When your ‘American in Britain-self’ becomes your own worst nightmare: the ugly American


It happened. (YET AGAIN!)

Today. I . became. that. annoying. American.

I didn’t mean to be. I didn’t walk in the mizzle with my cheery Cath Kidston bag on my arm armed  to go ’cause a scene’. It just came out of me like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like giving birth–over time (erm, like every nine months or so)  it just has to come out.

My ‘ugly American’ moment happened by stating to the Sainsbury’s cashier:

‘is the price on the computer screen for those maxipads wrong? Weren’t they on sale? They were under the sale shelf. And were clearly marked with a promotional sign.

No, she said.

I don’t mind paying the extra pound, it is the principal of it, I would have chosen something else if I had known.

Sorry, those ones are not included in the offer.

Ok….can I speak to your store manager about making the sign more clear so other women aren’t confused too?

Glares all around from 16 people behind me wanting to buy their lunch. No other noise except my American-self filling the store. A few nervous shuffles behind me. I had caused a scene! And over maxipads! What was I thinking?

If I didn’t have my American twang (no matter how ‘Britified’ it may sound to my American family let’s face it, a twang is a TWANG) would I have gotten all those dirty looks at the till? Probably.

My American-ness just added to everyone’s annoyance. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if I were in the USA.

Nothing was resolved, I didn’t get the maxipads at the sale price. And I felt really stupid walking out with the British stare at my back. Sigh.

Even if I am about to marry a Brit, I am afraid I just can’t give up my customer rights, nor my strong opinions.

A thought dawned on me. Maybe I am the one that the annoying American stereotype is based on…. and I even live here permanently!! hehe


Customer neglect in the UK?

Before you start flinging mince pies: Surviving Christmas in the UK , a reminder



Sometimes I just want to bang my American head against my rented Victorian terrace house wall and fling all my Mr. Kipling mince pies at my window in my frustration with my airport delays. The pie box says they are ‘exceedingly merry’–I am so not feeling that way now as I am missing my holidays with my family. I am raising my hand and admitting that now I am having a very ungraceful moment as I am stranded in the UK as my flight getting home to America three days ago was cancelled. Long story short  I am still trying to get on a flight home. For those of you stranded in the UK with the current weather conditions of snow and cancelled flights (like me), this advice from our archives will keep you informed about the possibilities of spending Christmas in the UK– or some observations about a British Christmas.

As you readers know, Christmas in Britain brings on its own wacky traditions… no one tells you these things as an American in Britain that you might encounter:

The Grotto: No, not a ghetto, not Santa’s grotty. But a GRAW-DO…Yeah, I was confused at first, too. Yes, here in Britain Santa  lives in a cave called a grotto. Not a cottage! Not a cabin! Not a wonderland!Yes, grotto sounds like a dirty word but really, it is a place meant for little children to visit Santa. Don’t ask.

Christmas crackers: Under no circumstances should you win the Christmas cracker if you are pulling it with your well-meaning British Sister-in -law, her kids, or your mother-in-law. Trust me. Monitor your pulling effort and just let them ‘win’ the cracker. Do you really want cheapo nail clippers anyway? And don’t be fooled by the “Marks and Spencer Luxury Crackers” either, they have nail clippers in them, too. I would  like to add however that I have started a very nice collection of wire silver egg cups from Christmas cracker winnings.

The Christmas Hat– You might pull your Christmas Cracker too hard (to not win requires lots of practice) and you may need to put on the flimsy colored paper-hat inside. Depending on the British family you are with will dictate if you are required to do so. You need to be aware that yes, you will look ridiculous in a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown. But if everyone else puts it on and you don’t you will look like a big stick in the mud and that is definitely a social no-no.

Style your hair so that it would look good with a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown on top. Maybe you could plan ahead to coordinate your Christmas day outfit so that it would match these common Christmas hat colors: Red, Bright green, dark purple, bright yellow, bright orange, and dark blue or black. Pray that you get the black hat if you do pull too hard and win the Christmas cracker– it looks more suave then the other colors.

The Queen’s Speech: You should be prepared to watch the Queen’s Speech, regardless of what you think of the Royal Family. My soon to be mother-in-law has tons of collectible “Royal Plates” on her wall so I know it is going to be a given. Although some British families (probably not many) do not watch the Royal Christmas message, but just be prepared to stop your Christmas dinner to watch.

