What it’s REALLY like across the pond

I haven’t posted anything for a long time.  Seriously, it’s been over a month!

I’m sure you’re [not] wondering why this is; well….life has been pretty ‘samey’ recently and there hasn’t been anything that has amused or pissed me off in a while.

Over a month actually.

Anyway, the other day I was asked a question that stunned me into silence so much that it inspired me to write this post.  The question I was asked was:

“Is Christmas day in the UK the same as it is in the US?”

I paused for a moment, blinked a few times, and then gave a polite and sensible reply.

Oh, wait, no I didn’t.

I was sarcastic, condescending and there was a lot of finger pointing and laughing. I won’t lie….I was a bit of a cunt about it.

But honestly, who thinks Christmas is on a different day in the UK!?

Anyway, this got me thinking about all the questions and conversations I’ve been in that highlight the misconceptions Americans have about the UK and Europe in general. I have already touched on some of these before, but they just won’t go away….like syphilis or any of the Kardashians1.

So, without further ado:

We all drink Tea in the UK

Actually….no.

Granted, tea IS a big deal in the UK but there are a lot of Brits that don’t like it, opting instead for coffee. We like to call those people ‘traitors’ or ‘weird’. In addition, Americans also don’t realise that we generally drink tea with milk.

“Oh. My. GAWD!  With milk??”

Yes, with milk.

They go on and on (and fucking on) about how much we drink tea in Britain, but have absolutely NO idea about the tea we actually drink.  I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been asked what flavour tea I drink.

“Fruit?”  No.

“Green?”  Still no.

“Camomile?”2  Nope.

“Earl Grey?”  Erm, some people do.

“So what do y’all drink then?”

Proper (black) tea…in a mug….with milk and sugar; very few people use the clichéd dainty little cup and saucer with the obligatory pinky finger sticking out.  Take note

America, a proper mug – sometimes with a crack in it – is the ONLY way to drink tea.

Oooh, I do fancy a cuppa right now.

Geographically confusing delights

English Muffins

In America they have ‘English Muffins’ which, aside from McDonalds, I have never seen in the UK ever.

Yes, I know the flag isn’t the English flag. More on that below….

Yet I get told that we all eat them in England because, well, it has England in the name.  It’s either English muffins or ‘tea and crumpets’.  Sorry to tell you this America, but we don’t all eat crumpets all the time with our tea.  If anything, it would be tea and toast.

Mmmm, tea and hot buttered toast….with either Marmite or a nice bitter marmalade.

But tea and crumpets?  Rarely.

Additionally, whilst I’m on the subject of geographically named sweet treats, they also have something over here called:

German Chocolate Cake

I’ve been to Germany several times and never seen this cake.  Do you want to know why?  Hmm?  Do you?  Well, here is what I found on Wikipedia:

‘German chocolate cake, originally German’s chocolate cake, is a layered chocolate cake from the United States filled and topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. It owes its name to an English-American chocolate maker named Samuel German’

Interesting….considering I’ve been told, categorically, that it DOES come from Germany and I “don’t know what i’m talking about”, so it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy that:

a) I’m right, and

b) The people who told me that bullshit, read my blog.

Read it bitches…..read it all!

French Fries

I don’t even want to get started on this one.  Let’s just move on shall we?

French Toast

Nope.  Never seen that in France ANYWHERE.  Toast in France is usually thin and NOT packed to the gills with sugar, butter and death.

Italian Wedding Soup. 

Yep, apparently that’s a thing here too.  I’m half Italian and I’ve been to real Italian weddings and I have NEVER seen this soup. How can this be? 

Oh hello Wikipedia!

Wedding soup or Italian wedding soup is an Italian-American soup consisting of green vegetables and meat. It is popular in the United States, where it is a staple in many Italian restaurants.

Honestly, I’m not sure why this is a) Italian and b) for weddings.  It’s a lovely soup, but at the end of the day it’s still a soup….and soup can be messy.  Adding any type of sloshy food to people in their smartest attire, and one big white dress, is a recipe for disaster (thinly stretched pun intended).

Belgian Waffles

Now THIS one is actually accurate.  This style of waffle IS Belgian; I’ve been to Belgium a lot and they’re exactly the same as the American ones.  Only, this time, the Americans just call them ‘Waffles’; no ‘Belgian’ in there whatsoever.  The ONE time it’s actually correct to name a food after a country and they don’t do it!

I despair, I really do.

(takes a moment to compose himself)

OK…moving on….

