Being a Yank in the UK

Though the UK and the US share a language and some cultural similarities, there are plenty of differences between the two countries that will confuse the average Yankee. After spending four months in London, I’ve identified a few important tips for Americans coming across the pond to help blend in more easily with the Brits.

Sidewalk etiquette (or lack thereof):
In America, everyone knows to walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Doing otherwise would undoubtedly result in a face-to-face collision with a fellow pedestrian. But Londoners are bound by no such limitation.

Her Majesty’s Government published 35 rules for pedestrians, but most don’t know or care about these. People walk on the left, the right, or they block the entire sidewalk by standing in the middle. It’s essentially anarchy, so be prepared for the slalom style free-for-all that is walking around the city.

Don’t make noise or eye contact on the tube:
Americans are loud. It’s nearly impossible for a group of us to walk around without disturbing the peace.

Especially on the tube, noise is the height of impoliteness and is guaranteed to earn you stern glances from other commuters. Do your best to be invisible on public transportation.

Eat early:
Surely a contributor to our nation’s obesity problem, America has a myriad of fast food restaurants that are open 24/7.

London doesn’t have this problem. It’s rare to find a restaurant open past 10 pm, so if you usually get hungry late at night, be sure to stock up at Tesco during the day.

Be prepared for any weather:
Putting your faith in the forecast will inevitably result in a drenching at some point. Predictions may call for it to just be cloudy, but the chance of rain is omnipresent. The stereotype about London is that it rains all the time, but it’s far more common for it to rain in short spurts than constantly throughout the day.

The weather is unpredictable and prone to sudden change, so it’s always a good idea to have your coat and umbrella at the ready.

Learn to pronounce places the British way:
Nothing makes an American stand out more than saying the “Thay-mes” River (it’s “Tems”, you git). The British are infinitely more creative than Americans in naming places, including gems like Great Snoring, Scratchy Bottom and Fanny Barks.

Here’s a few more helpful ones to help avoid any potential verbal cock ups:

-The C is silent for places like Leicester, Gloucester and Worcester. These are “Lester,” “Glohster,” and “Wouster.” The town of Towcester is indeed pronounced “Toaster.”

-Any place that has the suffix “ham” is not pronounced the same as you would the food. Say it with a soft “um” instead. Examples are Tottenham (“Tot-num”) and Beckenham (“Becken-um”).

-The Scottish capital is “Edin-bruh,” not “Edinburgh” as it looks.

-Be careful with places that look like two words got smushed together to form their name, like Mousehole or Gateacre. These are “Mou-zle” and “Gatt-a-ker.”

-Some pronunciations make absolutely no sense, like Rampisham (pronounced “Ransom”). Best of luck with those.
Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash

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