I came across this short article today at BBCAmerica on the 10 things that annoy Americans about British people. It’s written by a Brit living in the land of the Yanks. As an American expat living in the land of the Queen, I feel I’m now enough of a cultural insider to do my own list.
10 Things That Annoy Britons about Americans.
- Your Volume. You are sitting on the Underground flicking through your photos from your day of tourism and guffawing at how that guard really didn’t move as you licked his cheek, when you notice that no one else is talking. That’s not just an off day for your fellow travelers, it is how they travel. The aim is to try to avoid unwanted human interaction wherever possible. They are avoiding eye contact with you, not because they can’t hear you, but because they are plotting how to silence you without getting arrested. Note: if you are an American who finds another American loud, the Brits will feel like said “loud American” is screaming their conversation across the Mississippi River….during a tornado.
- The World Series. Britons everywhere are emphatically stating their “Yes’s” as they read this– but not if they are on public transport, because that’s not acceptable. Even though the Brits don’t have a baseball team to speak of, they take real issue that Americans call it The World Series and yet the only other country represented is Canada – barely. And don’t even get them started on football.
- Giving kids false hope. If Britons know how to do anything well it is to aim for just below average – if you then excel then you get the joy of being pleasantly surprised – but you must then take great measures not to be too pleased because then people will either a) interpret your joy as arrogance or b) ask you to do more. Why must Americans look little Jimmy in the eye and tell him that he can be a doctor or the President, when he swears that swallowing a quarter will make him poop dollar bills? Jimmy is clearly heading towards some kind of career in sewage; if he excels and instead becomes an unhygienic accountant then you can celebrate.
- Say you’re going to Europe when visiting the United Kingdom. Do not EVER make this mistake. If customs gets word that you’ve breathed the phrase “I’m going to Europe,” when you are, in fact, visiting London, they will usher you into that 4×7 box room and make you confess things that you didn’t even know you’d done. Britons make quite a lot of effort to make it clear that they are not European in any way, shape or outfit. Watch Eurovision and you’ll understand. Geographically correct – yes. Socially acceptable – no.
- Pronounce/spell things wrong. Say Leicestershire. Do it. No, say it out loud (but see #1 first). Did it sound something like this? Le-cest-er-shy-er? Uuuuh! Wrong. That’s clearly pronounced Lester-shur. And don’t make comments about their “funny English.” Sure they throw in random “u’s” and completely forget to pronounce certain letters, but the key word there is ENGLISH and they’ll make sure you know about it.
- Wear white socks. The Native and I play a game when we’re at the airport – Spot the American. Without fail we always get it right and here’s why….It’s the white socks, fellas. To Britons it screams geek and not in the cool, urban way. If you’re going to wear white socks, at the very least, try to hide them – don’t put them on show by pulling them up to your mid-calf.
- Using irony incorrectly. It’s not that you can’t be ironic, but let me explain. Brodie sits down at his desk and starts moaning about how even though he left for work 30 minutes early today, he was still late and his colleague Brad says, “That’s so ironic.” No. No, it’s not Brad. It’s a bad start to Brodie’s day, yes. It’s unfortunate, yes. It’s annoying, yes. But it’s not as annoying as you misconstruing that event for irony. If Brodie’s job is that he is the Talking Clock – you know, the man who, when you call that number, tells you exactly what time it is? – and he’s constantly late to work because he never knows what time it is, that is ironic.
- Use a buttload of energy. You get weather that reaches 80° and 90°F and you don’t hang clothes outside, but tumble dry them instead. They’ll complain about the environment, about resources, about wastefulness but in their hearts they’re just really bitter that you can do anything in 80°F weather and choose not to when here summer peaks at a balmy 61°F.
- Sharing your feelings too openly. When Britons sit down next to a new American friend on a flight and the friend starts crying about their dead hamster, Brits don’t want to sympathize, they want to run. Your frankness and honesty has made them feel uncomfortable. How in the world have you gotten through any wars? Hasn’t anyone taught you about repression? You bottle it up in a special place in the darkest corner of your heart until the emotion one day kills you. What’s not to understand?
- Making everything showbiz. The prime example is at a wedding reception of any John and Jane Doe. When it is time for the entrance of the wedding party, a spotlight zooms around, music plays and a DJ announces each usher, bridesmaids, and best man. Quite often these people will wear sunglasses or do some kind of dance when they enter the reception hall. Royal weddings are the place for the pomp, so just sneak into your reception and sit down at the top table quietly like the plebian you are, okay?