Paris is romantic

No it’s not.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it really isn’t. It’s grey, grimy, crap and in French.

It’s basically London with less friendly people…trust me!  The Hollywood held perception is that Paris is all cobble streets and baguettes, with accordion music faintly heard on the breeze, when in reality it’s a bustling city with the sound of constant droning traffic.

Oh, and it smells like toilet.  Not ‘Eau Du Toilette’…….an actual toilet.

Yes, it has the Eiffel Tower and yes the architecture is old and beautiful and it has museums and bridges and stuff, but that’s the case all over Europe.  Paris isn’t special in that respect.  Paris is, for want of a better word, a shithole.

Sorry France.3

London is all cobble streets and fog

I’ve touched on this before, but I’ve been asked this more than a handful of times.  Look at the description of Paris above and you’ve basically got London.  It’s pretty much the same, but not in French.  This is useful for understanding what’s being said about me by waiters and shop staff when I’m being overcharged for their lacklustre service.

The English all say things like ‘Tally ho’ , ‘Pip pip’ and ‘Guv’nor’

This is very true. Also, the French say “Sa·cré bleu!” a lot too, did you know that?

I’ve found that a lot of Americans say “Yee-Haw!!” and “Rootin’ Tootin’!!” all the time.

(rolls eyes until they hurt a bit)

British Food is terrible and bland

This is both wrong AND wrong.  In addition, it’s also wrong.

Firstly, it’s difficult to define ‘British food’ because Britain is actually made up of four countries/nations, each with their own foods and palettes.  I can’t speak for the other three countries, but I can speak for England.

Oh, did I mention that there is no understanding of the difference between England and Britain?  No?  Well, more of that in due course…

Anyway, back to the food.  There’s a belief that British food is bland and tasteless.  Ha ha ha ha WRONG!  Despite being a small(ish) island, Britain is located and influenced by all the European cuisine surrounding it, and it’s an international hub for commerce across the planet….so the food is AMAZING!  In fact there are more options and choices in the UK than I’ve found anywhere else, including the USA.

Aside from the traditional British foods like fish and chips, a full roast dinner, a proper ‘full English’ breakfast etc…we also have Indian, Italian, French, American (yes, we do burgers too), Greek, Turkish, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, African, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Polish, German, Blah, Blah, Blah……basically we have them ALL!

And yes, I meant to put ‘Indian’ in there more than once.  I LOVE Indian food and it has become the UK’s most favourite food!  Seriously, the national dish of the UK is Chicken tikka masala!

Mmmm, Chicken tikka masala….

And don’t even get me started on a good ol’ doner kebab!  It’s the most unhealthy and delicious food know to mankind.

Wait, no…that’s not right.  Let me try that again….

And don’t even get me started on a good ol’ doner kebab!  It’s the most unhealthy and delicious food know to drunk revellers outside the taxi rank after a night out on the piss.

No, it’s not a fucking ‘Gyro’

Now THAT’S British! (or Turkish actually)

America’s answer to post piss-up nosh?  McDonald’s.

Oh dear.

Europe is a country

Not only is this a belief (just like Africa), it’s surprising how many people I’ve spoken to who can’t point to Europe on a map, let alone the individual countries it consists of!

Besides, why bother learning about these countries when you can simply visit them at Epcot anyway?

(rolls eyes until they start bleeding slightly)

The UK, Great Britain and England are the same

I can understand why this is confusing, but even after I’ve explained it to one of my American friends, I can still see the lack of understanding behind their eyes.

Then again, it could be the huge doses of sugar and sodium in their diet.

(shrugs)

For clarity, here is a visual breakdown….

It’s like the United States, but with four states, not fifty.

Now, I’m sure this as clear as mud, but allow me to explain.

There are effectively four countries or ‘nations’ at play here.  England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.  The uncoloured area below Northern Ireland is, unsurprisingly, Southern Ireland (or ‘The Republic of Ireland’) and actually forms part of Europe.

Yes, they have Euros as currency.

Confused yet?

Well, the English occasionally refer to themselves as British, but the Scottish, Irish and Welsh don’t…..even though they are.  In the same way that people from Hawaii refuse to call themselves American…..even though they are.

So, when I’m told I have a British accent I do smile to myself as there is no such thing really….unless I include all four accents together:

“I say good sir, the laddie is just a wee bairn, to be sure, so it is boyo isn’t it?”

Hmmm….

