The quick start guide to America – for newly arrived Brits

I originally wrote this as a Facebook note for a friend who had just emigrated from the UK to the USA. It’s had a lot of positive comments from people – both British and American – so I thought I’d put it here too…

The Quick-start guide to America – for newly arrived Brits

Here is a handy five-minute cheat’s guide to America for Brits who have just arrived to live there.  I found out most of this the hard way – welcome to doing it the easy way…

Bear in mind I live in Middle America (in a city three times the size of Milton Keynes and yet it’s still considered “in the countryside”).  Things may be very different for you.  It’s my experience and my opinion and if I say something incorrect or miss something out then it’s my fault..but I didn’t mean it!

Passports, I.D., Driving License

Get a state I.D. as soon as you qualify (each state has different residency requirements etc).  You will get asked for I.D. all the time; at the drug store (chemists), registering for a school, hiring anything, at the library, buying anything on a credit card over a certain amount (weirdly “chip and PIN is not used here very often in fact, I don’t even know the PINs of my US cards).

If you do not yet have a green card / permanent resident card then carry your passport with you with the I95 in it (the little white bit of card – don’t lose it!!!).  Some states require you to prove your identity under certain circumstances.  In some states it’s also a requirement for people to check that you’re not an illegal immigrant for certain things (Arizona and Fremont, Nebraska both want you to prove your status when renting property and a few other things).  If you get stopped by the police – even if you’ve done nothing wrong – you’re going to be in trouble if you can’t prove who you are.

If you can you should get a local state/county driving license.  Each state has different rules about the legality of driving on a British licence and whether or not they accept it for use in driving over here.  The safest option is to get a US license.  You need to check at the “DMV” website for your county and state to see what you can or cannot do – you might be barred from applying until you have been resident for a certain number of days plus there is usually a list of things you need to take to prove your identity.  If you have a green card it normally is enough to satisfy all the requirements for ID and so on.  You might have to take a driving test – it is, in comparison to the draconian UK test, very very easy.  If your state has a theory test (most do) you can usually practice online and retake it if you fail.  If you do have to take a theory test I’d recommend cramming hard for it because there are some weird rules about things like school buses (you know, the big yellow things like the one Otto drives in the Simpsons) which you will not know simply by guessing.

Once you get a driving license it is the de facto “I.D.” which everyone asks for and saves a lot of hassle.  With a state ID and green card you can safely lock up your passport – they’re all you need.

Swearing

A.k.a. “cussing”.  As Brits we are blessed with a diverse range of swear words.  It’s not uncommon to hear the likes of Graham Norton using “the F word” at half nine at night or Gordon “Mr Sweary” Ramsay telling someone in abrupt four lettered Anglo-Saxon exactly what he thinks of them and their f****** apology for a soufflé.  We swear telling jokes to our mates.  We swear when we stub our toes.  We swear playfully when are teased about our favourite football team.  In fact, we bl****y swear all the bl*****g time.  Most of America does not swear as a matter of course (with some exceptions like leather-skinned cops in The Bronx and barflies in sports bars).  Don’t get me wrong – they swear – just not like Brits do – just not often in public.  In fact this lack of profanity extends to things like not saying “good God” or “oh Jesus” since it is still considered disrespectful to be casually blasphemous.  If you’re normally the kind of person who drops swear-words in to conversation – even mild ones – I’d get out of that habit.  However, if you live in New York you may need to start using more swear words than an East-London docker..just to fit in with the locals.  😉

Headache tablets and grocery stores

“Excedrin” and “Tylenol” are the two well-known brand names and correspond to Aspirin and Paracetamol.  There are LOADS of “generic” equivalents which are half the price – read the ingredients on the back and you’ll spot the right ones.  They are more expensive than the UK, roughly 2 – 3 times more.  Wal-Greens is like the UK’s Boots The Chemist.  Walmart (which is essentially the same as ASDA) appears to be a lot cheaper if you’re buying prescription stuff.  From what I’ve seen Americans have a much wider array of exposure to medications than Brits do.  Ambien (which is a prescription-only sleeping tablet) is commonly taken and appears to be given out fairly freely by the doctors whereas a British-based doctor is much more reluctant to give anything other than penicillin.  “Drug” adverts litter the TV and magazine advertisements over here, often taking many pages just for one drug.  It’s weird.

