10 things Americans do that confuse and annoy the British

Before we begin.. the “annoy” is used very lightly. It’s not a mean, bloodied fist of annoyance from punching somebody in the face repeatedly because of the following 10 examples. More of a typical English sigh and grumble.

Anyway, before I moved to America in 2007, I remember my first trip to Orlando in Florida in the 1980s, and just being amazed at the friendliness and service of American people and businesses.

It was hugely different to the often poor service in the UK at the time. But thanks to cheaper international travel, the internet and the influx of American TV and film, British standard of service is much better these days. Almost comparable. Almost.

So that’s great. The world is at peace. We are pretty much equal nations. But what about everything else? What about those little annoyances between our two countries?

These are not deal breakers. Just interesting differences in our cultures and way we do things. In other words, don’t shoot me. Please.


1. As soon as you’ve finished eating, the plate is taken away

This is perhaps MY biggest bug bear about American dining, especially if you’re eating with someone else. Once you’ve finished, your plate is taken away and the other person is left to eat alone. Why? Wait till both diners are finished and the knives and folks are in the correct position indicating a finished meal. Then remove both empty plates  so nobody is left feeling like a pig eating by themselves.

Which also leads us to…


2. You’re expected to leave as soon as you can

After the plate is taken away, the bill is presented and you start to get “that look” from the waitress. The feeling you really should hurry up and pay then leave. Europeans like to take their time with meals. It’s an event, not a race America.


3. Saying Enjoy! and general over excitement

“Enjoy” the paper.. “Enjoy” the toothbrush you’ve just bought. “Enjoy” the chocolate bar.. It’s that happy bubbly cheerful disposition the British don’t always take too well in shops. We’re used to grumpy people moaning about the rain. We don’t like it when people want to be over friendly. (footnote: I actually love that Americans are happy folk…but don’t tell them that)


4. Tipping

Should the diner have to be the one to subsidise a workers wage? American employment law is pretty awful (no compulsory 4 week paid holiday in America for workers and bugger all free healthcare!) so most waiters and waitresses depend on tips to survive. It’s not their fault. Just the system. But what amount? 10% used to be the norm. Then 15%. Now, 20%. I even had one waitress say 25% should be the minimum. Yikes.


5. The right to owning a gun

Most Europeans do not understand Americans love of the gun. It seems really strange that it’s a right to own one. Many arguments have occurred between Europeans and Americans over this issue. I just remembered the first time my mouth dropped when I was given a huge elephant-sized gun as a welcome gift to moving to America. Needless to say I didn’t keep it.


6. Americans don’t know how to make tea

I’m including this because I am writing this article in a coffee shop and a kindly English friend heard what I was writing about and said “Mention they can never make decent tea!”. So true. How can you NOT make a decent cuppa? America might be the king of coffee but tea making is not their strongest point. Some even put the milk in WITH the tea-bag still in the cup! God help us all.


7. Americans are proud to be American, but spend all their time saying they are Irish/Welsh/Italian

Americans are often very, very patriotic and love being an American. It really MEANS something. The idea of freedom and the flag goes straight to the marrow in their bones. But if you’ve ever been around an American long enough, they take great delight in saying ” I’m half Italian…half English…Half Scottish” etc.

No. You’re an American. Embrace it!


8. “Do you know Tony who lives in London?”

Many Americans seem to think Britain is tiny. It is a small island, true, but we have over 63 million people living in the United Kingdom. That’s a huge amount of people for the landmass. Think of America – 300 + million in a landmass over 37 times as large.

So. No. No I don’t know Tony who lives in London. There are over 8 million people in London. Probably 100,000 Tonys. Even if he does have a gammy leg and dodgy taste in jumpers.


9. “I could care less!”

Is it just me but why do so many Americans say “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less?” Do they know that it’s the exact opposite of what they mean? I mean, it’s not like I could care less really, but it’s really something that’s making me care and that’s just bloody annoying.


10. Queuing.

This is such an issue in America, I even wrote a whole post about it. “American’s don’t know how to queue” – in summary –

The British system is quite simple. For example: You have three tills and one line. As each person is served, the next person in the ONE line is then served by the next empty till. One line is fairness. One line is, quite frankly, the proper way.

Americans do it differently in two ways. Firstly, they will have three separate lines for each till. But as we know, some people take an age to be served and you’ll unfortunately often join the queue with the slowest service. It’s sod’s law as we say in the UK. It just doesn’t work having a separate line per till.

And then there is the other issue – Americans who totally ignore the queue and just walk straight up to the cashier, ignoring everyone else. In England that would bring a howl of protest from the line. In America, people see it as the American spirit. The guy took the opportunity and won. He is a winner! I may be generalising a bit.

I still love you, America. Can I stay? A list of things that annoy Americans about the British IS coming soon and yes, it’s being written by an American. Ha!

Blimey! is your daily dose of British news and features for anglophiles everywhere! This article was carefully written by Tim Holt, a British blogger, photographer and actor based in the USA. Forever torn between two magnificent slices of sod.

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