And, whilst I’m on the subject of the the UK….here is how the Union Flag came to be:

This is why the flag in the muffin picture earlier was technically incorrect

We celebrate Thanksgiving and 4th July

I can’t begin to tell you how many times i’ve been asked if we celebrate these. Oh, wait….I already have!

And, for the record, we also have Hallowe’en4

However, we do not have the following holidays:

  • Labor Day (should be ‘Labour’, but hey, who am I to judge?)
  • Presidents Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Columbus Day

Take a moment and ask yourselves why this is.  If you can’t answer that question, feel free to ask me about it and see what kind of answer you get.

One of the UK holiday days I miss a lot is Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas Day (still also the 25th December).  In the US a few have started calling it DAXMAS (Day After XMAS), but it’s not an official  holiday day and serves no purpose other than…well….it’s the day after Christmas.

For us Brits (all four nations), Boxing Day is another Christmas Day and I love it!

“Why is it called Boxing Day?”

Why thank you for stepping in Wikipedia!

All the presents. All the food. All the booze.

 

1 – It’s a reoccurring joke on here, but seriously….when are these harpies going to fuck off and leave us in peace?

2 – I have NO idea why the USA have added an ‘H’ to this word, considering the way they usually hack letters OUT of words.

3 – Not really.  I hate Paris.

4 – It actually originated in the UK!  You’re welcome.

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Nothing fine about French dining

Last weekend my wife and I took a trip to Paris.  To many it is an opportunity to visit landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, but for us it was all about visiting Jim Morrison’s grave as my wife is a massive fan of The Doors.

As a city, I’ve never really been a big fan of Paris. Years ago I worked for Eurostar which meant I had been to Paris a lot and the more exposure I had, the worse it got; a lot like toxic radiation.

Aside from the smelly sewers, unruly traffic, overpriced dining and poorly signposted Metro system; my main gripe with Paris is the people.

It’s no secret that the French and the English aren’t particularly fond of each other, but I’m not referring to the French in general; just the Parisians.  They can be summed up in words like Contemptuous, Unfriendly, Nasty, Terrible and Smug.

I’m sure I’ll think of an easy to remember acronym but one escapes me right now.

Let me tell you why I’m not particularly keen on these people.

Firstly, not a single one of them looks like this.

french clichefrench onion

That in itself just goes to show their lack of respect for tradition.

Secondly, the attitude they have towards anyone who isn’t French is abysmal, particularly if you’ve ever attempted to dine in Paris; it’s an experience that soon becomes a chore.

Forget a cute little café owned by a friendly fat Frenchman called Gustav; Paris is monopolised by McDonalds, Quick (France’s answer to McDonalds, even though the question was never asked), kebab shops, grills and bistros.

Lots and lots of fucking bloody bistros.

I think the word ‘Bistro’ means ‘to add 80% to the price’

 

Jacques – “François, ow can we put ze prices of our mediocre food up wizout upsetting all ze people?”

François – “Oh Jacques, zis is eezy peezy, just put ze word ‘Bistro’ on ze sign.

Jacques – “Oh François you are ze clever boy, no?”

 

Here is a dining experience my wife and I had on Sunday.

It was a summer’s day in Paris, so naturally it was freezing cold and pissing with rain.  My wife and I had decided to give up walking to Notre Dame and instead looked for somewhere to eat.

Eventually, amongst all the bistros, we found (oh look) another fucking bistro.

We walked in and were greeted by a smiling waiter, “Bonjour Monsieur”.

I replied with “Bonjour”.

His smile quickly dropped at the sound of my accent and he curtly replied, “Table for two?  Zis way please” with less enthusiasm than he started with.

He sat us down at the smallest table in existence, thrust menus at us and walked away.

After literally (and I mean literally) ten seconds he returned; “What would you like Monsieur?”

Holy shit, I hadn’t even found the drinks section of the menu yet!

I flipped through the menu frantically and then scanned the drinks in a panic, choosing the first beer I recognised.  It was 9 Euros for a pint. Nine Euros!  My wife ordered the cheapest red wine at 13 Euros for a glass.

Just a glass, NOT a bottle.

He wrote down the order, snatched away our menus and disappeared.

After thirty seconds he returned with our drinks on a tray and the bill which he placed face down on the table.  This was because he preferred us to look at it after he was gone so he didn’t have to deal with “Twenty two fucking Euros for two drinks??”

I asked, “We’d like to order some food please” which was met with a scowl that said, ‘why didn’t you order ze food with your drinks you stupid Eeenglish?’ followed by a very audible sigh.

