Friday, October 23, 2009

The Little Differences, Part II

My mate Maggie reminded me the other day that it's been a while since I've written about my observations on the differences between the UK and the US. Here are some things I noticed on my recent trip:
  • At Heathrow Airport, you can actually buy tasty, healthy, reasonably-priced food to eat as you while away the hours before your plane takes off. In addition to the ubiquitous pre-made sandwiches in triangular boxes (my favorites are egg and cress or tuna and sweet corn on brown bread for about £2.25), you can buy real Greek yogurt with sliced bananas, honey and grape nuts for £1.85. For bevvies, there are various kinds of juice, vitamin water, or coconut water in addition to all the sweet soda crap. When I was in the Minneapolis airport back in May, I walked about a mile down the concourse in search of something edible that wasn't full of sugar, carbs and fat before settling on a pasta and pesto chicken salad that was overpriced and not very good. Similarly, in the Atlanta airport I recently forked over $8 for a Wolfgang Puck turkey and pesto sandwich, also not very tasty and with nearly enough calories to meet my daily requirement. America is seriously in need of better airport food options.
  • On the other hand, I couldn't find saline nasal spray in a little squeeze bottle (about $3 at any pharmacy or grocery store in the US) anywhere in London. After my long flight, I landed with my sinuses totally dried out. I wasn't stuffed up and didn't need a decongestant spray. I just wanted to soothe and rehydrate my sinuses and prevent nose bleeds. I went to two Boots stores and spoke to the chemist in each. The only thing they had to offer me was a big can of aerosol stuff for £6.85 -- too much quantity and too much to spend for what I needed. My next stop was Revital, the health food store in Belsize Park. I though surely they'd have something like little packets of salt and a squeeze bottle, but no. The woman there looked at me like I was nuts and finally said, "We don't need that here. It's always humid."
  • When your mates in the UK greet you, they often ask "Are you alright?" My immediate reaction to this was to think I must have an open wound on my head or look like I was totally stressed out. I then realized that this is shorthand for "How are you doing? Are things going well?" and just replied, "Yes, thanks. I'm having a lovely time."
I'm sure I'll think of more little differences and will update this list from time to time.
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  1. Anonymous7:27 PM

    I remember Brit pals really liking it when Americans said "All set," for instance in response to a waiter asking if you wanted more water or could he take your plate.

    And there was something about the little difference between "quarter of..." and "quarter to..." an o'clock....

  2. 'Too humid here'? what's she on about then? Doesn't it have to be hot and wet to be humid, we've got the wet bit ok but not the hot bit!

    I like the observations you've made about the differences. It made me laugh out loud (sod LOL). Talking of airports, when I was in Orlando airport, years ago, I bought one of those little drinks with a straw stuck to the side. The woman on hearing my foreign accent assumed I had never seen such an odd drinking device before and instructed me to remove the straw and stick it in the little hole. I then asked her "and then what do I do?"