March 08, 2014

British Oddities: The Never-ending Saga

I love Britain. It's under my skin, in my blood, and my Britophilia isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I love living in Britain: the people, the places, and yes––even the food. However, that doesn't mean that I necessarily understand everything Brits do. 

Fish and chips by Salim Virji
Fish and chips, a photo by Salim Virji on Flickr.
We've already discussed the fact that Brits and Americans don't speak the same language,  so let's move on to some other quirky bits that I've had personal encounters with.

This isn't just some list of oddities gleaned off the internet. These are real issues that this American girl has had to deal with.


Eating Tea


Here in the North of England, the evening meal is called "tea." As someone who has grown up with dinner and supper, it took me a very long time to get accustomed to the idea of "tea time" having nothing to do with the drink but rather with fish and chips or maybe a curry. Even now when someone says they were invited somewhere for tea, my first thought is a china teacup and scones.


IMG_2412.JPG by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}
IMG_2412.JPG, a photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester} on Flickr.

Outlet-free Bathrooms


Imagine being forced to go to your bedroom in order to dry your hair. Try to conceptualise a world where your speakers can't be plugged in next to the shower. There is such a world, people, and it's called Britain.
The only outlets you'll find in a British bathroom are these weird little shaver things. Supposedly this is because of the super-high voltage in the UK, which would kill you if you dropped a hair dryer in the bathtub. However, I don't see why bathrooms without tubs pose any danger at all. And who dries their hair while they're in the bath anyway?!

Also, did I mention that you have to switch on the sockets in Britain? Again, because of the crazy 240v electricity. It's not too much of a pain, but these switches are often the explanation of why the kettle refuses to boil and my toast is still cold after 10 minutes in the toaster.


eggs by Ambernectar 13
eggs, a photo by Ambernectar 13 on Flickr.

Warm Eggs


The Europeans have a different perspective on egg hygiene than we Americans. In the good ol' USA you'd be stared at in wide-eyed horror if you left a carton of eggs out of the fridge, while here in England the eggs are sold on supermarket shelves alongside flour and sugar.

The explanation for this puzzling difference lies in the way farmers deal with the eggs (whether they are washed or not washed) a very complicated matter best explained by this article in Forbes. The practical result is that I'm left searching in vain for eggs amongst the milk and cheese, forgetting to check the baking aisle.

Closed by Jasoon
Closed, a photo by Jasoon on Flickr.

Shop Early, Or Else



I love British shops, but I'd love them even more if they stayed open past 5:30 PM (or 4 o'clock on Sundays). I really don't know how working people have any time to buy groceries, because as soon as they get off work the stores close.

Sure, there are some 24-hour supermarkets that will sell you a loaf of bread at 7 PM, but on the whole it seems that the UK has ridiculously short opening hours. Tell me I'm an over-indulged, convenience-driven American, but I think even the Brits would admit that it's nice to be able to buy a dress or a carton of warm eggs after dinner––errr, tea.

6 comments:

  1. I have recently discovered your blog and I've enjoyed reading it. Your writing is very expressive and eloquent with a great sense of style. Made all the more impressive, considering your age. You really have a talent.

    You will find Pull Cord light switches and no standard electrical sockets in a British bathroom courtesy of UK building regulations. Your post jokingly observed that no one is going to stand in the bathtub full of water and use a hairdryer. The fact is that your hands could be wet or damp from using a wash-basin and the simple act of pushing a plug into a socket might cause an arc of electricity to that damp finger which would probably be fatal. After all, we put a lot of faith in the fact that we hope that sockets have been wired correctly by competent electricians and that the sockets and the plugs are of good quality

    Then again, I have plugged many a hairdryer into the sockets
    in Spanish bathrooms with 240 Volts surging through the wiring,with no trouble at all, so go figure!

    Sockets with switches - what is wrong with that! You obviously haven't yet learned the secret Abigail, you don't have to switch them off. Your post implies to me at least, that because of the 240 V supply we have to switch the outlets on and off when required, this is not the case. You can leave your kettle and your toaster switched on to be ready at a moments notice, by the way don't kettles boil fast in the UK in comparison to America, that's 240 V power, that is! The switch is your friend, it's there for your convenience and especially useful for products that might not have an on/off switch like hair curling tongs or straighteners. You can leave them plugged in for use another day, safely switched off at the socket.

    Eggs. The eggshell has evolved as the perfect habitat for its contents and as you have indicated, in the UK, eggs tend to be left out on the countertop rather than put in the refrigerator. I do this myself and having read the Forbes article, that seems to vindicate my choice to do so. I think there is also a school of thought that a fresh egg left at room temperature taste fresher than those which are refrigerated and eaten within a reasonlable time. Obviously a subjective rather than scientific conclusion.

    Shopping. Obviously the shopping options available to you are dependent on where you live in the UK. Towns and cities will be the best served, but as Abigail has pointed closing time could be anytime between 5.00 & 6.00pm ( that's because the staff want to get home for their tea ( tea time) like everyone else. Car showrooms, furniture and electrical stores tend to be open till 8.00 pm. There are 24 hour supermarkets and those that do not open for that length of time are usually open 6 days a week between 8.00 - 10.00 pm and most places will probably have a late night convenience store nearby.

    Shopping on a Sunday is something of a new innovation. I have always thought of America as a God fearing nation where religion, the church and church attendance was the norm, rather than the exception. However, I have no idea what options the Sunday Shopper has in the US. In the UK, because it was felt that the Sabbath should be respected all shops were closed and it was not until 1994 that Sunday Trading was eventually allowed, albeit with the restricted hours that still apply.

    I hope I have not gone on too much, but I have noticed that many of your excellent posts have never generated any feedback and you deserve to know the effort you put in to your blog is not in vain. You have an audience, although some of it may be silent.










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    1. Thank you very much for your comment, Patricia! It's wonderful to hear feedback from readers. You're right--it makes me feel as if this isn't all in vain. :)

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    2. Thank you, for thanking me, Abigail !

      As this was my first post on someone's Blog I am afraid that verbosity got the better of me and I had far exceeded 4,000 + characters allowed as a reply (can't remember exact number). I was therefore cutting out huge chunks until I was allowed to post a reply and having done so, I immediately spotted a typo that had slipped through the editing process. Under "Eggs" - see: reasonlable, but I know that you will be quite reasonable about this simple error on my part.

      I look forward to your further insight into "British Oddities". Also, as your profile indicates that your love of Britain and all things British was well established well before you actually came here. Are we living up to your expectations so far and if so what things have pleasantly surprised you the most?

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  2. I rarely comment,but appreciate all your posts.Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, James! That means a lot.

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  3. Abby, I'm so glad you are enjoying your stay in Britain so very much. Your enthusiasm is delightful! About the eggs: I've heard that eggs that have been unrefrigerated, as in the British grocery stores, can be safely kept unrefrigerated at home but that eggs that have been refrigerated cannot. Of course, I can't remember the "why" of it all!

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