Good afternoon lovelies,
Today’s post is dedicated purely to the relationship between Britain, and our Transatlantic friends in the USA. For now, I’m going to be answering 45 questions for you, with yet another American snack tasting post for you tomorrow! I’ve wanted to do a post like this Q & A for so long because I know that so many of my American friends are really curious about life on our tiny island, so when I saw The Fashion Ball’s (further known as TFB) post on Twitter, I knew that I had to get involved.. A lot of my readers are in the USA, so as a special thankyou for your continued support, I wanted to do something which maybe feels a little bit more personal. Don’t forget, if you have any questions for me, leave them in the comments and if I will be sure to answer them another time!
A little about me, I don’t live in and have never visited London so the thoughts in this post are entirely my own, as a woman born and raised outside of the capital. I’ve lived in Bristol all of my life, though I have travelled all over Britain. Asides that, I’m going to put my hand up now and say that yes, I voted for Brexit. As a woman from a fishing family, that decision was based around a push for fairer trade and an agreement around acceptable behaviours on waters, particularly with the on-off ‘scallop war’ with France which endangers lives on both sides. I’ve seen British fishermen struggle to sell their catches because international sellers are able to sell their produce for less, and that saddens me. I’d welcome a new deal with Europe but unfortunately I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I don’t in any way support any anti-immigration or nationalisitic policies and I don’t associate with those who do. As long as you respect my country, our people and our values, you’re very much welcome here!
Alright, so let’s get on with the questions!
1. Why do British people call cookies “biscuits”?
Okay, so TFB is absolutely right. Biscuits are typically hard, dry and need dunking in tea or coffee to soften them up. You don’t have to dunk a biscuit, but it’s sort of what British people do. Most Brits drink the stereotypical “sweet white” tea, which means to say two teaspoons of sugar and a splash of milk in our tea. If you ask for more sugar, you will get dodgy looks. Two teaspoons of sugar in most households is normal 😉 Some of our biscuits have cream fillings, like custard creams, bourbon biscuits or my personal favourite, the Fox’s jam n’ cream. Not all do though, and biscuits like McVitie’s digestives or Hobnobs can be quite hard and dry without a drink.
2. Why do British judges still wear powdered wigs?
M’okay, so this isn’t strictly true. In a civil or magistrates court, judges just wear smart dresses or suits. Even at a crown court or supreme court, wigs aren’t always worn. As our judicial system has become more modernised, wigs are sort of worn less and less. However, in high profile cases or in cases where there may be a threat to safety (such as dealing with murderers and rapists), a judge might choose to wear a wig. They are worn to help to protect the identity of the judge outside of the courtroom. However, on TV’s set in Britain, they’re quite frequently worn. When I attended my PIP tribunal last year, I was quite amazed by how different it all seemed. The civil court courtroom was more like a small lecture hall, and the judge wore a smart dress and a jacket. She even came down to meet me ahead of my hearing so that I knew I had nothing to be scared of.
3. Why do British people call diapers “nappies?”
TFB is right here again. Traditionally, “nappies” were made with old napkins that could be washed, dried and used again. Although we now have disposable options, the name has long lived on.#
4. How many times do British people need to be reminded to mind the gap?
Haha, more often than you might think! Brits are a nation of polite people and we just don’t want you hurting yourself or losing your luggage under the train, so you’ll see “mind the gap”, “mind your head” or “mind your step” signs around. If you don’t mind, you could wind up hurt, and then we’ll feel bad for you.
5. Why do British people drink tea in literally every situation?
Tea is the elixir of life! Who doesn’t love tea?! Tea to Britain is like MSG to Asian cuisine. If you’re sad, drink tea. If you’re cold, drink tea. Can’t think? Stressed out? You need tea..
Oh also, while we’re here. America, please stop thinking we sip tea from teacups while we hold our pinky finger in the air and eat cute little sandwiches and cakes. If you saw us sit down with a mug full of tea and three rustic digestive biscuits for dunking, you’d be horrified. Nobody drinks tea in teacups with cute little cakes in 2020. Okay, maybe the Queen.
6. How on Earth do British people deal with the weather?
Can I just say here, it doesn’t always rain in the UK.. This was October last year!
Seriously though America, heating systems, warmer clothing, hot drinks, raincoats and umbrellas. You know those things you do in the US when the weather isn’t so favourable? Brits do them too! You know, Britain is famous for always being rainy and we do get a lot of rain, but we do also get some insanely hot weather! I can remember back about summer 1996. It was so hot, my Dad’s garden hose melted!