Or, your Christmas dinner will revolve around the Queen’s speech timed to absolute perfection when the teas and coffees are served (oh those Brits are so organised!!). Practice some lines beforehand saying nice things about the Queen even though her speech might seem fake, over-rehearsed and out of touch with reality. Easy for her to say: “I hope all the hungry children in the world get food to eat this Christmas”– she lives in a castle for heaven’s sake! Your British family will probably also agree she shouldn’t say such things since she is swimming in money but have learned to keep their traps shut in this matter.

Boxing Day: Just when you thought Christmas was over comes along Boxing day. You’ve gotta think positive: you have made it this far and at least you are not at work like a lot of American employees back home! Yet, it is another day where everyone sits around in a food coma and eats lots of left-over beef and mincers while watching football matches you probably don’t give a hoot about. Around this point you might have had a few scuffles with your British partner and their family, probably unintentionally and probably about topics like their mother-in-law offending you, and what time you are going to leave.

A lot of British families like to take walks in the country on this day– you could fake a headache or indigestion if the thought of that is not appealing. At that point Christmas is about over anyway. And you will have made it through. Score!

Thanks for reading and Happy Christ– I mean, Merry Christmas! And fingers crossed to get myself home for Christmas….or lord help the mincers and my windows.

When you feel embarrassed (and then guilty) about other fellow Americans in Britain



Dear Readers,

Do you ever have moments when as a Shamerican * you stumble across a fellow American in Britain that do things that are really embarrassing? Sometimes it happens when an American speaks really loudly with a very jarring American twang: “Hey Bob, look that stone bridge over there! It is from 1109, did you hear that Bob, the bridge is from 1109 –Mary would love that, bedder gedder a picture!!”

Or sometimes you get Americans in the UK that are more shocking in London, like on the tube, at 11am.  I knew she was American before she spoke. You can just tell. It was her overstuffed ‘Jansport’ backpack, a huge hoodie that that said ‘University of Texas Beta theta Phi Kappa Delta (or whateveh the hell those sororities are called ). But this isn’t about her wardrobe.

This American gal opened her bible up to the New Testament and attempted to read very loudly to other passengers around her on the carriage.   I know, brave!! But oh, lovely readers, the reaction was NOT PRETTY. One guy whispered to his girlfriend: Bloody Americans trying to push herself on us, what’s she on about? Got to give my fellow unabashed countrywoman credit. She just kept on reading and reading and reading— tube stop after tube stop….I did find myself very embarrassed for her.

Clearly she had no clue about how the British do things,  I mean she should really have a crash course in the ‘British way’ because let’s just say that preaching on a tube is not gonna win over any Jesus freaks, well, at least it’s not likely, anyhow.**

I can’t help it. Sometimes I see another American and feel embarrassed for them as they try to negotiate their way in this country. After all, I am American too, and have made a mess of it in the past, this blog will testify to that! The steps usually go like this when I see an embarrassing American.

1) Shame for finding a fellow American, a compatriot so embarrassing

2) Guilt because I really am finding them embarrassing,

3)  I tell myself to stop being so damn snobby and just laugh (the best step– but sadly it takes going through steps 1 and 2 to reach this point.)

4) Complex comes over me where I want to protect these lost souls from stepping into it even more.

5) I usually text fellow blogger Yankeebean an OMG story and we cringe


* We have unofficially nominated Shamerican as our term to replace ‘expat’ on occasion. We do not however, have any affiliation with this very intriguing website !!!

** Still trying to figure out (while writing this post) what the best way to win ‘Jesus Freaks’ over would be in this country. After 5 years I still could not give that American gal suggestions.

Feeling homesick? Why even the embarrassing American tourists might be your answer. Click here

When your American-self imagines breeding some British children



I am not  hoping to get knocked up my English boyfriend. But! I can vouch that when you are a lay-deh approaching the big 3-0- your mind just starts thinking about kids, biological clocks, your eggs disappearing….I know, I know before you think this post is ‘cliche-arama’,  hang on: It is different when the ‘eggs and time ticking’ happens when you are living as an American woman in England. Doesn’t the thought of having your own kids in a foreign country make you think about things differently?

