🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿20 Peculiarities of England

I’ve been traveling around southern England for the last two weeks and I have found many things to be a bit peculiar. I’m born and bred in the United States and have lived on both coasts so I know variances in behavior. So, even though we speak the same language as the Fatherland, I find several things to be interesting and quite captivating. After my first day or two in Southsea, Hampshire, I started keeping notes of what I found to be unusual.

The author on the Westminster Bridge in front of Westminster Hall and Elizabeth Tower in London

Here are my 20 peculiarities of England:

  1. Mind the gap.  If you ride a train in England this will be said at every station, it will be on every doorway and between trains.  It’s also on subways.  It’s polite and proactive without being overly cautious about the gap between the train cars and the doorway and the platform.
  2. Love.  People from practically every walk of life called me Love.  Whether it was a guy moving a hose out of the way on the street, the host at a restaurant or a bus driver.  I find it so refreshing for everyone to be called Love instead of Ma’am or Hey you.  What’s not to be loved about being called Love?
  3. What’s on.  Almost every town (including those outside of England like Dublin and Glasgow) had bulletins around saying “What’s on”. It is announcements about upcoming events or a pub might have a listing of upcoming acts.  I find it inviting and positive.
  4. Opening hours.  These are the hours when an establishment is open. Quirky in that it sounds active, which I guess it is although in the US it would be announcing a grand opening instead of an ongoing business.
  5. See it, say it, sorted.  This is an interesting safety announcement that is repeatedly announced in train stations and on trains.  If you see something, say something and we’ll sort it. Short, snappy and memorable.
  6. Way out.  This is the exit.  It’s disconcerting for me as I was looking for lighted red exit signs which is the norm in the U.S. Way out signs are typically green, which I find to be much more inviting.
  7. Mail slots.  Every apartment I’ve stayed in has a mail slot in the front door of the apartment. I ran into this in my first stay in Glasgow and the first afternoon I was there and heard something drop on the ground I about jumped out of my skin.  Then I saw the mail on the floor of the front entryway.
  8. Fairy dish soap.  This is the Joy or Dawn of the United Kingdom.  Every kitchen has a bottle of green Fairy soap on the counter.  I just love the name.  It sounds magical.
  9. Sorry.  People don’t say excuse me or pardon me.  They all just say sorry when squeezing by on a too narrow sidewalk or pressing the button to open the door on a train. I think of all the posts I’ve written about over-apologizing and it would be a hard sell here.  I was on a train the other day that was three minutes late to the final destination and the conductor kept apologizing for the delay.  Three minutes! 
  10. 10. Two ticks. Several service people said that they would be with me in two ticks.  I assume it means two ticks of a clock. Charming, don’t you think?
  11. 11.Alight.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never used alight or fortnight (which means two weeks) in a sentence ever.  This is constantly announced at the arrival at a train station to be careful as you alight the train. I love these words that I would never use;like… ever. 
  12. 12.Washers. I selected only apartments that had washers available.  Every washer was in the kitchen, which is unusual in the US. And it was only a washer.  So, every week I washed my clothes and hung them up to dry.  Which, to my surprise, typically only took overnight for most things to dry.
  13. 13.Dogs. I think about 30% of the dogs that I saw were off their leash.  This is very unusual at least in North Carolina where I live. A dog off a leash is a lost dog in my mind.  Not so here.  There many times I was in a cafe on the pier over the ocean and dogs came in with their owner arriving several minutes behind because that particular cafe was a regular stop for doggie treats.
  14. 14. Full English.  This is a massive breakfast with sausage, bacon, black pudding, hash browns, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, toast and butter.  In Ireland it’s called a fry.  You will not go hungry and the eggs will be sunny side up.
  15. 15. Calling at.  The announcement on the trains for the next station or the order of coming stations is always “Calling at Guilford, Barnham, and London Waterloo.” I think of calling as something you do on a phone or trying to get someone’s attention across a crowded room, not a train announcement.
  16. 16. Safety vests.  Construction workers, train station attendants, pre-school children on outings to a playground are all in brightly color safety vests.  I saw one group of kids that had to be about 4 years old, all buddied up holding hands and everyone, including the teachers, had a vest on.
  17. 17.Carriage.  This is what a train car is called.  Going between carriages or how many carriages are going to be on the arriving train is a mental adjustment.  Makes me think of being in a horse drawn carriage.
  18. 18. Small forks and spoons.  I was served what to me looked like a fork to pick crab out of a crab leg to use in eating cake at afternoon tea. It was miniature and dainty.  The spoons for tea as well are super small, really more of a stir stick than something to eat with.
  19. 19. Sunday Roast. This is served from noon to four or five on a Sunday afternoon at most restaurants and pubs.  I was able to have one in Southsea where I had a perfect Yorkshire Pudding alongside a nut loaf.  There were tons of vegetables and roasted potatoes.  It’s not to be missed.
  20. 20.HP.  The sauce is on every table and packets of HP sauce are given with takeout sandwiches as well.  It’s named after London’s Houses of Parliament. I think I was surprised that this is much more ubiquitous than Worcestershire sauce or ketchup. Which are also British. 

