WTF?!: Since we moved here, I’ve been keeping a list on my iPhone titled “WTF”. It’s basically a list of things that are just different enough to cause me endless anxiety, but not so different that I can just say, “How fascinating that we are being exposed to this new culture!” I’ve come to realize some of them are totally reasonable, but others I still don’t understand. I’ll update this list from time to time as my view develops.
(SIDE NOTE: Even if we had just moved across the Hudson instead of across the Atlantic, we would probably still be dealing with some level of cultural adjustment. But since we moved to Belsize Park and not Bronxville, this is a list about the UK. I’m sure some of these are unique to our life, and I absolutely shouldn’t be extrapolating about the entire United Kingdom. But I’m not compiling this list for the UN, just for my own personal reference.)
WTG!: These are things that I think London does exceptionally well – at least better than NYC. It’s a bit shorter, but that’s just because it’s way easier to remember to write things down when you’re annoyed.
Without further unnecessary explanation…
- Bacon: Why must the bacon be so greasy and chewy, and not crispy at all? This is not just my complaint; we ran into a couple from Kansas who are here 3 weeks/month but refuse to move here because of the bacon. I’m guessing they were being pithy, but it is a serious national issue.
- “Napkin”: Whooo, boy, this does NOT mean what you think it means! It means feminine products, not paper towels. Which explains why our waitress at Pizza Express told me to go to the bathroom to find them when I asked for some.
- Dental Health & Hygiene: I know it’s totes cliche to point this out, but some things are a cliche for a reason. The teeth situation in this country is seriously on par with the bacon thing I mentioned above. It’s like, instead of drinking flouridated water, they just say “eff it” and do meth all the time. While sucking their thumbs
- Light switches: These are outside of the bathroom. At first I was super annoyed, but then I found out it’s so people don’t electrocute themselves, due to the higher voltage currents throughout. The voltage is also why there are no sockets in bathrooms, and (presumably) no overused story lines about people being murdered with the ol’ toaster in the bathtub move.
- Street signs: Or lack thereof. There are approximately 5 million streets, and I never know where I am. (street signs may not fix this problem entirely)
- Customer service: Or lack thereof. The service is generally surly, but also slow. It’s like they combined the worst parts of NYC + Midwest service and rolled them into one.
- Smoking in Front of Children: I can’t even count how many people I’ve seen smoking while holding a child’s hand, or pushing a stroller, or (in one rockstar case) wearing a baby in a Bjorn. And yet…
- Not Yelling At Children: Every time I scream at Will and Penelope to “STOP AT THE STREET!” or “COME OVER HERE!” or “PUT THAT DOWN!!” I get a slew of horrified stares from the same people who just kept about their business while a 5 year old just lit his dad’s fag. The good news is that every time I hear another mother screaming at her children, I know I’m looking at a fellow American.
- Banking: We can deposit checks into our American Chase account by taking a picture of the check and sending it in a text message from our cell phones. For our UK account, I have to find our deposit book, tear out one of the slips (they don’t keep them on hand at the branch, so don’t ask – see #6 above) and then take it to a teller, who counterstamps the other end of the slip in our book since they don’t do printed receipts either.
- Public Transportation: They have this DOWN. You can text a number from the bus stop to find out when the next one is coming, and there are clear signs at all train stops telling you when the next one will arrive. I have also NEVER, while at an Underground station, seen a rat, a pile of eaten chicken bones, men’s underwear, or actual human feces (those last three could be related, btw). Wish I could say the same for the west 4th street stop.
I’m sure I’ll think of more for this last one. I’ll update as appropriate.