For instance. Somehow in my ‘happy family fantasies’, my offspring all speak American(well, like me!): Hey therrrr Mom, can I have som’more them Nabisco Waaaaayferrrs? My good-natured-well-rounded-children would do happy things like celebrate the 4th of July while they squirt lines of E-Z cheese on their Oscar Mayer wiener*.

But if I imagine having kids here in the UK,  I start to feel uncomfortable at the thought. What would it be like to have kids that speak in a British Accent? (Oh Motha dear, could I trouble you foh some of that lurvely Ribeeena?). As if! In my fantasy they wouldn’t sound like that- I have them down sounding more like da Ali G.

The ‘what-ifs’ eat away at my brain. I freak out that they would have to grow up in a council estate because we couldn’t get on the UK property ladder anywhere else.There my British children would become little chavsters and enjoy burning out wheelie bins. I wouldn’t able to send them to a public school on my meagre income and all the good state schools would be oversubscribed so their brains might rot. I would worry they would have sex at age 11 and drink Thunderbird mixers in secret alley ways (you know, the ones with the orange lights!). My family in America couldn’t help raise them because they are too far away. Gollee, my unborn British children really freak me out right about now. Bring on that free NHS contraception.

Yankeebean’s post that midly freaked me out enough to inspired this one…. Click here

*that would be a hot dog and not the dodgy UK defintion of ‘wiener’ just to clear up any confusion as it would confuse the meaning of this post somewhat.

When random British people (that you’ve only just met) tell you what is wrong with America

yahooavatar15Imagine meeting a British person for the first time. Imagine introducing yourself, answering all the questions that you get asked as a foreigner– like having to tell your “America to England” story for the zillionth time. Now, imagine randomly saying to this British person that you have only just met that people in Britain have  bad teeth. Real, real, bad teeth.That you have never been to a country where people have such bad teeth. That you saw this one 15 year old kid on the train and you COULDN”T believe he had such BAD TEETH. Now I am sure you are horrified about doing that, right? No, that would be so rude!  Plus could you imagine the wrath? It is hard enough making female friends in Britain!

Well, for whatever reason, some British people love to point out America’s flaws to me during our first meeting. Like today–a 6o-ish woman from Harrogate decided to tell me that she had NEVER SEEN so much obesity in her life as when she went to America. That she was on this train where she saw this 15 year old kid and he was SO FAT! That she couldn’t believe how many obese people were in America. That she couldn’t imagine how unhealthy THOSE FAT PEOPLE OVER IN AMERICA are.

Running through my head as Mrs. Harrogate ranted at me: Hello? have you seen all the white muffin tops pouring out of jeans in Leeds City Centre  lately, honey? There are fat people here too, and it seems its getting worse according to obesity reports!”

I wish I were brave enough to say that!  But instead, while smiling politely I said “It is just a different lifestyle there, isn’t it? You must excuse me while I go get some milk for my tea…”

Now then, lovely readers! Why would someone decide to tell me this to me, an American? Am I responsible for America’s obesity? Do I even LIVE IN AMERICA anymore? How would I be an expert about America’s weight issues? (I have enough of my own!). Sometimes I think that I have to defend America all the time, and I am so tired of it. Please tell me that you have to take the ‘blame bullet’ too?


P.S.  I don’t really think that all British people have bad teeth. That was used for example purposes only, and is used to represent a silly stereotype that people have of other countries.

P.S.S. I forgot to say that the afore mentioned lady from Harrogate had only visited Florida. And that was it!

P.S.S.S. On a ‘let’s blame America!’ related topic: Why are dinner parties with your British friends so much nicer now that Obama is in the White house? Click here

Getting to know your British 21st century class system as an American (you have learned it, right?)

yahooavatar15Hey, don’t think that I am ‘rising above my station‘, but I want to share with you a little something that mystifies my American self (and is starting to scare me) about after living in Britain for 5 years. Wait, ‘mystifies’ is a polite word. I should say that my own self is starting to annoy the hell out of me. I am getting my own goat. I am ticking. my.own. self. off.  Help! As a member of the ‘upper-to middle-middle-class bordering on spiralist-meritocracy’ echelon, I am starting to become class-conscious. Has it happened to you yet? Be warned!