“HyVee” is roughly equivalent to Tescos – and “Bakers” is a bit like Sainsburys.  One odd things here – they will ask you “paper or plastic” – referring to the plastic shopping bags.  When you tell them they tend to pack the stuff in the bags for you.  Many stores will also send out a member of staff with you to the car to help you put the shopping in the boot.  It took me months before I stopped trying to put the groceries in the plastic bags myself.  I still take my “shopping cart” to the car on my own…I just have to, it’s ingrained in my psyche…

Oh and it’s “trunk” not “boot” of the car.  You’ll forget this…I do…

Tipping

Tipping is something that takes a bit of getting used to.  In the UK we tend to only tip restaurant staff and taxi drivers and even then it’s not always expected (especially if you’re stingy).  Over here tips make up a large proportion of the wages for people in low-paid jobs.  Not giving a tip is frequently seen as a hugely negative comment on the standard of the food or service.  It can also mean not getting served a second time in a bar.  The “average” amount is 20% of the total bill (although the exact amount is the subject of much debate if you ever are daft enough to bring it up in conversation with American friends).  So on a food bill of $40 a tip of $8 or thereabouts is quite normal.  Some people tip less, most though appear to do 20% from what I’ve seen.  You don’t tip people like shop staff, doctors, dentists, gas station clerks etc etc but you do tip pretty much everyone else and will frequently be heavily hinted for a tip!

Road rage / car park rage / queue rage

Let see: someone cuts you up or does something equally heinous that enrages your superior driving sensibilities.  You both arrive at a set of traffic lights.  Hah!  Now’s your chance, their driver’s side window is open – you can dive out of the car, stomp towards them putting them in their place in a very loud voice calling them all the names under the sun.  Don’t do this.  Two reasons: first of all you are in the country as a guest – if the guy/girl gets out and you punch them on the nose in self-defense and the cops get called you could  be on a fast plane back to England by morning.  Second; the minute you get out of your car and lean in to their car window shouting the odds they *could* draw a weapon and shoot you in the face.  They might even get away with it since they could claim they thought you had a weapon and you just apparently came at them with deadly malice.  The same applies to car parks and pushing people around in queues.  Guns are cheap and a lot of people have them here – legally and illegally.  They also carry stun guns and pepper sprays – again quite legally in most cases.  The rules about standing up to people here are very different to a Friday night scrap in Slough.  Omaha is a very quiet and safe place yet there is at least one shooting per week here and at the start of the year there was nearly one a day on average.

More importantly though – any trouble with the law can result in you being asked (or forced) to leave the US.

Money

The silver US coins take a bit of getting used to.  The nickel (5 cents) is bigger than the dime (10 cents) which to me is just perverse.  A dime is about the same size as a UK five pence piece.  Quarters (25 cents) will be very useful to you since the kids will want to put them in things like bubble gum machines.  Most vending machines also suck in paper money.  Watch out though – all the paper money is the about the same size and color.  You will use 10 and 20 dollar bills the most.  Nearly everyone uses debit and credit cards for everything (I am considered a bit weird because I prefer paper money).  Even the tiniest store in Omaha has a signature pad for you to sign on when you swipe your card.  There is usually even a floor limit up to which they will not care about a signature (anything less than $10 is usually fine).  It doesn’t matter if you struggle to use the electronic pad and it does not look like your signature – nobody cares that I’ve come across.  Because of this you need to keep track of your card purchases – card fraud is trivial to do and common.

You can usually draw money out of a UK bank account using your card in the US.  At the time of writing $400 is about 280 quid.  You *will* pay heavy charges for this.  It’s cheaper to arrange transfers to the US – the UK bank will do it…for a fee.  There are laws regarding US bank accounts in relation to non-residents but usually after you’ve been in the country long enough to appear on the State Department computers you’ll be fine.  Banks I’ve dealt with have varied on their knowledge – it pays to ask around.

Food and drink

In my experience food here is mostly (but not always) of a much higher quality than is normal in the UK.  It is also invariably of a MUCH higher quantity.  It’s quite normal for you to be given plates of food which are FAR too much to eat.  At the end of the meal when you’ve finally admitted defeat they will almost certainly ask “would you like a box for that?” –  everybody appears to say “yes” and take the remainder home.  Don’t be shy.  🙂  Food here is much cheaper too.  It also is laden with an array of sauces and slatherings.  You’ll need to be strong-willed to eat healthy options in many places.

One revelation is that fast food places like McDonalds usually hand you an empty cup when you buy a “soda” – you fill it yourself from the machines at the side of the restaurant.  Refills are generally free and unlimited.

