How can I tell what the world wants to know about Britain? It sends me questions on search engines. The method is roughly as reliable as reading tea leaves, but it’s what we’ve got. They’re reproduced below in all their oddity.
how do brits interpert tourist
Is “badly” a good enough answer? The British are famous (at least among themselves) for not learning other people’s languages. So interpreting for tourists? Don’t visit the country on the assumption that someone’s going to step in and do this for you–at least not unless you know how to find a community of people who share your language.
Of course, if you don’t read English, you’re not likely to be reading this.
Or is the question about how the British understand tourists? If so, the answer is simple: How is anyone supposed to tell you what an entire country thinks?
This raises the question I keep circling back to when I dredge the search engine pond, which is why so many people assume that a whole–excuse me–fuckin’ culture feels or thinks the same way about anything. And for what it’s worth, the questions are usually about some bit of triviality, like whether the British like soft cookies or how the British feel about tourists.
Excuse me a minute while I go into the corner and yell at the paint.
what do londoners think of american tourists
All Londoners? Okay, first we have to define London. It’s made up of 32 boroughs plus the City of London. The City of London is not London. So just to be clear, or possibly to confuse the issue a little more, there’s a difference between the City of London and the city of London. The City (capitalized) is a tiny little place with lots of financiers and a bunch of arcane traditions. If we’re talking about London itself, which an outsider might be silly enough to call call the city of London, we’re not talking about the City of London.
Is that clear?
The question is, do you, O prospective tourist who typed the question into a search engine, plan to visit all 32-plus boroughs? If not, maybe it’s only the single opinion held by all the residents of central London that matters to you. And, of course, they all hold that one opinion.
Or maybe it’s the opinion of the people who live in, work in, or commute to central London.
You see how complicated this gets.
Next we have to make sure they can tell American tourists from other brash English-speaking tourists. My Texas-born (although not usually Texas-accented) partner has been mistaken for Australian. She sounds roughly as Australian as I do, and I have a New York accent, although it’s not the accent some people think is the only New York accent. (Sorry. Life’s complicated.) We’re both regularly asked if we’re Canadian. I’m convinced this is an attempt at politeness. But you see my point. Are we talking about what all Londoners think of people they think are American tourists or of people who genuinely are American tourists.
And then there’s that whole business of what American means. I seem to be stumbling into this issue a lot lately. America involves two continents and that central bit that connects them, part of which isn’t Central but North America. American isn’t just the U.S. of What-do-we-call-this place?
If all that is murky enough, I think you’ll understand why I’m not going to answer the question. No answer is possible.
Conveniently, though, the question was followed by yet another one about the two-finger insult, and I’m grateful for that because I’d like to use it just now.
Nobody has yet asked what Americans think of the two-finger insult, but I’ll tell you anyway: They have no idea what it is.
what beer uk has that american doesn’t
Among many others, Doom Bar. Ask for that in a bar in Fridley, Minnesota, and see what happens.
Some of my most popular posts are about beer. Which I haven’t tasted in years. That qualifies me as an international expert on the subject.
why is britain called great britain
Because Big Honkin’ Britain lacks dignity and would lead to me being investigated by the Parliamentary Committee on Un-British Language.
why is called grand britain
Because you have cotton in your ears.
history of the plougman’s lunch
I came, I ordered, I ate, leaving the pickled onion, the chutney, and most of the salad untouched and making myself wonder why I’d ordered it, since what I actually ate was a do-it-yourself cheese sandwich on a very big plate.
If you want a more general history of the ploughman’s lunch, as opposed to a report on the one I got, you’ll find it here.
difference between british and american bueaurocacy
One of them has a second R in it. The other one also has a second R in it. We won’t get into the vowels. They’re best left to the experts.
The people who work for one will say please and thank you and will expect you to do the same. The people who work for the other won’t say thank you and will think you’re up to something if you work in a please. If you’re not sure which is which, leave me a comment and I’ll clarify it.