I am becoming a person that like other Brits, can “identify” class ranking like a stinky fish in a garbage can. I wanna say that I don’t care about class and all that hoopla but yet here I am thinking about it more frequently then I ever did living in America. Its infilatrating my brain! Got a Cath Kidston diaper bag and Molton Brown in your bathroom ? Oh, I detect a Yummy Mummy! Got a gold earring, have shaved stripes in your eyebrows and are wearing white Ted Perry trainers? Oh, that could be bordering on chav territory. Got a posh neutral accent and wear a cravat? Mon dieu, he MUST be a public school boy! Drive a white va…. ok you get the idea… and I can’t help myself. Have I been subliminally trained ? How in the world did I learn all this??

Something I just cant get used to here in Britain is the class-system ruckus. Words like working class, middle working class, the underclass, the middle middle class, the working blue collar, the noveau riche, the Old Boy’s network, wag, public school,  state-schooler, Mondeo men, Chavs, Neds, scallies, the rah, the essex man… ahhhh…..my god there are a lot to learn! Enough to make my head spin trying to keep it all straight. God save me before its too late!!

British Men– murderers, self-depricating, and not loved by British Women?

yahooavatar15Oh, we have tons of posts about British Men. When the mood strikes, we write about our experiences because our British Men are a big part of our lives. We’re dating them, sleeping with them, married to them, bickering with them, getting visas for them…But enough about what we think! What do other ladies think about British Men?

Click here for a blogger who thinks that “British men can be scary” because of  manky murder cases she read about in Britain (well if you only read the murder stories you would be scared, right?). This lady wrote this in jest… I think.  Here is an excerpt:

“British men have been in the news a lot lately, but not for their admirable qualities. In fact, these men are rather jealous and insensitive and, oh, have a habit of murdering their partners. EXHIBIT #1: Colin Scully, a jealous husband, admitted to police that he strangled his wife Tracey to death after she called out “Paul” while they were having sex…”

Then there is Alexandra Hope, a British feminist. She gives us her take on what British women think of their male counterparts– and its not good. She writes that in comparison to her peers, even Americans ‘in their lack of sophistication’ are at least bunny boilers. I am not sure if she wishes British women were bunny boilers too? Does this make her sad? This specific bunny boiler comment makes me feel very patriotic, of course. “Well God Bless America” is what I say to you, my little feminista honey!. Anyway, here is an excerpt of her post:

British men are the way they are is because we, British women, do not love them. Yes, you heard me right – We, British women, do not love Men. In fact, I am not entirely convinced that we ever did. If we cast an idle glance in the mirror of world history and relevant literature, a rather uncomfortably impassionate image stares back. And that image is enough to give the rest of the world a right to label British women as largely frigid.…”

Oh and then there is this Telegraph article that gives the run-down of British men from ladies from all kinds of international ethnic backgrounds. These single ladies from abroad give their viewpoints while they try to get English men to “put a ring on it”. (Pick your favorite opinion!)

“Part of the problem is that the goal of British courtship is not simply to find a life partner. It is also about doing everything possible to avoid what we hate most – making fools of ourselves. No wonder, then, that extravagant compliments, overt flirtation and official ‘dates’ – all considered normal virtually everywhere else – fail to thrive in the land of the stiff upper lip. Terrified of humiliating rejection, British men, it seems, will do almost anything to avoid showing their true feelings until they are certain they will be reciprocated.”

Last there is a Ellie Levison of the Independent who writes that if you really want to get a British man to fancy you then you better be prepared to be a self-annihilator. Yes, wipe out that confident little American charm from your walk, darling! Well, I say yawn to that approach! Oh wait I mean, I mustn’t yawn I am so STUPID to yawn, I can’t believe I am such a fool to yawn! How could a guy want to date me when I want to yawn? (Ridiculous!)

“The study, by the anthropologist Gil Greengross, looked at the seduction techniques of British people, and found that taking the mickey out of yourself makes you more desirable. This is a peculiarly British form of humour, allowing you to both show off your achievements and show a sense of modesty and, found the study, rarely works when used on foreigners, who tend to take what we say at face value.”

And you, lovely reader, what do think? Do you agree with any of these stories based on your experiences?

