In many ways, London and America are very similar. Generally, we speak the same language, listen to similar music, wear similar clothes (although I’ve found the Brits seem to look strikingly classy during all hours of the day) and from what I’ve seen, share a mutual hatred for the Bush administration. Initially, as an American in a foreign country I found these subtle similarities to be quite comforting seeing as how I didn’t have to change much in order to fit in. However, I quickly discovered that while the two countries have a lot in common, there are some stark differences that visiting Americans should understand about the British culture so as not to look like total “arses”.
Rule number one: do NOT talk on the Tube. It makes you look like an arrogant, inconsiderate and all-around idiotic American. I figured this one out the hard way. The Tube is the name of the subway system here in London and one day about eight of my friends and were on it, laughing and carrying on, completely oblivious to the other patrons on the car. It was only when I stopped talking long enough to hear a friend tell a story did I then realize that her voice was reverberating off the walls and into the pained ears of the innocently silent British folk. I looked up and everyone was stabbing us with their eyes. At this point I sunk back in my chair and politely shut my mouth for the rest of trip. I’ve since then instituted a “no talking” rule on the Tube with my friends wherein they may talk to me but a response or acknowledgment of their existence is not guaranteed.
Rule number two: The peace sign is not a peaceful sign. In America, the peace sign has come to mean happy things such as…well, peace. However, in Britain, it does not mean anything of the sort. Here the peace sign means that you want to take someone into a dark alleyway and lay the smack down on the them. In other words, unless you are looking to get a beat up you should put the peace sign down. Personally, I am quite happy at this seeing as how it will make people look significantly less stupid and/or drunk in pictures and in real life.
Rule number three: iPods are cool, the white headphones that come standard are not. Apparently the British believe the white iPod headphones are absolute rubbish and that very expensive Bose headphones are truly the only way to have a proper iPod experience. I honestly have no comment on this cultural faux-paux because it’s just beyond any realm of stupid I’ve ever entered.
Rule number four: Wearing sweatpants, sweatshirts or clothes of any likeness screams “I am American and I am a dirty, lazy bum.” Unlike in the States, it is fairly unacceptable to leave the house looking anything less than your best. No one here wears sweatpants outside unless they are going for a jog and even then they still someone look more put together than me on my best day. As a committed comfy pant wearer I have had some issues with this cultural rule but when in Rome…
Rule number five: Heineken is the armpit of all beers. This seems to be the same in America as it should be because Heineken tastes like feet.
I’m sure that as I continue to break Britain’s unwritten rules I will be able to add to this list but as of now these are the most vital rules that Americans must follow so as to not fit out.