This is related to that thing about bureaucrats–or bueaucrats if you prefer.
The people who type this question into search engines have read a nineteenth century novel, or many nineteenth century novels, and think British manners involve knowing which of seventeen forks to use for the fish and not calling anyone by their first name until you’ve known them for as many years as you have forks on the table.
They haven’t noticed that different centuries have different manners, and so do different groups within a society. So, basically, British manners depend on who you’re talking to. What’s universal is that you don’t jump the queue (translation: butt into line) and you do say please and thank you.
An absurd lot. In our local store, before it closed, I was thanked when I handed over whatever it was I wanted to buy. I was thanked again when I handed over my money, then thanked again at least once more–possibly when I was given my change or when I walked out the door. By that time I’d generally lost track of what I’d done to trigger it. Every so often, I was told, “Thank you, thank you very much, thank you.”
Yes, that’s a direct, undoctored quote.
Why did the store close? It ran out of thank-you’s. You can blame Brexit if you like. They got held up at the border in anticipation of a no-deal crash-out.
At first I worried that I wasn’t managing to say enough you’re-welcome’s in response, but it turns out that no one expects them. I still haven’t figured out what is expected. You’d think after thirteen years I’d have worked that out, but you’d be wrong. I just thank people back. Not quite as many times, but as many as I can manage.
It’s okay. I’m American. People expect me to be rude, or at least strange. I like to think they make allowances and notice that I am trying.
You also say please a lot. The American form of politeness is saying can I? or could I? as in “Could I have a can of Coke?” Here that sounds rude if a please doesn’t hitch a ride on the request, and it sounds absurd either way, because the question isn’t whether you could or couldn’t have it, it’s about whether you’d like one.
Final bit of politeness? You never, ever butt into a line. Not even if you’re bleeding.
stéréotypes of u.k
That the British don’t do emotions, or possibly even have them.
That they have seventeen forks to a place setting and know what to do with them.
That they have Manners–capital M because they’re so important and so British that no one else will ever get them right.
That everything stops at 4 p.m. for afternoon tea.
That no one uses teabags.
That they all have a single, posh accent. Except for the ones who sound like Dick Van Dyke in the first Mary Poppins.
Please note: I’m not claiming any of those are true. They’re just what I happened to dredge out of the lazy stereotype pool at short notice.
Morris dancers are what prove that whatever you think British manners are, you’re wrong. Why’s that? Because everyone who isn’t a morris dancer makes fun of morris dancing. Even if we don’t want to. The social pressure’s immense.
For further information on morris dancing, I refer you to that well-known non-expert, me.
how to be an aristocrat
You arrange to be born into a family with a title, silly.
You didn’t do that, you say, and you’re trying to correct your mistake? Too late. You blew your chance. Because that’s the thing about aristocracy: It’s a closed group. Sure, people have historically been given titles who didn’t start with them, but don’t think the people who inherited theirs are impressed. They’ve all known each other since before their great grandparents many times over were born and they’re not anxious to expand the gene pool.
Why does anybody think they can (or want to) worm their way into this foolishness? I have no idea, but I get regular variations on the question, all because I wrote a post about an aristocrat behaving badly and put a snarky title on it. I don’t recommend using him as a model.
I don’t recommend using any other aristocrat as a model either.
is sticky date pudding bad for cats
The last version of this question I got was about whether sticky toffee pudding was bad for cats. I thought it was a glitch–just one strange cat owner who’d gotten loose on the internet–but apparently there’s a new idea loose in the world: feeding sticky puddings to cats and worrying about whether it’s bad for them.
When did the world get so strange, people?
why are mps wearing roses
On May 8, MPs wore white roses during Prime Minister’s Question Time–a slot dedicated to making the prime minister of the moment squirm and suffer. The roses marked World Ovarian Cancer Day. The only thing Parliament can agree on at the moment is that ovarian cancer is bad, but at least no one spoke in its defense.
Several perfectly sensible news articles covered the story, and they’re where I found my information. How did someone asking about it land here?