So, there you have it.  Although I know it’s not complete, I wanted to share these unusual things I found in my travels. What peculiarities do you have from England?

5 Surprising Reasons You Need To Delete “Sorry” From Your Vocabulary

I’ve been focused for the last week or so on how often I say sorry. It turns out I’m not as bad as I expected and I realized I’ve done a good job of taking it out of my vocabulary. Originally, I became aware of my apologetic behavior after reading My Life in France by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child.  If a dish goes horribly wrong, like a ”vile” eggs Florentine she once made for a friend, Julia instructed, ”Never apologize.” Sometimes I forget to season the food, one time I forgot to put the chicken base into a soup and it was basically water with some vegetables floating in it. I bit my tongue. To apologize as Julia espouses only makes it worse. ”The cook must simply grin and bear it,” Julia said firmly. And act as if you intended it that way.5 surprising reasons you need to delete This apologetic behavior came up in another book by Caroline Arnold called Small Move, Big Change. Arnold’s book is about micro resolutions but one of the resolutions she took on was to stop apologizing. She found that every time she apologized to her husband it put him on the defensive. I never thought about that. I always looked at an apology as taking responsibility but really you end up making the other person (the receiver of the apology) feel diminished. That seems counter intuitive but think about it. If I apologize for forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning, my husband will feel like he was putting me out to begin with. Like he was demanding the dry cleaning and I must fall on the sword to take responsibility. It’s just dry cleaning. As Arnold recommends, just give the information and let it go. “I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning.” Done. So here are the surprising reasons you need to delete “sorry” from your vocabulary: 1. Inauthentic. It makes you come across as inauthentic. Especially when you are apologizing for the weather or for your in-laws being late. Are you really responsible for the weather? Are you clairvoyant? Because if you aren’t then why are you apologizing. “I’m so sorry it’s so hot and humid.” Think about that statement in the middle of July in Eastern North Carolina. Ridiculous and inauthentic. 2. Manipulative. I think every mother is guilty of trying to manipulate their children by apologizing. “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to clean your room while I slaved away on a three course meal after a full day of juggling away at work while suffering from a wretched cold.” Right. Perhaps you are just trying to make your child feel guilty. Apologizing is manipulative. 3. Filler. It’s a filler word that we think is polite like please or thank you. But it’s really not polite. I was putting some things away the other day and brought a tool to my husband and asked where he wanted me to store it. He told me that he would take care of it and my reflexive answer was “sorry.” I caught the word in my mouth and said “No, I’m not sorry.” He looked relieved. Why in the world would I apologize? There is nothing wrong with getting things back to where they need to be stored and there is no reason to apologize. 4. Excuse. Julia considered it unseemly for a cook to twist herself into knots of excuses and explanations. Such admissions ”only make a bad situation worse,” she said, by drawing attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings) and prompting your guest to think: Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal. In a sense, it brings everyone down. It focuses on the negative instead of the positive; try instead to comment perhaps on the crisp Sauvignon Blanc or the fragrant flowers or the lovely view. Quit making excuses. 5. Disingenuous. How often are you apologizing for something you really aren’t sorry for? Like your opinion. “I’m sorry but I disagree” or “I’m sorry but you don’t have all the facts.” If you disagree or your boss does not have all the facts why in the world would you apologize for it? And what does your boss think of you if you apologize for the facts she didn’t have? It’s empty and insincere. Sometimes we just need to pay attention to the language we are using. There is power in being succinct and just relaying information instead of dressing it up (or dressing it down) with “sorry.” Focus on the information you want to relay without any apologizing qualifiers. Or perhaps just be OK with the silence. Do you apologize too often?