Confusing the Locals.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

1. Smiling and saying hello to strangers.

I never thought I was that friendly until I moved here, because I pale in comparison to a lot of Southerners back home. I don't see the harm in saying hello to the person I'm next to on the bus or chatting up the barista behind the counter, while most Brits do their best to avoid any and all eye contact - heaven forbid if you manage to lock eyes with someone on the tube.

2. Wanting to leave everyone, everywhere a nice tip.

Tipping etiquette in the UK is a far cry from what is is across the pond and I am constantly red-faced confused in most places. In the US most waiters don't even receive minimum wage so their entire paycheck relies on tips and it's extremely rude not to leave one, unlike here where they make a normal wage an only expect a tip (10-12%) for great service. When I tell people that the norm back home is to tip 18% at restaurants, their eyes go all googly-eyed in shock. Each place and situation has it's own unofficial set of guidelines, so I've learned that the best bet to avoid offending anyone is just to simply ask.

3. Saying "y'all"

Pretty self-explanatory. This is met with a lot of eyebrow raising and asking where I come from.

4. Hugging.

I never have any idea how to greet or say goodbye to people. I try to follow along with what everyone else is doing, but the first time my friends from France greeted me with cheek kisses ("bisous?"), I jumped back about 10 feet in pure fear. My friends from the UK have ranged from hugs, side-hugs, handshakes, and cheek kisses - but just one cheek. My French friends do both...but FOUR for family...what?! Ain't nobody got time for that. I still never know what to expect and will probably be awkwardly high-fiving people forever.

5. Wanting to take home leftovers.

Although not unheard of, taking a doggy bag of your leftover food is not that common here. Some restaurants flat out don't have the option, especially nice sit-down ones. However, the portion sizes here are a bit more reasonable than back home (looking at you, Cheesecake Factory) so you're less likely to have several meals worth of food leftover. I guess the idea of leaving somewhere like the Ritz with a styrofoam box in tow would be a little tacky.

6. Eating quickly.

Without exception, no matter the meal, I scarf down my food and am out the door faster than everyone around me. Brits tend to savor their meals more, taking hours for tea or a nice Sunday lunch. Waiters usually won't bring your bill until you ask for it or until it's very clear that you are done eating - my friend explained to me that they think it comes off as rude or trying to rush you out of the door to bring you the bill early. One time I was at Pizza Express with a small handful of friends and the hostess awkwardly told us that they needed our table back in 3 hours for a party. Does anyone actually take 3 hours to eat pizza?  Other than Thanksgiving or special occasions, I can't think of any meals back home where we sit for hours!

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