Eight British Quirks That Make Foreigners Feel At Home
Adjusting to this seaside town about 5,000 miles east of where I grew up in California hasn’t always been simple or straightforward, but there are certain characteristics of my new home that have truly helped the foreign become familiar.
As an outsider, it’s easy to observe the quirks and characteristics that have become unnoticed among the everyday essence of a given culture. For me, there are eight British quirks that I have observed become overlooked by the mass, but appreciated by the few — and the foreign.
The little kisses at the end of each message
When my now-husband and I first met, he used to put these little “xx’s” at the end of each message he sent me. Initially, I thought it was just a phone glitch or even just a simple accident. But, I later realised they were little kisses he used to sign off with in each and every message.
Before moving to the United Kingdom and growing my social circle, I thought it was just a flirty move on the account of my exotic Brit. I soon discovered it was a common British-ism that almost every single person I met across the pond used in their messages.
It may seem small and, maybe even, insignificant to most, but the little xx’s attached to even the most modest of texts are endearing, reassuring and a sweet touch that makes me smile to this day.
The promise of at least 20 days off work each year
“Holidays” otherwise known as “vacations” in the States are usually only taken once a year, maybe twice a year if you’re lucky. Growing up, my family would always have one true vacation in the summer months that would last no longer than two weeks before my parents had to return to the humdrum of work and everyday life until our next big vacation a year later.
Now, I catch myself daydreaming about the various holidays staggered throughout each year that my husband and I will be enjoying without feeling guilty about taking unpaid leave.
The tea and biscuit breaks
Tea: it’s second to water and paired best with biscuits or cake. Whether you’re visiting at someone’s house or taking a quick break at work, tea is one of the easiest ways to take a breather to catch up and enjoy another’s company. After working in a few different work spaces here, I can confirm that tea and biscuit breaks are very common and underappreciated.
At first, I didn’t fully understand the extent of tea’s role in British culture. It soon became clear that a cup of tea is much more than the drink of choice at the occasional tea party. And, that taking tea without any sugar and with just a dash or two of milk is also an easy way to a Brit’s heart.
That one stranger who always refers to you as “love”
In many romantic comedies, there’s always the dreamy British guy whose accent melts you whole. But in reality, when you’re walking down the small, quaint streets of Britain, it's probably not going to be the tall, dark and handsome Brit that makes you feel a bit warm in the cheeks — it’s the sweet, comforting stranger that calls you “love” within seconds of meeting you.
On several occasions, I’ve found myself caught off guard with the authenticity of the kind stranger who refers to me as “love.” Often, its when I’m checking out groceries or having the smallest interaction with another when the simplest phrase exudes endearment and comradely. It’s always a refreshing and sweet reminder about the inherent connection we share with others.
The electric kettle
It may just seem like another small appliance that’s been woven into everyday life here, but the electric kettle is a game-changer. It’s not only great for boiling water for tea or instant coffee, but it’s also great for boiling water for just about any meal you’re making.
It has dramatically changed making pasta, instant coffee or stove top vegetables. It’s a quick, easy, accessible appliance that is a true hidden gem from within the depths of British culture.
The convenience of public transport
When I first came to the U.K., public transportation was intimidating. All the different lines and times and which carriage to ride in versus others to get to the right place — for a mass transit novice, it took a while to catch on to. Now, public transportation is one of my favourite features this country has to offer.
In many places all across America, like Los Angeles, traffic is all-encompassing, unavoidable at several points throughout the day and the only way to get home. Being able to read a book, relax on your phone or just simply stare out the window for your journey is a refreshing change from having to constantly focus on driving or dodging other cars to get somewhere on time.
The local pub
Pub culture is something truly unique to British life. In most British towns and cities, there’s always a local pub with local beer, a packet of crisps and, in many cases, a menu full of warm, traditional British grub. Not to mention, the familiar and inviting atmosphere of a pub which is significantly less intimidating than a bar or restaurant.
At the local pub, you feel welcome and comfortable to grab a pint of beer and socialise with others without any judgement or stiffness from fellow pub-goers.
The sense of community and the true acknowledgement of the 9-5
It’s a commonplace conception that in most America towns and cities life is work-driven and fast-paced. In fact, most places and stores would close around 8 p.m. and are open 7 days a week. So, having a statutory leave of at least 20 days a year and having most places close around 5 p.m. in the average British town is amazing.
At first, not being able to go to my local coffee shop because it’s closed for two weeks for employees’ holidays or barely missing Boots Pharmacy because it’s just turned 5 p.m. was frustrating. Now, when I see a business closed for a few weeks or I see the Boots employee getting in the car with her husband to go home at 5 p.m. and have dinner with their kids, I smile.
The work-life balance in general throughout the U.K. makes me excited to be resident to a country that values the significance of family — the value of balance.
It’s the “Britishisms” like these that once made this country foreign, but now familiar — it’s these little quirks and characteristics that have now made it home.
Written by Danielle Quijada-Hayward