I was recently at home in the UK for a month. I call it home as this is the country I was born and grew up in, but these days it doesn’t feel like home at all. I just feel like an awkward visitor trying to fit in where I don’t belong any more. It’s so weird and surprisingly it’s the little things that make me feel different.
My accent is seriously messed up. American’s think I am truly British and British people think I am an American with a really odd accent. I go up at the end of sentences and then I drop my consonants as only a Manchester person can do so people think I am putting on some bizarre inflection leading them to just stare at me and say “where are you from?” When I say Manchester, England they don’t believe me so I go into a monologue of the reason why my accent is different and by that time the person has lost interest and wanders off, politely of course.
I don’t know how to queue any more
American’s do not queue or line up. The morning commute to work is everyone trying to get on the bus at the exact same time with no-one getting uppity about being there first. Try and mess with a Brit at the bus stop by jumping the queue (line) and they will seriously take you down as I found out when I took a bus one day in Manchester’s City Center. I was mortified and terrified both at the same time while apologizing profusely that I have lived in America for 20 years and forgot the protocol.
I expect high restaurant customer service for my 20-25%!
This is an odd one and really depends on where you go but the one thing that stands out to me is that American restaurant service is a lot better. It is a customer service industry where people are paid very little so therefore the customer is well taken care of, which ultimately leads to a 20-25% tip. UK people are already paid a decent hourly rate and while I am generalizing here, the service is not quite as up to par as America, which then leads me to frustration on the little things like my water not being refilled and I have to politely and apologetically ask for more and still leaving a 20% tip because I am conditioned to it. My sister just laughs at me and thinks I am an insane. One time a waiter actually followed me out of the restaurant to say I left money on the table. When I said it was for her I got a big hug so that was nice :), but truly I am so used to tipping in America even for mediocre service I can’t help myself. Am I a very generous Brit or an American so used to tipping the service itself doesn’t really matter?
Ordering a glass of wine
While I have noticed that some steak restaurants offer you a 6oz or 9oz glass of wine in the US with not so measured pours, the British offer three sizes – small, medium and large and strictly measure their pour using a Gill measure. My British self would have zero embarrassment about ordering the large pour but for some reason my American self has a deep rooted embarrassment about being classed as a “lush” so I always order a medium… twice!
My morning coffee with half & half, don’t put butter on my sandwich and PULEEEAASSE stop offering me chips!
My American self loves my morning coffee with half & half. Half & half does not exist in the UK and it really gets to me. For me having a coffee with milk is just not the same, so I try to make it myself with milk and single cream, which is nowhere near as good as my delicious half & half. It takes a week or so to find the inner British girl who used to love a morning cup of Tetley tea and then I am upset when I get back to the US and my tea doesn’t taste the same. It’s all very confusing for my inner psyche who wants to be an American in Britain and British in America. Truly, am I a tea or am I coffee person leading me to ask again am I British or American?
Now to the sandwich. 20 years ago I arrived in America and was shocked to my inner core that they do not put butter on my ham and cheese sandwich. This to me was so sacrilege to the Great British Butty, I almost moved back home to England. Now, I almost gag when I taste butter on my sandwiches when I go back home. To butter or not to butter – who am I?
Finally, Britain please stop offering me chips (fries) with every single thing I order. I have no willpower, they are impossible to turn down and you are breaking my soul, but more importantly my waistband with the brilliant, chipped fried potato. I need a side salad not chips. I am (need to be) a side salad eating America or am I really just chip eating Brit? Do you see what is happening to me!
Perhaps my little heart is British, my personality and preferences are now American and my accent is a mix of both.