A word of warning: I like curry.  I make pretty hot curry.  I once made the mistake of asking for “atomic wings” which are chicken wings covered in a spicy sauce.  The whites of my eyes turned pink and my lips didn’t recover for two hours…

Beer.  There are a lot of different kinds of beer here – many of them appalling.  The weirdest thing is that many beers and so on do not list the alcohol content on the bottle so you’ve no idea whether you’re drinking something which contains 6% or 1.5% alcohol.  Weird.  I tried Jalapeño chili beer so you don’t have to…nasty, avoid.

Iced tea.  Not good – it always tastes like Disprin to me.  Coffee – especially flavored American-style coffee – is very good.  I recommend “pumpkin spiced coffee” from Brueggers.  Don’t attempt to make British tea using an iced tea “teabag” – it will taste like spiced floor chippings. You can get British style teabags from the “grocery store” (supermarket) – look for Tetley British Blend or Breakfast Blend for an authentic British taste.  To be honest, I’ve not drunk tea now for several months even though I was a 10 cup a day man in the UK..you just end up drinking coffee or “soda”.

Other foods: donuts are everywhere – people have them for breakfast!  Kebabs = giros or gyros (gee roes).  They are nothing like the ones back in England – you can actually identify what sort of meat it is!  Chips – if you want British style chips then look for “steak fries”.  I have seen my step-daughter order “fish and chips” and out came battered catfish with a helping of salted home-made crisps.  Say goodbye to British fish and chips – I’ve yet to find anywhere that even comes close.  Baked beans over here are sweetened with brown sugar and frequently have lumps of pork belly in them (“pork and beans”).  You’ll get used to them eventually.  Mushy peas can be bought from the specialty section of a bigger grocery store as can Marmite.  Sweets = candy; if you ask for sweets they’ll show you a desert menu or say “whaaa?”  A lot of chocolate stuff over here seems to use peanut butter as an ingredient so watch out if any of your family are allergic to peanuts.  At Halloween and the various parades like Labor Day and St Patrick’s day everyone gives away massive amounts of candy – it’s a kid’s paradise; luckily the dentists are excellent.

Weird things that sound like you know what they are…but aren’t

Apart from the obvious ones like “pants” and “fanny”..

Chicken-fried steak.  It’s a flattened, tenderized steak which has been dipped in savory batter and deep fried.  It’s better than it sounds.

“Biscuits” – and more especially “biscuits and gravy” (aka “country gravy”) – these are actually savory scones, a bit lighter than scones really, smothered in a thick white savory sauce often with bits of minced pork in it.  “Chicken-fried steak with biscuits and gravy” is a very common option in many American “home cooking” style diners.

Prawns are always called shrimps here.  Shrimp are plentiful and cheap (in comparison) and sold sized by the number of shrimp per pound so 64s are smaller than 34s.  If you’re not near the coast then fresh fish is horrendously expensive.  It’s common to see live lobsters in the grocery store tanks.  😦

Ranch dressing.  A kind of creamy white slightly tangy sauce which is most often used on salads.  It’s a bit like an American version of Heinz salad cream (which is almost impossible to find here).

Chips.  We all know they’re what the Brits call “crisps”, right?   However, the weirdest thing is the lack of familiar flavors – most common here are ranch, cream cheese, jalapeño, cracked pepper etc.  You will not find: smoky bacon, salt and vinegar, beef and onion, prawn cocktail or Marmite (tragedy!).  Meat-flavored ‘crisps’ just are not commonly available here.  Weird, but true.  (I’ve since been told by Lisa you can get salt and vinegar crisps…but I’ve never seen them so I’m skeptical!)

Bacon.  Bleugh.  American bacon is like the fattiest streaky bacon you’ve ever had.  Back bacon is a rarity around here.   I go to a high-end butchers shop who specially makes “English style bacon” which is like the stuff we’re used to in the UK.  Failing that – get used to crappy bacon which has been cremated.

“Half and half” is a light style of cream that people put in coffee and on some sorts of deserts.  1% is sort of semi-skimmed milk, 2% is more creamy.

Broiler.  This is a weird thing – it’s most like the kind of grill you get inside some British ovens only much hotter.

Brats.  Short for bratwurst – a sausage with a high meat content.  “Italian sausage” is a similar thing which tends to be flavored with aniseed/fennel.  It sounds odd but I’ve actually grown to like them as my favorite type of sausage.  As far as I know Brats are not made out of naughty children.