7. Why do British people all strip down when they see the slightest bit of sun?
Haha, we don’t. However, what you can expect at the slightest hint of heat in April is the smell of barbecue. Some British families go a bit crazy for it, and they’re probably also the ones who strip off whenever the sun comes out. 12 degrees out there? Feels a bit toasty if you sit in the sun? That’s it, start up the barbie!
8. Why do British people think Marmite tastes good?
We do? I’ll have to get my birth certificate changed. Marmite is vile. I’ve done a few international food swaps in my time and I only ever send Marmite to people because everyone knows it exists. Twiglets are another ungodly creation. The saying is “you’ll eiher love it or you’ll hate it” , and I can safely say that I hate it!
9. Why do British people have two taps instead of one?
TFB is right on this one for the most part. However, largely it’s a class thing. Having one tap (or faucet) is generally seen as a sign of wealth, although some high-end hotels still uphold the polished two tap bathtub for a vintage aesthetic. Still, in the homes of most working class families, you will find two bulky, stainless steel taps on our bathtub and sinks.
10. What’s the deal with cricket?
Cricket is a British sport, so it’s natural that we’d enjoy it. However, most British men actually prefer football.
11. Why do British people lose their accents when they sing?
I don’t sing, so I can’t honestly tell you, but I think it’s a pretty common thing. Britney Spears sounds completely different when she sings to when she talks, doesn’t she? You put more strain on the vocal cords when you sing, so I think that’s normal.
12. Why are British people so obsessed with the Royal family?
Look, love them or hate them, the Royal family is the Royal family. Why are Americans so obsessed with the U.S. Presidency? It’s pretty much the same thing, only we don’t get to vote them in. Some people like them, others can’t stand them. A lot of British people make jokes about Camilla Parker-Bowles (Prince Phillip’s wife) looking like a horse and a lot of young British people secretly want the Queen as their grandmother. A lot of us think the Royal family has a crazy amount of wealth too, and we pay too much to the monarch. Prince WIlliam and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton are big advocates of mental health, and who can’t get behind that?!
13. Why are British people all so stoic?
Hey, we complain too! I think the thing is though, Americans can be a little more… forthright in how they complain. I mean, in the US, expressions like “fuck my life” are kind of the norm, whereas in the UK, most people past about 25 just wouldn’t say that. We use “bloody” a lot, which is blaspemous, but not strictly swearing. So it goes, there is a poem that my Dad taught me about the word “bloody” which makes its use perfectly acceptable. So it goes:
Bloody’s in the Bible,
Bloody’s in the Book.
If you don’t believe me,
Take a bloody look!
So, with that cleared up then, Brits tend to use “bloody” more than strong expletives. If you said to someone “this rain is fucking horrendous, isn’t it?”, they might not regard you too nicely because there’s no need to swear since a lot of people don’t like it when it rains. However, if you said “this weather is bloody awful, isn’t it?” (which is such a British thing to say!) then you’ll be met more empathetically, because Brits don’t regard “bloody” as swearing. I think ‘we’re not that different, but Brits are slightly less eccentric in their self-expression than our American counterparts.
14. How many BBC channels are there?
Tons, but you know what? We do have others, too. If the BBC’s sensationalism annoys you, you could try ITV, who are a little more grounded and personally my preference for getting an update on world affairs. TFB also mentions BBC Three, but BBC Three no longer exists, though there is talk of it returning. A lot of British households actually spend huge swathes of time watching Channel 4 these days, which is not owned by the BBC at all.
TBF is also right about our radio stations. BBC Radio 1 usually covers latest music charts, Radio 2 covers contemporary music, BBC radio 3 features classical music, opera and jazz and BBC Radio 4 typically includes spoken shows, including the, interviews, news and podcasts.
15. What do Britain want to be called? Britain, Great Britain, England, the United Kingdom or the U/K.?
This is really complicated, so hold on. If you’re talking about those of us who are connected by land (England, Scotland and Wales), then we are Great Britain. If you’re talking about the United Kingdom, then that also includes Northern Ireland (but not Republic of Ireland). However, on our own, we are four separate countries, and unless you’re involving all of us, then we are each by our own name, Patriotism (but not nationalism!) is common in the UK, and some people don’t like to be clumped together as “British”. I’m going to make up a term here to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Let’s clump the USA and Canada together for a moment (I know, I know – sorry!) and imagine that they were just called “North Atlanticians”, you lose that sense of autonomy. It’s not that you inherently hate anyone from the other country, it’s just that you have a sense of pride in where you come from. For people in Britain, it’s quite often the same. I actually have some wonderful friends in Wales and the English-Welsh banter can be ruthless at times, but if push comes to shove then we’d be there for one another in a heartbeat.
