Tag Archives: thyme

On Americans: the Brits

Due to internet difficulties, unfortunately it’s been harder to update this blog than expected.  I really wanted to post some photos for this entry but it’s turning out to involve more technical snafus than anticipated.  My apologies for both the lack of photos and posts thus far.  Technicalities to be worked out soon.

For now, before the photo tour of London, I decided I would do a tour in quotes, all on the subject of, “What do they think of US over there?”

(NB: In fairness to those quoted here, know that with the exception of the excerpts from the book, I am paraphrasing.)

Colin, lovely co-worker of my mother’s who met up with me for a London Pub Walk and dinner:

“But I really just don’t understand Sarah Palin.  I mean, I don’t totally understand politics over here, and we certainly have some bad sorts, ones who are caught in scandals and such, but really.  No one quite so…stupid.”

later: “One thing you Americans do that drives us crazy.  You call us Europeans.”

Harriet, my lovely hostess who lives in a gem of a flat in Putney, full of cookbooks and with a nice little herb garden the back.  (She cut fresh thyme for my omelet in the morning!  Mmm…):  “I went to some cooking classes once in Washington.  Every other woman there was a recent divorcée whose husband had left her for a younger woman.  They were all in their 50s and they all had HUGE helmet hair.  I’m not kidding.  The stereotype about Washington women was true!  I was a bit intimidated.  But then it turned out they didn’t know shit about cooking.”

Drunk girl in her 20s on the night bus around 3 am, talking to another passenger: “New York?  It was brilliant.  What was it like?  Well…everything is MASSIVE in America.  Not like in Britain, where everything’s so small.”

Mid-60s woman on the Tube chatting with husband and friends: “Well when we were skiing in Colorado, the Americans asked me why Europeans never wear helmets when they ski.  And really, that was the first time I ever thought about it!”

Some excerpts from a British travel guide, I think published in the 90s, on culture in the US.  Verbatium:

Bars: The stereotype of an American bar is not hard to find: plastic-upholstered shell deserted except for a solitary drunk, desultory pool players and an adulterous couple conspiring in the corner.  It will probably have pictures of nude women and base decoration.  Single women will feel distinctly uncomfortable.  The wild west saloon, with sawdust on the floor…has died out more or less completely…Cocktail lounges approximate to British wine bars in clientele, but with a little more sophistication: for instance you may find your drink chilled with frozen grapes rather than ice cubes.”

The best for last–excerpt from the same book on the subject of American TV:

TELEVISION: All the stories you have heard about American television are true.  There are countless stations, programmes (even live sport shows) are interrupted every few minutes for a batch of commercials, and most children spend longer in front of the box than at school.  The average adult watches 28 hours a week.  Wherever you are and whatever time you can be certain of a choice of viewing.  Even the crummiest hotel or motel will boast a TV in every room, albeit with numerous dead flies attached to the screen.  Airports and bus stations have coin operated televisions built into the arms of the chairs.

“Having seen a few programmes you may find it hard to comprehend the addiction.  British television takes only the ‘best’ American entertainment; what remains is even more banal than Baywatch. Quiz shows are inordinately popular…Most of the questions concern other television programmes.  Although news broadcasts and documentaries have occasional flashes of brilliance, serious political analysis is usually sacrificed to the cause of sensationalism.  Pictures of violent death are shown in gory detail, then re-run forwards, backwards, and in slow motion.  Michael Caine once said he could find out more of actual importance in ten minutes of listening to the BBC World Service than from watching three and a half hours of TV in California.”

I think not buying that book may be my biggest regret of the trip so far.

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