Grill.  Actually means barbecue.  “I think we should grill some brats tonight” means to go out and shove some German-style sausages on the barbecue.  People grill stuff all the time here.  😉

Ribs.  Also, short ribs, burnt tips and so on.  When someone talks about ribs they almost certainly mean a whole side of pork ribs not some scrawny separated things from the Chinese covered in sweet and sour sauce.  Most grocery stores sell several different types of pork rubs.  They may even sell beef ribs (which are huge).  Short ribs are just that and “burnt tips” are, as far as I can work out,  bits off the end of the ribcage after they have been grilled.  Barbecue places over here tend to be very cheap and serve excellent food – a lot of it home smoked at the premises.

“Asian” usually means Chinese or Mongolian and sometimes Japanese.  “Indian” usually seems to mean “from India” with “native American” referring to the original peoples of America such as the Pawnee, Sioux, Navajo and so on.  You’ll see Indian reservations (and Casinos).  As a Brit you’ll be disappointed to find that the houses on the reservation look like houses and the schools look like…well, schools.  Cliches can be left at the entrance signs.   The Indian nations have their own rules, laws and governments.  The only place I’ve seen “cowboys” so far is in Texas at a show in Fort Worth.  You will get to see a Sheriff – they patrol the main roads like the interstates – but sadly they dress like police rather than like John Wayne.

“My father is English” / “I am French” / “I am Swedish” / “I am German” / “My Wife is Scottish” / “I am Irish”.  I have heard variations on this phrase whenever I’ve met someone new.  Invariably it is from someone who has clearly been nowhere near Scotland/Ireland etc.  Don’t be fooled – it actually means “I am descended from people who were born in Scotland”.  🙂  Although this sounds like a claim to a tenuous link with a nationality the newness of America in many cases can mean people’s grandparents *were* actually born in Scotland (or wherever).  In the UK we tend to think of nationality as being conferred by place of birth more than ancestry so it is a bit odd to hear this kind of thing.  Many Americans though are very proud of their non-American provenance and you’ll find lots of Irish and Hibernian societies dotted around the place celebrating a distilled version of the stylized culture to which they feel affiliated.  I only wish more Brits were as enthusiastic about their home country.  Sigh.

Patriotism, flags and soldiers

I remember one year the hoo hah in the UK when they stopped the taxis flying England flags during the World Cup in case it “offended people who were not English”.  This is never going to happen here.  People fly the Stars and Stripes with pride.  Banks have big flags; some flashy businesses have HUGE flags 40 feet high.  All of them are dropped to half-mast on 9/11 (did they drop any Union Jacks on 7/7?  No?  I thought not).  If the flag flies at night you’re supposed to keep it lit…out of respect.  You’re not supposed to desecrate it – although it was recently established that you have the right to do so under free speech laws but I’d say this is taking your safety very lightly if you do.  Americans are, on the whole, very proud to be American.  It’s not a blind approval of the government.  Plenty of people hate Obama with a passion but love their country.  It is a great country and I don’t blame them.  It is a sharp contrast to the general lassitude of the UK.

The other thing; here, in the American heartland, soldiers are lauded for what is seen as their great and worthy sacrifice on behalf of the country.  It is common for me to see offers that give serving soldiers big discounts or even free entry/services.  I have seen complete strangers walk up to a uniformed soldier and shake him/her by the hand and thank them “for their service”.  People have stickers on their car bumpers and windows saying “proud father of a US marine”, “US Army (Retired)”.  Knock the efforts of the US Army, US Air Force and so on at your peril – in the wrong place, to coin a phrase, you’re inviting a butt-load of trouble.

Speaking British to people

The phrase “two nations separated by a common language” is very apt.  Don’t make the mistake that because Americans and Brits tend to speak English they must in some way be similar.  America is as foreign as Spain or France.  Yes, there are lots of similarities but this generally goes to confuse the heck out of people.

The time it really shows up is when you try to speak in to one of those drive-thru things (at McDonalds or whatever).  Unless you sound like Hugh Grant there’s probably not a snowball’s chance in hell they will understand you and you will have to repeat yourself two or three times before they get it wrong anyway and you say “yes” to whatever it is they’re going to shove in the bag for you.