The Scottish and English Divide: a single male Scot 'tells all'

yahooavatar15On occasion us 3 American ladies at She’s Not From Yorkshire post interviews with random Brits. This week, Owen, a single (take note, single ladies, take note!) Scot gives us his opinions on the fabled  Scottish and English Divide– and  everything else from visiting England’s chippies to the Simpson’s…

Tell our lovely readers a little bit about yourself.

I am male, Scottish, and born and largely bred in Scotland -  I have recently started regularly visiting various English towns (several in the picturesque north-east) but also mainly London and the Midlands. Thus I may not be wholly typical of most Scots/English! I am a newly thirty-something, newly-turned homeowner (just pre-crunch), who is trying to find some drive to finally de-clutter all previously acquired possessions and rediscover youthful ambition in order to decide where I want to go in life – or to just confirm that I am happy plodding along in my new little house!

And your work?

I have a good job,  if a little lacking in prospects, but also outside interests which compete for my attention and I probably should organise both better!!

What is the main difference between the English and Scottish in attitudes (if there are any) from your point of view?

I believe stereotypes have some use and do exist to an extent though I realise the dangers of generalising too much!  I would say the English can be a bit “chipper” – if that’s correct, more up-beat, possibly more confident without a bevvy in them first – though that is not possibly wholly true.  The Scots can be very proud (as can the English) and certain sections can be noisy and boorish in equal measure!

How so?

The Scots are always the underdogs which possibly seems to cause them to give up in sporting events and on balance England has often been seen as superior in many things e.g. football, rugby and cricket.

I’ve heard that opinion from my English boyfriend, too.

But, that said, Scotland has given the world numerous inventions and can stand as proudly as England (perhaps more so – my history could do with brushing up!) in terms of the number of pioneering people and inventions originating somehow from Scotland.

Yes. Like the Alexander Graham Bell chap.

It might be worth noting that several pioneering Scots (e.g. John Muir) made their fortune in the Americas – either through voluntary emigration or perhaps earlier through forced emigration by clearances. It is not as black and white as English land-owners and red-haired bearded randy drunken Scotch Picts, however!  Several land-owners may well have been Scottish – there are also some divides between English north and south and Scots lowlanders and highlanders. Several, perhaps slightly anglicised, land-owners (possibly simply through having business interests in London rather than any particular English favouritism) may have been hard on their more native Scottish tenants.  Thus it is as always a complex picture.

Do you feel out of place when you are “Down South?

I don’t feel hugely out of place when south of the border – oddly I am possibly more British than Scottish (although I feel one ounce of guilt with that lack of Scottish-ness balanced by one ounce of it being perfectly reasonable to be British and a mistrust of blind nationalism.)

I am aware of being a Jock – however I have been called Scottish in England (not sure it matters so much in London – except for Scottish bank notes)  But significantly (and possibly due to a slight twang in my accent from my years in the Midlands) I have been called English when in Wick! (Wick can be a wild place on a Saturday night). I have however been considered to have a broad Scottish accent by a posh Liverpudlian girl so it all gets a bit confusing.

Give us an example.

I don’t really notice being a Jock in London – though I do notice it a bit more in other parts of England.  I was at a fish and chip shop in the Midlands last year and when asked about salt and vinegar I was taken by surprise (as if they don’t have salt and vinegar in England) and stammered out “aye, a wee bit” – since I was speaking to a more working class fish shop operative (ok they may have been a middle class student I suppose but it was the outskirts of this small town away from the college. Upon returning to my guests house I was given my order which was identified by “a wee bit” !

How about that Scottish money people always moan about accepting  in England?

On balance though I only really notice people occasionally pretending to complain about Scottish money… generally less so now.  Ironically that has only been an issue in London when I’ve dealt with foreign bar staff.  Doubly ironic given that the Prime Minister and Chancellor are both Sots – the point I always have ready to fire at them if they complain.

Why do you think that the English and Scots don’t get along?

There is a some degree of rivalry and mutual resentment/mistrust – most commonly however which appears thankfully only as light-hearted rivalry. I don’t think they seriously hate each other – not when considered intelligently – more likely there are isolated cases of racism towards other nationalities like ones I have sadly witnessed where I live in Glasgow. There is friendly rivalry although there are instances of more serious stuff but I think that is people’s nasty behaviour coming out with the Scottish-English thing rather than being inherently anti-English.

But how about you personally?

