits call the loo, water closet, or toilets. When one of my friends asked her boss if she could use the restroom, he replied, “The restroom? What are you gonna do in there, take a nap?”

Maybe I didn’t get a British accent. Maybe I didn’t succeed in making a soldier at the Tower of London crack a smile. But I certainly learned a lot and made some amazing memories.

I’ll have to come back soon.


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