Thursday, 3 March 2011

Culture Shock

I got an email from a friend last night saying she might be moving and how did I deal with the culture shock when I moved to Scotland. Obviously the UK isn't that different from the US. We speak the same language (supposedly), have a lot of the same foods and same TV shows. Here are some of the things that I still don't get as an American abroad.

-Tea. To me tea is something you drink with honey and lemon when you are sick. When I worked in bars employees were allowed as much free tea as they wanted, but not pop. When I got my first office job in the UK I probably got asked 6 times a day if I wanted a cup of tea. After two weeks they finally realized to stop asking me. I was also shocked at the number of people who took tea breaks. Really? A break? You can drink tea at your desk and work at the same time. It reminded me of how much I hated smokers who's tables I had to cover while they got a smoke break; I never got a fresh air break.

-Butter on sandwiches. To me mustard and mayonnaise are the appropriate condiments for a sandwich. I hate that butter is on everything; sure sometimes it's nice but when you can leave teeth marks in the butter it's too much.

-Road signs or lack there of. I really feel that American road signs are far more helpful. There's a Taco Bell, BP, Dunkin Donuts and a Holiday Inn at the next exit? Thanks Mr Sign that is really helpful! I hate that you don't have signs like that here. I seriously had to map out various McDonald's throughout Scotland before I put on forums for work. If I'm up early I like a McDonald's breakfast and I like it even better if a sign on the side of the road will tell me how to get it.

-Night time soaps: Coronation Street, Emmerdale, East Enders, Hollyoaks. I don't get them. I've never watched them but almost everyone else seems to do so. Sure I watched Days of Our Lives religiously back in the day, but it was in the afternoon. Don't ask me why a daytime soap is better than a nighttime soap, I don't know. I do know that a storyline involving identical triplets (one of whom is a nun) and a baby swap involving a baby named Elvis is FAR superior to the baby swap story line that caused drama over here.

-Variety of products. When you go to the American grocery store you have loads of brands and varieties to choose from; in the UK not so much. If I want to buy cake mix there are maybe three flavours. Variety is the spice of life! If I can get all sorts of random Polish foods in my store, why can't I get lovely, delicious American products?

Those are some of my WTF UK rants. There are plenty more but I think I've gone on long enough.


Michelloui said...

It was fun to read this post! After 20 years living here I still don't get butter on sandwiches! Ugh!!

Anonymous said...

I still think butter on sandwiches is just plain wrong and I LOVE butter.

and I completely agree about the soaps- the night aspect doesn't bother me, it's mainly how depressing they are and everyone is so miserable. Um, I *still* watch Days!

Super Amazing Mum (Super AM) said...

Just found your blog! LOVE it! I am also married to a scot, they smother everyhting in butter!

Anonymous said...

butter on sandwiches?!!!!!!

Liz said...

AAAAAAMEN! Preach on, sister!
These are the things you would never think of before you move, but are glaringly obvious once you do. Butter on sandwiches = gross! The lack of variety is starting to bother me. I look forward to moving home!

Carolina Peach said...

My mother actually always buttered my bread because I didn´t like mayo and mustard on my sandwiches...But I don´t like it if it´s really thick.

Helen said...

I'm super weird and just have bread and the filling, no butter or any sort of cream-like product to stick the filling and the bread together. It just tastes weird to me!

Rebekah Hickey said...

I'll admit I love butter on my sandwiches, the thicker the better. The thing I couldn't get over was the sweet corn on everything in Scotland. Even at Pizza Hut, sweet corn was considered a topping!

Rebekah Hickey said...

I'll admit I love butter on sandwiches, the thicker the better. The thing I couldn't get over was the sweet corn on everything in Scotland. Even at Pizza Hut, sweet corn was considered a topping!

Lorry said...

I had no idea so many people held such contempt for sandwich butter. I grew up (in the States!) watching my dad slather butter on bread and I've never seen it as strange. Of course you can leave teeth marks in it!

I personally prefer sandwiches with toasted bread, which can be buttered, but then just so it soaks in the warm bread a bit. No teeth marks. But if it's a cold sandwich, bring on the butter. And despite the deplorably low nutritional value, I admit to liking chip butties.

Agneta and David said...

Regarding road signs, culture shock, lack of choices at the store etc. we recently moved to Sweden !!
I just happened to see your blog, loved it ........ Neta

Agneta and David said...

Just came across your fun blog!
Regarding lack of choices at the store, road signs and culture shock among other things, boy... we recently moved to Sweden.. do we have stories for you ! Neta

Laura McIntyre said...

LOL at some of them.

Oh i bet i am the only UK reader ofyour blog (who has always lived here) who knows exactly what your talking about with Days Of Our Lives :) I was a huge fan for years (and remember fondly the susan/elvis story lol ) . At one point when the UK stopped showing it again i was getting a friend to record every episode and send it over . Then i was downloading it for years , only stopped watching a year or two ago .

As for butter on bread...i admit i do take it most of the time .


I like this post! Isn't the tea thing strange. Especially as I drink it by the gallon. I knew it was a British thing, I just never realised quite how much.

Does this help?

Becca x

LinzW1976 said...

Great post! I got a culture shock moving to Scotland from England and will get another one this summer when I do the opposite to you and move out to Maryland! I'm preparing myself for more coffee, better road signs and adverts every three minutes on TV. Maybe I'll blog about it too :)

Baby Jones said...

Can I add a few of my own?
-Tuna on pizza. Seriously?
-Baked beans for breakfast.
-Streets that change in name every tenth of a mile.
-The difficulty of finding a decent dill pickle.

Jenn said...

I'll confess, I've converted to butter on my sammies (I'm not a mayo fan, and I refuse to pay American Sweets extortion rates for Miracle Whip - and Im lazy)..

What drives me mad is going to the market and seeing 10 different brands of spaghetti and penne - and that's it for pasta selection. Ditto for the baked beans. (What IS it with baked beans here?)

And cheddar cheese on pizza. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

THere are no almost road signs here in Wales, either.

worm queen said...

unfortunatly you buy a ready made sandwich anywhere and it comes with butter/marge in....yeeeuuuccchhh.
I eat dry pieces. rolls and dry toast and people think Im strange. though being english I did grow up with butter on a sandwich as the norm,( though I never did) my dads favourite was bitter and sugar.....grrruuuueeee at the thought.
maybe the tea breaks at work are just an excuse for a skive.
I sky+ the soaps in an evening and watch the next afternoon.
and as for american tv ( nothing personal here) if the drivel we get on sky is the best you have to offer then I worry abiut the rest.
I remember back in the early 70's living in Berlin and watching American tv....Roger Ramjet sticks out as being really awful.
but loved the american plain crisps we got in the PX, never tasted plain crisps as good since

Happy Homemaker UK said...

So fun to read! We haven't found any local shows to get in to - I keep telling my husband we should just cancel our Sky TV :)

Perhaps you would like to join my Expat Linky Party on March 19th? Hope to see you then, if not sooner.

Carmen Operetta said...

I love this post. I'm moving to Scotland in May for 1 year and I can't wait to experience these "cultural shocks".
This entry is honest and good!
Carmen Operetta