I can’t claim to be immune from a borderline racist slur (if just thought) but this is just a way of making the pain or frustration inflicted by the other person’s behaviour or bad driving seem less…

That said, any deep-seated subconscious resentment (which is hard to shake off over many generations) can be traced back to the Highland Clearances and attempts by the centres of power in the south to subjugate or whatever the heathen people of the north.

The subsiding of any justified bitterness has of course been hindered by things such as the Poll Tax experiments, perceptions of Scotland’s supposed oil being raided – (more likely by Norwegian, American and other companies than England!) – and last but not least the Scots’ ability to wallow in sentimental self-pity! Look at the portrayal of the Scots in the Simpsons – it’s not that far off!


(If you have missed previous interviews in our interview series, you can click here .)

An American Expat in Britain tries to find better word to describe her situation

yahooavatar15Sylvia left a comment on our About page last week and wrote:

“Hi, I’m a Leeds lass living in the middle of Kansas and I had a very hard time adjusting when I first got here. The women here were a problem for me as they all had the cheerleader mentality and I couldn’t relate to them in any way at all. After 33 years I can certainly hold my own, you just have to get to know people and adapt. I must say that when we went back to London several years ago I couldn’t relate much to the Brits and so I feel like I’m in no-mans land sometimes. Love your blog. “


I love our readers. Yes, that would be you, lovelies! You not only inspire me but encourage me to think about life in Britain differently.  Y’all are fantastic.

I am writing this from America right now where I am visiting my family for Christmas. Being here as put a different spin on my perception of “fitting in”. I realize the longer that I stay in Britain, the less I fit in America.

SO if the Americans don’t treat me as one of them:

“So, like, you’re like, living where again?” she asks, “Germany or something?”

“Um, its England” I say apologetically, but thinking she has no clue about her geography

She then says “Whats it like over there– do you all wear bowler hats to work?”

And the Brits don’t treat me as one of them:

“In England we don’t say bay–sil we say bahh–sil, says the English waiter, “and I am afraid  we don’t have doggie bags, whatever those are”

Where does that leave me? Where do I belong?

Am I to move to the middle of the Atlantic ocean where I should live on a mega-boat in the middle of the two?

Like Sylvia in her comment above, I feel I am in this middle place (no-mans land) where I am not a Brit, but I am not an American.

The only word for this scenario is expatriate which I know, I know, comes from Latin, apparently. But it sounds more like ex-patriot, a word which sounds like I have given up my American patriotism! A word that sounds like I have turned my back on my fellow country men!

Surely there is a better, nicer word…

Maybe I could say I am an Ameribrit.

Or how about a Briterican? Hmmm…

A chavtastic-fantastic-Yorkshire affair

yahooavatar15You frequently hear about their tracksuits, ASBOS, council estate flats, knife problems, and “what a bad thing they are to society”. Chavs have such a poor reputation in Britain!

Well, yes, I knew he had some “chav” qualities, when he first sat his cheeky handsome-self on the Manchester-Leeds train.

But I didn’t care.

His name was Dono and he had the YOOOHHkshaw drawl.

After we first slept together he said with concern “ My Dahhhling American princess, what time to do you want me to set the Alaaam for the Mooohhhning? Oh, how my heart melted!  It was that Yorkshire charm, yes, you know the one!

He wore his white Fred Perry shirt proudly and his mom gladly ironed his Ted Baker jeans for our dates.

Oh, no Leeds University education for him, he was a self made man– didn’t need any of that “classy stuff”. Seacroft Council estate was his conquered kingdom of his business world.

His iridescent purple Peugeot 306 purple was so bling bling, that when he drove he was death on wheels–with Galaxy FM blaring from his sub woofers.

Maybe some BBC Radio 1, perhaps, I would ask? Too posh, he would say.

My stuffy orchestral colleagues would attempt to warn me. Oh darling, we were so worried about you last night after that.. that… that… um …guy .. he drove away so recklessly… did you make it home okay?

(Dono never went to any of my classical harp gigs, not his scene, he would say).

Dono never ate vegetables except the fried variety, and he gave me gifts he ordered especially for me off the QVC.

I introduced him to Yorkshire vegan restaurants and earl grey tea. He loved both.

Dono and I lasted two weeks. He was my one-and-only-chavtastic-fantastic-experience.

Now, who says that chavs have to be so bad for England? I had a great time—!