The Difference in Acquiring a Fish (or Two)

We did it.  We topped the fish tank up from where it had evaporated 2/3 of the way, we loaded into the car and we made that three minute journey down the road to buy fish.  Two coldwater goldfish to be precise.  Their names are Ron Swanson and Ticky Ticky Tom Tom after characters on one of our favourite TV programs, Parks and Rec.

Ron Swanson (not pictured) has a moustache. It is less like Hitler's than this one. Image:

And believe it or not, when we went to collect our two newest family members, I noticed that there seems to be a cultural difference even in buying fish.

 The numerous steps involved in buying a fish in England

Sales Attendant:  Okay, so you’d like to buy some fish today?

The Native:  Yes.

Sales Attendant:  Right.  Well, I just need to ask you a few questions.  (Proceeds to whip out a clipboard, ticklist and pen….UM, WHAT?!)

The Native:  For the fish?  I mean, we’re not buying an exotic zoo animal.  They are normal goldfish, right?

 Sales Attendant:  Yes, but goldfish are very sensitive creatures who demand the utmost respect and we need to make sure their owners are willing to provide that.  (Okay, so I may have made those last two lines up…BUT THAT WAS THE CONVERSATION TAKING PLACE IN MY HEAD!)

Sales Attendant:  Do you have a fish tank?

The Native:  Yes.

Sales Attendant:  How big is it?

The Native:  Around 25 litres.

Sales Attendant:  Have you treated the water yet?

The Native:  We’re here to buy the treatment.

Sales Attendant:  Have you filled the tank?

The Native:  Yes.  It is more than 1/3 of the way full.  (Again, in my head.)

Sales Attendant:  How long has the water been standing?

The Native:  Well, we filled it about 6 months ago and we topped it up today.  (Not in my head.)

Sales Attendant:  Do you have a filter for the fish?

The Native:  Yes.

Sales Attendant:  And do you have any plants for the fish?

The Native:  We are here to buy them.  I didn’t realize that I needed to establish a strict fish-related regimen weeks in advance to prepare ourselves to bring these little guys home.  (Head)

Sales Attendant:  (Ticks a bunch of boxes) Okay, I think we can get started and get your fish.


The four steps to acquiring a fish in America: 

  • Attend school carnival
  • Buy some tickets for games
  • Play game where you throw a table tennis ball into a fish bowl.
  • If you get said ball in bowl, take fish and bowl home with you to the great pleasure of your parents.  Try not to kill in duration of car journey.

This is how we acquired our first fish, Randy Rogers.  Sister named her after the tallest man we knew.  Perhaps we really did need a ticklist for Randy Rogers.  I think the poor guy only made it three weeks.


14 thoughts on “The Difference in Acquiring a Fish (or Two)

      1. Grams

        Maybe there’s something to the questionairre although there clearly is the potential for additional questions:

        1) Do you have children?
        2) Ages of those children?
        3) Have you discussed that fish can not live outside of the fish tank?
        4) Do you have weeble wobble parking garage?

  1. Lauren

    Remember when we had a fish in college and we named them Moby and Mr. Bojangles? And remember how we somehow lost Moby? Also a sad day. Sometimes I still wonder what happened to that little guy.

  2. christy

    That IS ridiculous and leads me to the number one reason I culture shock in Britain on an ongoing base 8 years in.


    Let’s simplify it and call it bureaucracy. The country that invented the middle man. The middle man’s middle man. Oi. Ugh. Makes me shake and cringe 8 years on in the only thing that can predictably send me into the tunnel of cross culture shock ranting.

    – Christy the fish assassin

  3. Rosie

    We live in a grumpy, rainy country where we absolutely do not approve of talking to strangers on buses and where petrol costs the same as a steak in the US, but dangnabbit if we’re going to let you mistreat an innocent goldfish.

    Seriously though, it’s less to do with bureaucracy and fear of law suits and more to do with the fact that you went to a pet shop that cares about animal welfare. Three minutes further down the road and you would have come to the store where they keep the fish in plastic cups, mistreat their rabbits, and wouldn’t have asked you any questions at all. Personally, I’d rather deal with clipboard guy.

  4. Monique

    Oh, I was waiting to hear the dreaded words: HEALTH AND SAFETY. Is there nothing “health and safety” does not oversee? It’s been given to me as a reason/excuse for every imaginable idiosyncrasy.


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