Little Things: How the UK is Different from the US

contributed by Michael Harling (website) Considering the number of times people ask me, "What do you find different about living in England?" you'd think I might have formulated some sort of intelligent answer by now, a mini-comedy routine, perhaps, that I could launch into anytime the question arose. But in fact, I am always taken by surprise, and left fumbling for an answer that isn't screamingly obvious, such as driving on the wrong side of the road, better weather or listening to Fiona Bruce read the evening news instead of Brian Williams.  
I used to respond to that question with, "Everything," which is perhaps the most accurate answer, but when pressed for details I always came up short. The problem is, the big differences—like the accents and the remarkable and welcomed absence of billboards—blend into the scenery after a time, and the little things—such as diminutive teaspoons, the huge plugs on electric appliances and Costa Coffee franchises—become lost amid the minutiae of everyday life. To counter this, I thought I'd list some of the little things that I see, hear or experience during my daily routine that would not be there if I still lived in America: - Thatched cottages: yes, they are as quaint as you think - Canal boats: there are more canals in Birmingham than in Amsterdam (yeah, me too) - Radio theatre and game shows on BBC radio: after five years, I still have not gotten the hang of British radio, I only listen to it when my wife turns it on - The Daily Mail: as mentioned in the Beatles' song, "Paperback Writer" - Actually being in Banbury Cross: you know, that place you ride the Cock horse to - Likewise, Drury lane: though sad to say, the muffin man has moved on - Hedgerows: right up there with thatched cottages in terms of traditional, English countryside quaintness - Electric kettles: an oddity in America, a basic necessity here - Holly bushes: I never saw one in the States, but here they grow like weeds - Celsius: just try to get an intelligible temperature reading, or explain to someone what 75 degrees Fahrenheit means - Round tea bags with no strings: the Brits are pros when it comes to tea, strings are for wimps - Wellington Boots: what would you do without your wellies? - Pedestrian paths: the first thing about Britain that I fell in love with, they have special places for pedestrians to walk where cars can't go - Right of way: pedestrian paths that run through other people's back yards and they can't do a thing about it - Soccer balls: they're everywhere, and even young girls can manoeuvre them around better than I ever could - Gum on the sidewalks, roads, pedestrian areas, bus station floors . . .: the young people here chew gum on an Olympic level, and have never been told what a trash can is for. - Bureau de Change: there's one on every corner here; I’ve never seen one in the US, but then, why would you need one? - The Radio Times: in order to find out what's showing on the telly, you have to look in The Radio Times—don't ask me, it's a British thing. - Train Spotters: They’re the guys standing at the end of the train platforms with a notebook, camera, thermos of tea and a marked lack of social skills So there you have it; England at a glance. I still won’t be able to list any next time someone asks me, but at least I’ll be able to point them toward this article.
Mike Harling is American author living in the south of England. His book, Postcards from Across the Pond--dispatches from an accidental expat, is a hilarious account of British life as seen through the eyes of a bewildered American. You can keep up with Mike at his blog, Postcards from Across the Pond.  

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