I speak with a pretty clear and educated British accent – yet people in grocery stores and so on still often ask me to repeat myself..I think it’s mainly because they’re not expecting me to be British and the inflection of certain words catches them by surprise.  You’ll also have to allow extra time for people to ask you daft questions about where you come from, where that is in the UK etc etc and then listen to them tell you about when they were stationed over there in the army or went to London on a school trip.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s pretty cool – but if you’ve just popped in for some loo roll and you *really* need to go to the toilet it can be a *little* annoying to try and extricate yourself from the very nice person in time to avert disaster.  I have been asked crazy questions like “have you ever met the boys?” (as part of a conversation about “Lady Di” – by “the boys” the lady on the checkout meant “the Princes” – and no, I haven’t although I have briefly met their uncle, Diana’s brother).

Think of the USA as 50 different countries – Nebraska is not the biggest state and yet it’s as big as England.  America is HUGE.  There is almost *everything* you could ever want here – mountains, flat land, big city life, rural nowhere, history, culture, lack of culture, food of every country in the World, vineyards, themeparks, sun, snow, beaches…

To those reading this with skepticism and thinking of me as becoming traitorously defensive of the Americans; before you criticize an American for not knowing where Birmingham, West Midlands is or calling somewhere “Paris, France” – point out Delaware on the map to me.  Tell me what the smallest state in the US is.  Can you tell me which mountain has presidents carved in to it and which Native American tribe disagreed with this idea..and why?  I can.  Admittedly many many Americans can’t either…but that makes them no worse than you and no better too.

So – a brief(ish) round-up of stuff that no-one told me before I came here.  I’ve found the USA to be a great country, very comparable to the UK but also very foreign – something which the ability to speak English does nothing to help with at all.  There are bad Americans and good Americans but this is because they are bad people and good people…not because they are American.

Just stay away from the atomic chicken wings…

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13 thoughts on “The quick start guide to America – for newly arrived Brits

  1. That’s really well written — and I have to say, I’ve noticed the same sort of things; although in my case it’s as a regular visitor rather than a resident.

    Money always gets me though. I am incredibly intimidated by US change — if I can’t pay for it with a note, I’m probably not buying it… well… not without a “I’m from England, is this right?” conversation taking place as I fumble over odd shaped money with words instead of values on them; plus, the first time I found out about sales tax was … well… an eye-opener (there’s nothing like going to the clerk with the exact money, only to be told it’s an amount more than you were expecting — but the sign said $5 )

    When it comes to withdrawing from UK banks, it tends to be useful if you go for a small bank who often has lower fees, and to withdraw as much as you humanly can stuff in your wallet (isn’t a lady’s purse her bag?) and feel safe walking back to the car with. UK Banks tend to have a limit on their charges to approx £5-£8 per transaction depending on the bank

    oh … on the food side of things… US Chocolate sucks. (And the US Cadbury’s is nothing of the sort, simply Hershey’s re-badged) — that said, I like US chocolate; but it’s definitely not the same.

    PS. I like the atomic chicken wings… although I’ve only had them in Iowa…

  2. Another thought occurs to me — driving; there are certain times of the month where you just don’t want to be driving around on out-of-state plates (or, out of county plates) as you’re more likely to be pulled over and ticketed than a resident (based on the fact it’s probably going to be harder for you to complain about it, and the fact that traffic cops tend to have quotas; you see a cop riding your ass, you become Mr or Mrs Perfect driver)

    (one more thing — minimum speed limits; it’s not unusual to see a minimum 45, max 75 sign as you’re going along the highway)

  3. Ah, I don’t agree with the observation that you might be more likely to be pulled over (although I am sure there will be many people jumping on a conspiracy theory that it’s all about quotas). Living on the edge of Nebraska and Iowa with relatives in Kansas and Texas I frequently drive “out of state” without any problems at all as does my wife. I’ve also not heard of any friends or family having problems either.

    Police involvement over here is with a very much lighter touch than back in the UK. Americans are regularly appalled when I recount stories of cars being crushed for non-display of road tax discs. Nebraska has no speed cameras at all – they are “unconstitutional” since they spy on the citizens and were found to have limited value in contributing to road safety.

    One thing to remember though: punishments here for civil ‘crimes’ like bad parking and speeding are much lower than the UK but for felonies like causing death by dangerous driving can be life-changingly extreme: with one recent 21 year-old guy facing 100 years (without parole!!) for crashing in to and killing four motorbikers whilst drunk. He would probably got a maximum of 5 – 10 years in the UK for the same offence.