I really felt sorry for this guy, having to go the whole 6 or 7 metres back to the entrance of the restaurant to retrieve our menus.

He ‘gently’ handed our menus back to us, rolled his eyes and disappeared for approximately eight seconds before returning with “What would you like Monsieur?”; standing right over us while we perused the menu at a pace he was clearly not happy with.

The word ‘Waiter’ suddenly made a lot more sense.

My wife indicated she wanted me to order for us so I asked for the Caesar salad in my best attempted broken French and pointed to the ‘Vienna’ club sandwich for myself.

I assumed he understood.

He nodded a bit.

Then, as he took the menus away for the second time, I said “Merci”.  This cheeky bastard – who resembled a shaved giraffe with bad hair – let out a small chuckle under his breath; his stupid French breath.

He then picked up our drinks bill, still face down, and disappeared again.

As we sat there sipping our life savings away and chatting, we admiring the view of the Seine river through the heavy traffic, beggars and tourists.

Ah, Paris; The city of romance and love.

Eventually the waiter returned with my wife’s salad and a ‘Vienna’ pizza.

A whole pizza.

A whole pizza that I hadn’t ordered and yet cost twice that of the 10 Euro sandwich I’d actually asked for.

Did I dispute this?

Did I fuck.

I wasn’t even going to attempt to take on this guy.  Besides, the pizza did look good.

“Thank you” I said, in English this time as he placed the original drinks bill face down on the table with the food bill now stapled to it.  I noticed he had crudely scrawled the total on the back in red pen, or blood.

Either way it looked angry. The paper was slightly torn along the ink lines.

(I have to say at this point that the food was very good).

(I also have to say at this point that, at those prices, a shit sandwich would have been very good).

Whilst we were eating I noticed our waiter walking back and forth behind us like a big cat stalking its prey.  It soon becomes evident he was checking to see if we’d paid yet.

Hold your horses Pierre, we hadn’t even finished eating yet!

Furthermore, what if we’d want to order more drinks?  I fear the stapler would have to come out again.

Eventually we finished eating and the waiter leapt like a…like a….hmm, I want to say ‘frog’ but I’m pushing my luck with this post as it is.

He leapt like a….like a toad.  Yes, like a toad; clearing our plates before we’d even finished chewing.

I picked up the only thing he’d coincidentally left on the table (other than our overpriced drinks) which was the two page bill.

The total came to 53.90 Euros.

Jesus. We’d only ‘popped in’ for a light lunch.

Aside from feeling like we were being mugged slowly and in comfort, this created a dilemma; I only had notes. No coins.

I could either pay 55 Euros and come across as a cheapskate, or pay 60 Euros and then risk not getting change.  I’m not a light tipper, but I will be damned if this pompous prick was getting over 6 Euros for his ‘service’. Also, in all honesty, I was a bit scared to ask him for change.

So I bit the bullet and went with the 60 Euro option.

The moment the notes touched the surface of the table at a microscopic level our toad was there, scooping up his loot, er, I mean the payment for lunch with a smug “Merci Monsieur”.

He disappeared for about four and a half seconds before returning to give us our change.

‘This will be interesting’, I thought.

He fumbled around in his pockets for a bit, jangling change and eventually dug out his wallet.  He opened it, peered inside, tutted loudly and then went back to rummaging around in his pockets.

After an eternity he pulled out a small selection of coins.

Ok, zere is one…two….

This performance of a poor and desolate waiter was worthy of an Academy Award as he picked through the pathetic collection of small coins held in his hand.

Any minute now I expected him to drag his elderly sick mother from the back of the restaurant or a homeless beggar from the street to help him pay the evil fat cat English pigs that were extorting money from him.

It was like watching a charity appeal advert on TV.

“Every day a poor Parisian waiter has to give change to tourists following an overpriced meal with underwhelming service. Please call or text to donate 5 Euros a month so we can provide these [insert acronym here] with the simple things in life like striped shirts, berets, bicycles and bad manners”.

Once he began crying I folded and waived him away.

“Keep the change”

Oh Merci Monsieur!”

Yes, Mercy indeed mate.  Be thankful I resisted my urge to slap you, you pompously arrogant twat.

We finished drinking up next month’s mortgage payment and left.  By the time we got outside and walked past the window we had been sat by, another Eeenglish couple were already sat in our seats having a drink, holding the bill in their hands and sobbing gently.

Ah, Paris.

Au Revoir.

french waiter