The Great British Madness!

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The British Post Office is a fairly depressingly dire place. But we need it. I think.

The queue at my local Post Office always reaches the door, and yet of the six tills, only two are only ever manned. There is usually someone else wandering around in the background but they never appear to be doing very much apart from talking to the teller whom you have just waited twenty minutes for. Hence, irritation starts to rise with ferocity as you feel you have deserved and want to claim the tellers undivided attention for just a few minutes. You have stood beside the birthday card stands, the array of stationery and the plastic toys for sale for too long. And yet, if you stand for long enough, you start believing that you actually need some paperclips with coloured unicorns attached to them.

Then, uproar. A man comes in, bypasses the entire queue and heads straight to a momentarily empty till. The wretched teller is ignorant of his blatant lack of adherence to the British queuing system. The line of waiting men, women, grumpy children, angry old women and a random dog begin by hissing amongst each other. The young lady beside in front of me sucks through her teeth and says quietly, “Excuse me?” in disbelief at this. I however am clearly feeling hormonal.

“Excuse me! Are you not aware of this queue?” What should have been uttered as a polite question comes out as an overly loud bellow of indignation.

All eyes on me.

Man looks horrified and scuttles amid apologies to the end of the queue.

I am mortified.

“Oh God,” I whisper to my lady friend, “Now I feel like such a cow.”

“Nah!” She says. “We’re all with you.” And as I look around, I am being given nods and smiles of approval, apart from the rather sheepish man.

Unity. Yes, there is strength in unity!

Although, having come from Scotland, had this happened in Glasgow where everyone calls a spade a spade, this would never have started. Well, it might have, but there would have been a full-blown punch-up, the police would have arrived, someone, probably me would have been tasered, ending with all and sundry having a good glass of whiskey and a three hour discussion.

Oh I do love a bit of human interaction. So good for the soul.

Katie x

What makes you really cross?

British vs American

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I am about as British as they come. I am currently reading Kate Fox’s book, ‘Watching the English’ and as far as I can see, am the epitome of all things good, bad and plainly odd about the English. A few examples:

. I share the same rather dry, self deprecating and ironical humour of my fellow Brits.

. I cringe at the ‘too gushing’, ‘overfamiliar’ or ‘over enthusiastic’ preferring the British understatement. (Eg when suffering bronchial pneumonia, to describe it as ‘a bit of a bother’)

. I too endure the awkwardness of replying “how do you do?” when asked the same question even though it actually isn’t a question to be answered but simply to be repeated.

. And, after twenty painful minutes of goodbyes in various forms with promises to meet up soon with someone whom we know our husband loathes, we sigh a momentous sigh of relief and swear that we’ll never do it again … but we always do, after all, wouldn’t it be rude not to?

And I haven’t even reached the chapter on queuing which I am sure is imminent.

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These are in truth, slightly strange foibles and yet having had them soaked into us by way of osmosis since birth, they are our “normal”. Nevertheless I am sure that to non-Brits they are also rather peculiar, even slightly irritating and without doubt, confusing.

And as someone who is soon to be moving to the States, I do wonder if my fellow Americans from across the pond have any interesting quirks that I should be aware of I should loathe to make a faux pas or twenty on the first day. To date I have found everyone remarkably jolly and inclusive, but perhaps they were just being polite to this strange English woman …

In order to err on the side of caution, I have therefore made some preliminary enquiries and so far have established the following:

Apparently we Brits work shorter hours, have more holiday and get up later in the mornings. However, supposedly we get more exercise and eat less pizza but drink far more tea.

Also, I understand that pants are not referring to ones underwear, but instead, to trousers.

A purse is a handbag, not a … purse.

And if you are pissed, you’re not sublimely cream-crackered or a teensy bit tipsy, you’re actually rather cross.

So with all this information to hand, I’ve told my husband to prepare himself for a long working day, to put the bowler hat into storage, and should I ever get pissed, to remind me to not try to hide my purse in my pants … it clearly wouldn’t work.

Just to clarify however …

a) I don’t get ‘pissed’ in case anyone is wanting to throw that at me (!) and

b) I don’t recall ever having tried to hide my purse down my knickers … my bra yes, but that was when I was travelling through some very dodgy areas on a particularly bad holiday many years ago … I did have to put a sock in the other side as I was a tad unbalanced and lumpy, but crikey, despite being rather broke, I found it was quite an impressively exciting sight.

Anyway, should anyone have any suggestions or tips, you could not find a more grateful recipient.

Katie x