I am an American. Born here, bred here. Yet, after having lived in and traveled to the UK for so long, I began to wonder why. What do the British have that we don’t? What do they do better than we do? Is it just the topography of their beautiful landscapes? The history, the monarchy, the magic? Well, I decided to make a list of a few of the things that (in my opinion) the British do that’s hands down better than Americans.
TelevisionIf I could cut out all American television, I’d live on various TV series’ such as Downton Abbey, Grantchester, Death in Paradise, Poirot, the Crown, Escape to the Country, Homes Under the Hammer, etc.
I love English radio. They have whole networks of stations that just do stories and plays. Or documentaries and dramas. Isn’t it fantastic? Almost like time stood still in the 1930s.
Don’t get me wrong… there are kind Americans (I’m one!). But my experience of the British is that (once they get to know you), they’d go beyond giving you the shirt off their backs, they’d give you an entire wardrobe! If you want to go hiking, they make sure it’s a good day out with a pub visit at the end. If you are on the motorway, the slower cars give way to the faster ones. Especially in the north (where I lived) or the south (in Cornwall where I’ve visited), I’ve found this to be true. This year, my entire trip is being spent handed off from friend to friend. I’ll be seeing so many sights I’d never see without these lovely people!
The British do dress up to a gobsmacking level. They have the Derby, Ascot, West End shows, and even just an evening event. Where I might choose jeans and a blouse, they’d be in full dress. They’re just that way.
No one is going to argue there. Since the 1800s, this country has owned afternoon tea. In fact, in Cornwall and Devon they’re fighting for the right to own the way your scone is served! British teas are some of the finest (I get some of the loveliest tea at Fortnum and Mason in London). Tea service has been perfected at places like the Ritz, Claridges, or Betty’s of Harrogate. Yes, hands down, here!
Pomp and Circumstance
Oh yes, tradition rules the day in the UK. Whether it’s Black Rod performing the state opening of Parliament or the Trooping of the Colour, or the Queen’s Christmas Message, you’ll find that there are rules and royal traditions everywhere!
In the 70s, I watched Wicker Man (the movie) with furrowed brow. But this tradition (in some form or another) still occurs today with the burning of a wicker effigy. It sometimes merges with the Green Man who appears on May Day and represents rebirth or springtime. Guy Fawkes Night is another strange tradition where children are encouraged to build an effigy of Guy Fawkes to burn on Bonfire night! Morris Dancing (we’ve forgotten what its origins are), or the ravens that protect the Tower of London and Britain by their very presence. For, if they leave, it is said that London and the Monarchy will fall! There are a million unique village traditions that would take hours to sift through, but these are some of the more well known.
Rules and Regulations
While most of these would seem silly to us, there are a few that I actually applaud. Like the ethical treatment of animals or the conservation of historical sites and land. But, then they take off on flights of fancy and, after watching Homes Under the Hammer, I have really got to question the rules that apply to property. A council has to approve any plans to change a home. Even if you plan to build a million dollar mansion (one was turned down on one of the shows I saw). It was designed by an architect and didn’t reflect the mood or environment of the locals. You can buy a place and still owe for its lease! There are so many ways a property deal can go wrong over there it boggles the mind.
Taxes, Licenses, and the Law
Well, even though we moan and complain about our taxation here, how would you like to be taxed for owning a television? Do you realize that newspapers are so large because of a British tax in 1816 that required newspapers to be taxed per page? A licensed establishment is one that is licensed to serve alcohol on site. An off-license is one where you pay for your alcohol and take it away (such as a liquor store). Did you know it’s an offense to be drunk and in charge of a cow in Scotland? Or that all beached whales and sturgeons must be offered to the reigning monarch? Or how about the more sensible, Prohibition and Inspections Act of 1998 that makes a nuclear explosion illegal? Some comedian is missing out on some great material here!
The UK provides some emergency healthcare even to people traveling to its shores. You’ll find a plethora of museums, buildings, andevents free to anyone!
The Play’s the Thing
While you might say that we have a handle on live shows in New York and Las Vegas, I’ll put them up to London’s West End and the love of British for theatre any day. Plus, tickets seem more affordable in London (that’s good). I recently got three tickets to see Beautiful for $80! Can’t beat that with a stick. And, who wouldn’t want a chance to visit Shakespeare’s stomping grounds or the home of Agatha Christie? My personal favorite literary museum is the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire.
Oh yes, we have our own hold on country, blues and modern day gangsta stuff, but it was the English invasion I recall with such clarity. The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Roger Daltry, Eric Clapton, Sir Paul McCartney, AC/DC, Adele, Queen, Freddie Mercury, Ozzie, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the list is endless. I’m not saying that one is better than the other. I’m just saying that in my own humble opinion, the gigantasaurs of rock n roll came from Britain. I know I’m going to hear from Elvis fans on this one!
Oh yes, now this is one you can’t argue with me on. Britain has older stuff! Modern homes in Britain are from the 50s up. A “traditional” home would possibly be from the 1500s. Your mind boggles at the culture shock when it comes to home buying in Britain.
One person estimates that there are “about 56 main "accent types" in the British Isles (or less controversially the "Anglo-Celtic Isles"), but within each of those accent types there are scores or even hundreds of distinctive variations… By way of contrast, there are about 42 recognised accents in the USA.” When you think that all of the UK is only 1/3 the size of Texas, the differences multiply in the “per capita” arena. Just give us a little time (a few thousand years) and we’ll catch up, I’m sure!
This was a fun jaunt and not without its controversy! I remain steadfast in my right to my own opinion and equally reserve the right for you to have yours. The two can exist on the same planet! However, I really would be interested in your take on this. If you like, please leave your thoughts in the comments section.