More expat stand up – Expat life part 4

The previous post in this series was poking fun at my own country, the USA. This of course now grants me free rein to poke fun at my adopted country, the UK.

There is much more a sense of national consciousness here than in the US, probably because it’s a smaller country. For example, did you know there is a national paint colour? It’s called Magnolia and is the all-purpose, inoffensive, go-to colour to paint everywhere, similar to taupe in the US.



No, not THAT kind of magnolia. (Public domain image from

It’s also the bane of interior designers and DIY show presenters who push people to be “edgy” and to “go outside their comfort zone.” Oh, we’ll just stick with Magnolia they say…

Chocolate is another facet of the British national consciousness.

Britons universally revere Cadbury’s and will happily have lengthy debates about the merits of different chocolates. Cadbury’s vs. Galaxy. Minstrels vs. Rolos. Dairymilk Buttons vs. Dairymilk Freddos.

Britons also universally agree that Hershey’s is rubbish. I am endeavouring to change this one Kiss at a time.

British social customs are another part of the national consciousness that has been well documented. Think “stiff upper lip,” “mind the gap,” queuing etiquette and the like.
However I have found that British politeness is a bonafide phenomenon, verging on an extreme sport.

Extreme in that politely assuming you’re in the wrong and apologising is the universal response for all social situations in the UK.

For instance, one day I ran into a neighbour in the mailbox room of our building. I said ‘Hiya’, she said ‘Sorry’…

Etiquette on public transport gets murkier. From what I can tell, when you sit down on the bus, say ‘Sorry’. When you get up from your seat, say ‘Sorry’. Like I said it’s the universal response.

I’m very sorry if I have offended anyone with this post. In fact I’m sorry for writing it in the first place. I’ll also apologise in advance for my next post of even more expat stand up.


Top Four Aspects (so far) of Life in Britain

I took one of those fake “Life in the UK” tests online a few months ago and duly forwarded the link to my British husband. Both of us failed it, but we can’t actually remember the percentages. I got more history questions right but he did better with the sport/political questions. Anyhow I am still a proud American Southerner (bring on the grits) after four and a half years over here, but I have been reflecting lately on aspects of British life that I’m actually getting on with quite well…in no particular order.

  • All the old stuff

There is a medieval Cistercian abbey ruin about 10 minutes walk from our flat. In the US, we get excited about buildings from the 1800s, so medieval structures blow our minds just a little! We are quick to acknowledge we cannot compete for history with the old continent, which is one reason why so many Americans like to visit Europe. It was the history of this country that initially attracted me and once I visited in 2007, I fell in love with the place. Obviously by now I have seen the less historic side of the country but I still get that awestruck feeling as you experience living history in everyday life.

  • Digital scales

I finally relented and bought a digital scale after years of converting measurements from grams to cups to who knows what, and, let me tell you, it is now a cherished possession. Mainly because the cookbooks I have are British and so everything is in metric anyway. My digital scale measures in grams and milli-liters and pounds too I think. It has made my life so much simpler both because I don’t have to hurriedly convert measurements online as much (how many grams is a stick of butter??) but also it seems to save dirty dishes since you can just measure everything into one bowl.

  • Hanging up clothes to air dry

This was initially born out of necessity because I didn’t have a tumble dryer. They are still not a common appliance in many British homes. Personally I think this is a surprising display of British a-rationalism, since it being a damp country a lot of homes have mould problems and surely drying clothes indoors (because of course it’s raining outside) just compounds this problem! Anyway, we now do have a tumble dryer (and not one of those suspicious “all-in-one washer/dryers” that just make your clothes REALLY wrinkled). But I don’t use it that often, I think mainly because I have been converted to the energy-saving aspects of air drying and just got into the habit. However I have not nor ever will be converted to the idea that no dishwasher is alright because hand washing all your dishes is really nice and eco-friendly…

  • Pedestrian life

There are very few places in the US that you can live without a car just because of the sheer distances involved between points A and B and lack of public transport unless you live in the Northeast or a mega-city. Over here though it is very common to be car-less, because 1) public transport is very good, 2) the driving test is extremely difficult to pass, and 3) the price of fuel (“petrol” not “gas”) is very high. We don’t have a car and while is it certainly inconvenient at times, I love the fact that exercise and fresh air is already built into my daily routine.

Have you lived/travelled abroad? What aspects have you imported back home?