A few days ago, Hayley Bloomingdale wrote an article on the American Vogue website (am not entirely sure this was actually on the print version!) and it was equally panned and praised. The article listed 42 things a Manhattanite needed to know before moving across the pond. It was her take on British idiosyncracies that might confuse the non-Brits. The list made me giggle because I could understand where she was coming from (sort of!) but what made me giggle more was a reply to her list by Vittoria Gallagher! I absolutely loved her ripostes!
So I thought I’d do a Vittoria Gallagher and respond to Hayley Bloomingdale’s list based on my experience as well (mind you, I’ve been here for 8 years so I might be less doe-eyed about the Brits…I am also an unapologetic Anglophile and absolutely love these British quirks!). My thoughts are in green below:
British people do not use umbrellas, even though it rains every day.
I remember using an umbrella when the sun was high and I got strange looks from people! That might be a Filipino thing though! Also, we all have coats that have hoods these days and are waterproof!
Everyone says sorry for everything; it’s often best to start any request or inquiry with “sorry . . .”
I thought this was charming, and quintessentially British because everyone’s so PC and polite!
If you’re walking and you have something you maybe want to throw away at any point in the near future (coffee cup, tissue), you should toss it the second you see a bin (garbage can) because there won’t be another one, ever.
This made me laugh because I find this to be true. If you see a bin, bin what you need to bin because if you don’t, the next bin will be a good several thousand steps away. But then again, that’s Murphy’s Law, isn’t it?
Crossing the street is often very scary (even some British people are confused when to cross). The only safe place is the “zebra.”
Erm…I often joke that zebra crossings (or pedestrian crossings) are decorations on Philippine streets and you cross a street at your own risk. I love that when you cross on a zebra crossing, you can cross with confidence because drivers MUST stop for you. The pedestrian has a right of way on a zebra crossing!
If you look confused and/or scared when crossing the street, drivers will often speed up instead of the opposite.
Hmmm. Have never actually experienced this. I actually get waved at to cross!
English people wear winter coats starting on October 1 . . .
Christmas also starts on October 1 . . .
Also, they wouldn’t say October 1; they’d say, 1 October.
The rest of Europe also date with the dd/mm/yyyy system as well, don’t they? This isn’t a strictly British quirk, is it?
There are no plugs in the bathrooms—unclear how British women blow-dry their hair (this is a possible explanation for why some have bad hair).
I did find this strange. Then again, the Philippines does follow a lot of American norms so we do have plug sockets in the bathrooms. I get the whole health and safety thing about plug sockets in bathrooms though. Electricity and water is NOT a good combination!
Dryers somehow exist inside washing machines.
Erm…yes! If you think about it all washing machines have a spin setting. American households will have a separate dryer but that does guzzle a lot of electricity!
Crisps means potato chips and they have bizarre flavors like Bolognese and roast chicken (yes, roast chicken is an actual potato chip flavor here).
LOL I still say potato chips and mean crisps…I think most Brits are cosmopolitan enough to understand that you mean crisps (especially if you sound American!). Although I did once look for eggplants in a supermarket and I had to struggle to remember that they are aubergines here, also, zucchinis are courgettes, gherkins are pickles, etc.
Military time is very popular. If someone says to meet at 18:30, you will have to get out your calculator to deduce that they’d like to meet at 6:30 p.m.
Um okay. I like it when people say, quarter past, 20 past, half past, quarter to, 10 to the hour. Also I find that this is done mostly in written correspondence. But that’s just me.
GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, but nobody knows what that means.
I haven’t encountered anyone who didn’t know what GMT stood for, as well as BST, DLR, HMRC, DOB, CoE, W&C, G&T…the acronym list is endless!
British people do not say “cheers” and tap glasses when drinking with friends. It’s apparently embarrassing and “American” to do so. They do, however, say “cheers” many times a day, but it means “thank you and goodbye.”
Yes they do. Let’s forgive her as Hayley obviously hasn’t watched Sunday Brunch where they have a drinkypooes session and they all say “cheers” before drinking! Although, having said this, this probably makes me sad because I’ve just revealed that I sit on the couch on a Sunday, watching Sunday Brunch.
If you have a “cider black” (aka a snakebite) at a pub you might think you got roofied, but you didn’t.
I had to google cider black as I don’t necessarily order alcohol when I go to the pub. Apparently, the chemical reaction when you mix a fruit alcohol and grain alcohol is bad, so don’t order this as you will feel ill. But yes, getting your drink spiked is a real danger, so be careful and don’t accept drinks from strangers!
Don’t try to order any fancy drinks at a pub, just play it cool, order “a pint” and drink whatever is in there.
Not sure if you mean cocktails. Most of the pubs I’ve visited do do cocktails but will probably specialise in ales, lagers and will serve spirits straight up instead. You go to a cocktail bar for fancy drinks, I think!
Hugh Grant is old because Notting Hill came out, like, 134 years ago.
Oi! Not that long ago. I loved that movie…still do. Besides, don’t people still swoon at Cary Grant?
If Hugh Grant hits on you at a party you should find another boy to talk to because he has four children and also see above.
