10 things Americans have never understood about the British

Harriet Marsden@harriet1marsden
Friday 14 October 2016 09:45
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Picture:(istock / mrrobotonur07)

English people are "mad ridiculous, cunning". At least, according to a 1944 pamphlet they are.

The short text, The English and their Country, was designed to explain British culture to US soldiers stationed here during the Second World War.

Topics include the North-South divide, disgusting slop culinary masterpieces, the British class system and our comparative reticence towards strangers.

It's now being reprinted by the Imperial War Museum.

"The English have for centuries been a puzzle to the people of other countries," explains the guide.

The English have been called mad, hypocritical, impossible, ridiculous, cunning, simple and many other terms...

Here are all Blighty-related traits that our friends across the pond have still not been able to grasp...

1. Language

Americans may speak English (so they say), but we no speak Americano.

We have incredibly long lists of incredibly British phrases that the US just doesn't understand.

And we use the bathroom for washing, actually.

Picture: iamcode.tumblr.com(iamcode.tumblr.com)

2. Spelling

Americans often don't realiSe that if they leave their US spell checker on, they can run into trouble over here.

We invented the ortography, OK guys?

And do us a favoUr - stop randomly taking vowels out of words for no reason.

It's aluminIum - unless you're going to start saying plutonum and uranum.

Picture: linguisticsyall.tumblr.com(linguisticsyall.tumblr.com)

3. Accents

Our accents may be inexplicably sexy to you, but they can also be incomprehensible.

Britain may look tiny compared to America, but our language is rich in regional variety.

Picture: Craft Bakers' Association(Craft Bakers’ Association)

Which means our range of accents is off the scale.

No wonder Americans barely understand us. We barely understand ourselves.

Even going from Manchester to Leeds, or South East to South West London, can cause lingusitic alarm. Which brings us to...

4. The North / South divide

The North cultivates the elementary qualities, the sterner virtues; the South refines upon them and cultivates the graces of life. The people of the English North are blunt of speech and manner.

They say what they mean, even if it offends, and they act without regard to the more fastidious courtesies. They call it honesty. The South calls it uncouth. The North retorts by calling the manners of the South so much fuss and nonsense.

- The English and their Country

This is obviously pretty spurious. But there is a very distinct North/South divide in the UK, which does not at all equate to the US one.

Main points include accent, weather, mutual hatred and differing approaches to attire.

5. Reticence

Enter a village inn and the company of farmers and workers will ignore you. Address them, and you will get a word in reply; no more.

They will volunteer nothing, and you will have no free talk with them until they have known you for some weeks and have learned who you are, where you come from and what you are doing in their village.

- The English and their Country

Americans always seem baffled by the British unwillingness to spill their life story moments after meeting a stranger.

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But after all, we've patented the Stiff Upper Lip.

The question: "How are you?"

The answer: "I'm miserable elated humiliated overworked underpaid loving life YOLO dying of cancer." Fine.

We're fine. In any given situation.

6. Food

Chicken tikka masala is our national dish. Deal with it.

We like to cook our vegetables. A lot. Nothing wrong with that.

A Sunday Roast is a sacred thing. Dessert pudding is often served hot.

And no, we don't eat a full English breakfast of bacon, eggs, beans, sausages, toast, mushrooms and black pudding (yes, it's made with blood) every single day.

Also, Marmite. We either love it or we hate it, but we all lose our minds over it. Cf #Marmitegate 2016.

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7. Alcohol

Americans are allowed to drive, vote, shoot, have sex, get married... all before legally buying a can of beer.

Ergo, they fail to grasp the intricacies of our underage binge drinking culture.

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And if you think we're old fogies because some nights at college uni we wanted to stay in with a glass of wine and a book, just remember...

We'd all been necking shots since we hit puberty.

8. Weather

Layers. Umbrellas brollies. Wellies. Waterproof everything. Scarves. Paired with vest tops.

The weather is so changeable in Britain that it's important to be prepared for every eventuality.

But Americans might be forgiven for thinking we're just cr*p at fashion.

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FYI, that's why we can talk about the weather in any conversation. Because it's ALWAYS INTERESTING.

Also celsius, not fahrenheit. How on earth can it be a hundred degrees and humans not die - what is this madness?

9. Personal space

We have very strict rules regarding personal space and touching, but these are all completely suspended in the following contexts: football matches, on the Tube, and queues.

Queueing, in fact, not soccer football, is our national sport.

Queueing = waiting in line.

But we are always extremely polite about navigating these tight spaces.

10. Putting kisses on the end of a text

When to use x, xx, xxx is a serious conundrum. It can dictate the whole future of your relationship.

But using kisses on the end of texts or emails isn't just for couples - it's also for your friends.

It can seriously change the whole tone of the text. Look at the following example.

I'm wearing something kind of outrageous tonight and I hope I don't embarrass you.

See ya later. (We're no longer friends)

See ya later xx (I got your badly-dressed back, bro)

P.S. Maths.

Nuff said.

More: 37 incredibly British phrases the rest of the world doesn't understand

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