CHARLOTTE, NC. Regarding the never-ending comparisons discussing US vs UK differences, there’s a familiar phrase that comes to mind. Writers and pundits attribute it to several prominent British citizens including Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw among others. That saying, comparing the United States with Great Britain, goes: “We are two nations divided by a common language.”
Admittedly, this does resemble the tone of something Oscar Wilde might have said. But a Google search attributes George Bernard Shaw as the most likely candidate for this pearl of wisdom regarding comparisons between the US and the UK.
No matter. Since the colonies declared their independence from Great Britain more than two hundred years ago, the Brits have become one of our most loyal allies. So much so for most Americans that many of us believe we are, in many ways, the same people who have been separated by the Atlantic Ocean.
On the surface that may seem true, but there are definitely cultural differences which only take a brief time to discover.
Today Myth Trivia explores some of the quirks in a fun-loving, good natured tribute to our friends in the United Kingdom. Our US vs UK trivial compendium follows.
Why are there separate taps for hot and cold water in the UK?
As one Brit explained, “it forces foreigners to choose between SCALDING and FREEZING when they come for a visit. We enjoy the performance of moving our hands very fast between two horrific streams of water. We call it ‘tap dancing,’ and if you can do it well, it proves you are truly British. Classic US vs UK attitude.
Why is something that is not really a pudding called “pudding”?
Here’s a baffling US vs UK phenomenon. Yorkshire pudding is a versatile English side dish consisting of a baked pudding made from eggs, flour and milk or water, and often containing juices from a roast. It can be served as a side dish or a main course, but when you add onion gravy or beef and gravy, somehow the image of “pudding” as we know it, rapidly disappears.
Then there’s Blood Pudding which is a type of blood sausage made from pork blood, with pork fat or beef suet, and a cereal, usually oatmeal, oat groats or barley groats. Groats are the hulled kernels of various cereal grains.
Either way, you have to ask, whatever happened to good old US chocolate pudding?
Why call something that looks like a biscuit a cake?
A classic US vs UK terminology issue. The answer is simple, of course. It’s because “cookies” in the UK are already called “biscuits.” So how could a cake be termed a “biscuit” when that would make it a “cookie”?
It’s rather like fish and chips, where “chips” are French fries in the UK. To straighten this issue out, what we call potato chips are labeled in the UK as “crisps.” Now you’re beginning to get the idea.
Why is toast such a big treat?
In Great Britain toast gets royal treatment. The Brits revere as a snack at any time of day while in the States, chefs and homemakers typically serve toast with breakfast. Though customers may not devour all of it.
Brits however, savor afternoon toast with the same gusto as Beluga caviar. Go figure.
Why the love affair with foul weather?
One Australian answered perfectly: “Who looks at the UK, looks at Australia, and sends the convicts to Australia?”
Why are Brits so cynical?
This one is a corollary to the question about weather offered above. Like their love affair with bad weather, cynicism is inherently a bedrock of the British character.
The French have a reputation for being rude. But in truth, Brits are just as rude. But they just sound more polite because of their classy accents and mastery of sarcasm. Once the infatuation with British accents wears off, their cynicism is easy to spot and very real.
As one observer put it, “If you want an example of this, read the Daily Mail every day for a week. If you do, you’ll hate the government, immigrants, people who live on benefits, the NHS, rich people, poor people, Londoners, northerners…”
Cynicism is a classic US vs UK issue. And in the quantity and quality of cynicism, the Brits tend to win, hands down. Except in New York. Though in the Big Apple, the quality of the cynicism is often lacking.
Why do the Brits apologize so much?
The popular and most widely used word throughout the United Kingdom has to be “Sorry.” Brits apologize for anything. This hold true even when they are not at fault or when they are being rude themselves.
The British apologize when someone bumps into them, when their food is cold in a restaurant, when they get into a crowded elevator, when they pay with change, when they can’t find something in their wallet and on and on. Sorry you read that, but it’s too late now.
Why do the British love to criticize success?
Keeping in line with their cynicism, Brits have a deep sense of jealousy for anyone who is successful. Whatever the reason for success, entrepreneurial achievement is almost always a negative in the minds of British citizens.
Americans are optimistic and admire people who turn their lives around for the better. But the British are fine if people continue to wallow in their misfortune. It’s not a great endorsement of the culture, but it is real.
Why do the British love to standing in line?
For whatever reason, the British people can stand in an orderly queue (line) for hours, politely observing all the proper etiquette.
As our “kicker” for the day, here’s an old joke that illustrates the point perfectly:
One day I was walking through the city streets, when I happened upon a line. I asked what the line was for, and nobody knew, so naturally I stood in it, just in case. I waited for hours but the line didn’t move, so I excused myself and went to the front of the line to see what the matter was. I found that, at the front of the line, there was an elderly gentleman leaning against a wall.
I asked him, “Sir, what is this line for?
“He replied, “I stopped here to lean against the wall and rest, and these people started lining up behind me.”
So then I asked him, “Well why don’t you just leave?”
To which he scoffed. “What, and lose my place in line?
Which just goes to prove that when it comes to US vs UK issues, the more things are the same, the more they are different.
—Headline image: The queue on University Rd for the Banksy exhibition on on a rainy wet Monday in 2009.
Image via Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Nigel Mykura and licensed
under Creative Commons common use/share alike license 2.0.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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