Monday, May 22, 2017

How to Spot an American in Great Britain

I was watching the entire Agatha Christie’s Poirot series for the third time when I began to notice something.  Anytime American’s were present in the script, they were not portrayed in a positive light.  Women were brash and easy while men were blowhards and stupid.  I got the feeling Agatha did not like Americans all that much!

Having said that, there do seem to be some traits that make Americans stand out over other nationalities.  Just in case you were wondering!

The Luggage

I was in Waverley train station in Edinburgh when I spotted a young lady laden with all sorts of luggage (most of it large).  When she sat next to me, I said, “so, are you from America?”  Turns out she was a college student heading to Aberdeen for school.  I’m not sure why Americans think they need so much luggage when it makes it terribly hard to travel, but that seems to be the case.  When speaking to an elderly friend about downsizing her luggage for a UK trip, she said, “oh, I couldn’t do that!”

You can, actually… you just have to be willing!  See my article on travel packing tips.

Also, that USA sticker or red, white, and blue carryon may be a dead giveaway (to thieves as well).


It’s generally not cool to snap pictures of someone without at least asking if it’s ok.  How would you like it if someone came up to you and began taking photos?  I think that, universally, it’s just a rude thing to do.  So, be the good American who politely asks if you can take pictures before snapping away.


I was with a tour once where someone saw a Scottish couple walking their dog in the country and basically overtook them (and their conversation) very loudly.  She was sweet and positive, but just a little too much for the couple who beat a hasty retreat.  In general, a tip of the hat and a “good afternoon” go a long way.  If you feel you’d like to strike up a conversation, be mindful of the response  you’re getting from the person(s) you’re talking to and back off if it seems they don’t want to chat.  It’s not that they don’t like you, but they may not be prepared for a noisy onslaught!

Place Names

One thing that’s a tad embarrassing is that Americans don’t seem to be able to pronounce English place names with any sort of accuracy.  See my article on “of icks and burras”.

Wrong Way

You look the wrong way when crossing the street.  Or worse! You drive on the wrong side of the road when renting a car.  Or try to enter the car on the wrong side.  Or continually ride the traffic circle looking for the right exit.  You might as well just slap a USA sticker on the back of the car!

Table Manners

When eating in a posh restaurant, it’s best not to ask the Maître D too many questions about how to handle yourself at a meal.  Just take your fork and knife in hand and make a stab if nothing else!  However, a short course in etiquette might not be a bad thing.

Embarrassing Moments

  1. When an American on a bus tour began screaming, “A Bobby! A Bobby!” because she saw… er… a Bobby?
  2. When inside a true antique store (where objects were several hundred years old) and a friend began pulling them off shelves to view them.  The proprietor was not amused.
  3. When I allowed my dog into the ladies room at a park and was chased out by a woman who didn’t appear to like muddy paw prints in her freshly cleaned restroom!
So, how do you handle yourself when in England?  Classy is good.  Quiet.  Unpretentious.  Amusing. And remember to listen more than you talk - that goes a long way!  Be respectful of others’ boundaries and cultures.  Don’t force yourself on people. 

Let’s prove Agatha Christie wrong!

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