To continue the never-ending saga of British oddities (since it literally has no end), let’s dwell on some quirks that set this delightful nation apart from my own. 

If you’re a native of Britain or have lived here long enough to call it home then you might be used to these idiosyncrasies. As a greenhorn expat fresh from the States I had a little trouble adjusting to them.  

First Floor—No—Ground Floor

Navigating a multi-story building can be a bit tricky for an American in Britain. If the bookshop is on Floor 1 then that does not mean it is at street level. Neither does Floor 3 sit on top of just two other floors. In this country the ground floor is regarded as Floor 0, the next floor is 1, and so on. So on your next trip to London take your time in the lift and double-check that you really want to go up 16 stories and not 17. 

A Bun or a Bun? 

The proper name of baked goods is a mystery to me. First of all: the biscuit and the cookie. Both words are used over here, but it seems that a biscuit is a hard, dunkable item whereas a cookie is something thick and chewy and American. However this isn’t always the case, and is the cause of some confusion.

Also, I have heard my British friends throw the word “bun” around in a shameful fashion, so that I am left completely clueless as to its meaning. Is a bun something savoury or sweet? I think of a fluffy bread roll, but I’ve heard everything from birds nest cookies to banoffee pie referred to as “buns.” Frightening.

Tea break
Tea break by Steve Parker

The National Institution of TEA

It’s not an outdated stereotype. TEA is a serious business here in Britain. Since living here I’ve absorbed a great reverence for the drink through a kind of osmosis, and find myself drinking at least two, if not three or even four cups throughout the day. I must quote “baconhammock69,” a commenter on this Reddit post. “I’m a Brit and honestly don’t LOVE tea, but I drink a minimum of 2 cups a day… It’s almost like it’s built into my DNA to drink it or the queen will drop kick me in front of a moving Tube train….”

Don’t forget that the afternoon tea break is also a national institution. I couldn’t stop laughing while watching an episode of 60 Minute Makeover, a high-intensity show where a design team strives to redecorate a house in one hour, and in the middle of the flurry and bustle they stop the clock for a tea break. I’m not kidding. The sight of those craftspeople in their white overalls drinking tea in the middle of a design show hit my funny bone, because I’d never see anything like it in the States. Not that I don’t appreciate the tea be—there’s nothing like a hot cuppa to pick me up in the middle of the afternoon.

Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping by Charlotte

Expires Today

I didn’t do much of my own grocery shopping back home (for the simple reason that I had a mother to do such things), but I was fairly familiar with when to buy what and how fast it would spoil when properly kept. Now that I’m buying my own food here in the UK I am shocked, nay, horrified by the expiry dates on fresh food. Almost without fail every bag of stir fry vegetables or bunch of oranges or tub of hummus has an expiry date of today or tomorrow, or at the very most three days from now. 

I realise that this is probably because the Brits are wonderfully health-concious and don’t put lots of preservatives in their food, therefore it has a shorter lifespan. Which sounds well and good, but I can’t tell you how aggravating it is to only be able to shop once every few weeks and know that your food will only last three or four days. Thank God for canned soup (of which the Brits have a stunning variety).

But just because Brits are different doesn’t mean I don’t love them! On the contrary, these oddities are some of my cherished reasons for adoring Britain. 

This is a nation with personality.

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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

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