Last year I wrote a slightly tongue in cheek post about the things that I didn’t understand about America as a British expat and the post turned out to be pretty popular. It turns out that there are still plenty of things that confuse me about life in the US and so now I present you with part 2. The fact that living in another country confuses me is not a surprise; just being alive confuses me enough. If you missed part one you can find it here.
1. Why do Americans pronounce the herb basil as bay-sil but the name Basil as bazzil? I get that two words that are spelled the same way can be pronounced differently (homonyms) but why is there a need in this case? If you ever confuse the two then you must either be a cannibal or a pretty bad cook. “I’m just going to add some Basil to the pasta sauce”. While we are on the topic of herbs why drop the letter ‘h’ in herb but pronounce the h in the name Herb. Is there some mysterious rule in American English to prevent herbs from being confused with people? Also the whole dropping of the ‘h’ thing is meant to be a London accent thing. “Taxi back to the ‘ouse mate?”
2. Why does bread and milk last so much longer than it does in Europe? I forgot about some hot dog rolls in the pantry once and about a month later they still looked and felt exactly the same. I didn’t follow this to its logical conclusion by eating them just in case you are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that you don’t need to go to the store every few days to get milk and bread but what is in it that makes it last so long?
3. What are you meant to put in the garbage disposal unit that is commonly found in the sink in American homes? Now I think they are a great idea for getting rid of food waste but what is meant to go in there and what isn’t? I accidentally dropped a spoon in there once (don’t tell my wife) and the noise that made suggests that cutlery might be a step too far but what can go in there and what can’t remains a mystery to me. I am still fearful that one day I will lose some of my fingers in it.
4. Dates. Now I’m not talking about dating here, I obviously understand how dating works in America or an American wouldn’t have married me. Or maybe I was so inept at dating in the bumbling way only a British person can manage that it was endearing? Anyway I digress, the whole month and day thing gets me every time. America is the only country that I know of that puts the month before the day when writing dates and I haven’t got used to saying the month first when asked. When I go to see the doctor and I have to pause and think when the receptionist asks me my date of birth it doesn’t make me look particularly clever.
5. Helpful shop assistants. I still haven’t got used to how friendly and helpful people in retail stores are compared to the UK. People will pack your shopping for you in the supermarket which after years of packing my own stuff in the UK makes me feel awkward and lazy because I hate to stand there doing nothing while they are packing my stuff. Once I needed to make an urgent phone call in a small town in the White Mountains where my smartphone had no reception so I asked in a shop where I could find a payphone. The guy in the store took his phone out of his pocket and handed it to me so i could make the call. People are so nice, especially in small towns.
6. Another thing that I don’t understand is the lack of love for roundabouts. You can find roundabouts but they are pretty rare and in Massachusetts they are called rotaries and bewilder motorists wherever they appear. There is a junction near my house where five roads meet and waiting for your turn at the lights takes forever, a roundabout would solve the issue. You could even plant trees and flowers in the middle to make the area a little bit prettier (and believe me my neighbourhood needs that). Of course you could build a roundabout and use traffic lights to control it like every fucking road planner seems to think is a good idea in the UK and have the best (worst) of both worlds.
Can you help me understand any of these things or am I a lost cause?!