As for Britain or U.K.? “Britain” is a term that we just know to mean us. It’s like saying America, you don’t know where exactly, you just know that the speaker is referring to that part of the world. We don’t generally call ourselves “Great Britain” anymore because that dates back to days of colonialism and we don’t really regard ourselves as so great anymore, especially not in times of international community and trade. As for U.K., if you want to refer to us as the U.K., or even just UK, feel free to do so. Just please don’t shorten us to ‘U’ rather than ‘UK’, as there are other countries that begin with a U and it could cause a lot of confusion. It works fine with the US as we know where you mean, but it doesn’t work for us.
16. Why are there so many British accents?
Why does the Californian accent sound different to New York that sounds different to Texas? TFB is exactly right, it comes down to people spending time together in groups. In fact, even here in Bristol, the accent in North Bristol is different to South Bristol. It’s to do with communities, families and spending time with one another. Especially here in the South West, the population is so spread out with small pockets of civilisation that it’s natural for people to form communities and therefore accents and dialects.
17. Why do British people say “maths” instead of “math”?
You don’t do one math, do you? “Maths” is really just short for “mathematics”. Personally, I’m actually really ‘triggered’ by “math”. To me, America, you’re wrong, and it should be called “maths”. Agree to disagree?
18. Why do British people call lines “queues”?
If anything is in a queue, then it is waiting for something. If you’re waiting for several files to download, they’re not “lining” are they? It’s interesting though, because in British schools, students are often told to “line up”, and indeed, that means to form a straight line. A queue, although still arguably a line, is more relaxed. A queue is allowed to curve and tail off to the left or the right, and indeed, when you see people queuing to get on a bus, you will often note that it tails off to the left or the right instead of cutting right across the pavement (sidewalk). Whatever you do, do not push in unless you want to be scolded or wolloped (punched). If there is a queue, do the civil thing and go to the back of it, and no, we don’t care how much of a rush you’re in. If someone gets there when you do, say “after you” and then stand behind them. Again, if you try and jostle in ahead of someone, you can expect burning ears. Like I said earlier, Britain is a very polite country!
19. Why do British people eat toast with beans on top?
Haha, we don’t all do that! TFB is right, it’s a cheap, warming and easy meal, but it’s not all we eat! Seriously though, you know those food combinations Americans love? Get a slice of bread, toast is until it’s just golden, butter it (it must be butter, not vegetable spread!) and top it off with half a can of warm baked beans in tomato sauce. You cannot get more British than that! Penny Berry also told me that Americans don’t really get baked beans in tomato sauce, and here in the UK, pretty much all of our baked beans are in tomato sauce! Could that be the difference and the reason for the disgust? Maybe.
Dang it, now I fancy me some toast and beans..
20. Why do British people go on vacation for so long?
I mean, what are we calling “long” here America? In the UK, most employees are given 28 days annual leave per year, and it’s up to you how you use them. Also, unless you’re meant to cover a weekend, then Saturdays and Sundays don’t class as part of your annual leave and so a two-week vacation really goes down as just 10 working days. Now think this through, you could have two 14-day breaks in your year, plus an extra 8 days off to use up when you want them or as you need them. Wouldn’t you do the same?
21. Why do British people call their dogs John and really ordinary Christian first names? Weirdos.
Hugo actually nearly wasn’t “Hugo”, he was very nearly “Crumble”. So it goes, I took a packet of Oatie Crumbles (ASDA’s version of Hobnobs) out of the cupboard while Mr Wolfie and I were discussing names for him and I just thought that, because of Hugo’s smattering of brown patches, it seemed like a totally adorable name. That’s fine, but we decided that as he grew up, a 6-year-old dog called “Crumble” might not seem so cute anymore. TFB is absolutely right here, Britain is a nation of dog lovers and we see our dogs as family members, not work animals or fashion accessories. To me, Hugo is my “fur son”, I have a dog because I don’t want to have children, so a more human name seems fitting for him. I don’t dress him up though. Even if he’s my fur son, he’s still a dog. Just because I love him that extra bit doesn’t mean that I don’t want him to be comfortable, as a dog.
22. Why do British people always ask for Americanos?
This question made me laugh, because I don’t know anyone who drinks Americanos. I guess maybe in London? But hey America, newsflash! Not all of Britain is London! Just to demonstrate, here is a picture of the UK. I’ve circled my city of Bristol in blue, and London in red. As you can see, I’m on the other side of the country!