Eggs are inexplicably not refrigerated and are often hidden in a regular food aisle.
In the Philippines, eggs aren’t refrigerated either!
Do not speak ill of the tube system. The British people love their public transportation—“transport,” if you will—even those who don’t actually use it.
Oh don’t get people started on trains, tubes and service disruptions…especially the Southern trains! Not a discussion you want to have. Trains can be a right nightmare!
British people love talking about the weather. This is not a stereotype; it’s a fact.
Well, if your weather systems were unpredictable too, it would be sensible to discuss it!
British people do not, however, want to talk about Hogwarts as much as I do.
Erm…not true. The Brits seem to be very proud of the Harry Potter series of films.
One is the maximum amount of times it’s acceptable to reference Harry Potter in a conversation. (I’m aware that makes two times already for this list, sorry.)
If on a date, it’s best not to reference Harry Potter at all. (Three.)
A shopping bag is not automatically included in your purchase at a store; if you miss the question “would you like a bag?” you will have to awkwardly carry your items out in your hands and act like you planned that.
It depends on what you buy…there are rules to the 5p charge and you can actually get a free bag. But if you can’t answer the “would you like a bag” question, then explaining the rules to the 5p charge would be a CWOT (complete waste of time).
Robbie Williams is very famous here. Just act impressed whenever his name comes up and do not say, “what song does he sing again?” (It’s basically the Queen, David Beckham, Robbie Williams, in terms of famousness.)
Just a note: Robbie Williams is also famous elsewhere…it’s just that the American music scene may not necessarily know of him but rest assured, whole countries know who Robbie Williams is. We also know Boyzone, Take That, Westlife…
Everyone watches The X-Factor and something called Cheryl Cole is very famous and important. (Do not confuse her with Sheryl Crow; they are different people.) Also The Great British Bake Off is a “must-see” and it’s a show about cakes.
Did you just refer to Cheryl Cole as “something?” Awww she’s got a name and well, she does say she’s worth it (using her given name, that is). The names are spelt differently and Cole is different from Crow (easy enough to detect, I would think). GBBO being a must-see is now debatable seeing that it’s moving to Channel 4, but let’s not go there!
Gogglebox is another very popular TV show where you watch people watching TV.
You have shows like Honey Booboo and Baggage Battles where people bid on abandoned luggage and storage containers.
James Corden and Jeremy Corbyn are two different people.
Yes. And so is Gordon Brown and Gordon Ramsay.
If you are meeting someone on the “first floor,” you will need to go up a level because first floor means second floor in this country.
Yep. These things are easily confused and is a good thing to mention.
If a bicyclist puts out their hand, they are indicating which way they’d like to turn; they do not want a high five. (My bad. This is probably true in America, too.)
My bad. I thought that was a universally accepted sign for when a cyclist wants to turn?
Do not get on the bus without your Oyster card. There is no backup option. The only backup option is: Get off ASAP. (Note: Bus drivers are not as nice as cabbies.)
Buses now also take contactless card payments.
Once you swipe your tube (subway) card, do not put it away because you also need it to exit the tube and if you lose it you have to live down there.
Well, if you lose your card, I would think the kind tube station staff will let you out, but there might be the small matter of a fine? Also, I would put the card away somewhere safe so you CAN take it out again to swipe out!
The coins are not sized by worth; the twopence is inexplicably huge while 20 pence is very small. Best to hold out your change in your hand when paying and pretend you don’t speak English.
And knowing is half the battle!
A 2-pound coin is not as rare as the $2 bill (no need to hang on to those like Charlie’s Golden Ticket).
But there are nice, shiny ones though and they’re ever so pretty!
If you live near Fulham Road it does not necessarily mean you live near Fulham.
Erm yes…one is a street name and the other is a town?
If you order a “lemonade,” you’ll get a Sprite and there’s literally nothing you can do about it. I still don’t know how to get an actual “lemonade” in this country.
Yes. This is definitely worth a mention as you might be better off asking for a Sprite, or a 7Up There are also other brands of lemonades available. Also you might want to ask for a still lemonade?
Don’t even bother talking about herbs with anyone because every single one is pronounced differently. Basil is one thing, but wait until you hear a Brit pronounce oregano.
And potato, tomato…?
The Queen’s birthday is celebrated several times a year and there is very bad traffic and lots of drinking.
I thought it was only twice a year?
If it’s bad weather on her birthday, the Queen gets to have a do-over birthday, which is 100 percent the best use of that crown.
Erm…I think it was more so that people could get a chance to celebrate and watch the royal birthday parade in relative sunshine, because British weather is unpredictable. This tradition started in 1748.
Bank Holidays happen several times a year, but no one actually knows what the holiday is in celebration of. Incidentally, if you say “Happy Bank Holiday” to an English person, they will not know how to respond; it is not the equivalent of “Happy Fourth of July!”
If it’s sunny in London and someone is visiting from literally anywhere else, it’s actually illegal if you don’t say, “Thanks for bringing us the sunshine!”
Sunshine is a precious commodity so people here are thankful for the sun!