    1. Conspiracy-wise it might depend on state, on troopers and goodness knows what; I know when I was over in the Summer there was one trip where we were well away from our “home county” — like 4 hours away, and we had a cop sit on our tail for about fifteen minutes waiting for us to fart out of turn or something (we were under the limit, driving carefully… )

      I do know though, for a while my ex was driving around Iowa with Californian plates. She would be on the highway being overtaken left right and centre — yet she would be the one pulled over; since changing to Iowa plates and not changing her driving style, she’s been pulled over a lot less — and always out of county/state.

      That said, this is all my observation/experience/re-telling of stories told; there’s no reason it is the same everywhere and I shouldn’t tar all police forces with the same brush.

      I know what you mean about police involvement — the very fact you’re not obliged by law to have the equiv of an MOT is pretty appalling — I’ve seen cars and trucks rusting along being held together by little more than spit and hope; and no road tax — but you still need your annual car registration (which, I guess is the equiv)

      I do wonder if the US has crime and punishment the right way around though. I guess the UK is too small to lock people up long-term (and deporting criminals to Australia seems frowned upon these days) :o)

      1. If a person drives with Cali plates but has an Iowa driver’s license, then they are at risk for a ticket for failing to plate their car in their state of residence. Nebraska police sometimes go around to apartment complexes looking for out of state plates. The reason is that a person is, by law, obligated to license their car in the county/state in which they live, within a certain timeframe that varies by state.

      2. Just wanted to say “thank you” for that; that makes a lot of sense — and I guess it makes a lot of sense that you might be more likely to be pulled over. In this case, it was the family bringing a old pickup over (from California) and leaving it behind; and it was probably within the grace period that it remained on California plates.

        Thank you again – have a good day!

  4. Interesting stuff, my dear Holmes. BTW, if you think the UK driving test is draconian, you should take the German test; that really is tough. I should do something similar on moving to Spain. Mmmmm…..

  5. I meant to mention the awe and wonder with which my washer/dryer machine combination was met with when my (now) wife visited me in my little flat in England before I packed up and came over here. Washer-driers do exist over here, of course, but most seem to be separate machines; i.e. a washing machine and a separate tumble-drier. Quite often a “washer-drier” is a two piece machine with one bolted or welded on to the top of the other. At least it is around these parts…who knows what goes on in Arkansas or Rhode Island… 😉

  6. I found this very, VERY interesting! Almost fascinating. I have studied this subject for about 3 years now, though from the opposite perspective (leaning about British life and words instead of learning about American stuff.) Since I have never been to the UK, I get my info from British visitors to my blog.

    I had many comments on some of your observations, and a desire to tell you where you were a little off on your conclusions, but I will sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut – because it is much more fun for you to find out these things for yourself. Ha!

    Thank you for this post. It was fascinating. Try to think of some more differences to write about and post them, please.

  7. Heh, thanks, glad you liked it. I guess my analytical brain would say that my observations are just that – how *I* have observed things so far over here. As I say at the start of the entry:

    “It’s my experience and my opinion and if I say something incorrect or miss something out then it’s my fault..but I didn’t mean it!”

    🙂

    I’ve read – and commented on – your blog (it’s a good blog) before which may be how you found mine. I definitely think you’re on the right track of two nations divided by a shared language. It’s the little differences that throw you a curve ball: tires, trunk, jumpers and biscuits; but overall the two countries are just like cousins – we mostly get on and only meet up for weddings and bar-mitzvahs…

  8. Brilliant observations! Now, if I could come across a similar guide for Americani in Italia!

    Some other thoughts.

    Traffic signals tend to be on the far side of the cross street . . . but you are keenly aware of that, as I remember.

    When parallel parking along a street, facing your car in the opposite direction of traffic flow is frowned upon, and is sometimes rewarded with a parking violation.

    Auto license plates and drivers’ licenses are state issued, but administered by the counties.

    Until I have authentic English fish & chips, I’m not a fair judge. However, there are two places in Omaha that might be superior to your run-of-the-mill restaurant.

    One is the Dundee Dell (5007 Underwood Avenue). They have been serving fish and chips since the 60’s. In fact, they served in newspapers until the healh department stopped them. Not sanitary, don’t you know?

    The other is The Brazen Head – although it’s claimed to be Irish. From their website: The bar was designed in Dublin, built in Wexford, Ireland and then shipped over to the United States. The bar was then reassembled under the supervision of Irish joiners. (http://www.brazenheadpub.com/)

    I agree with your opinion on beer. That’s why I drink mostly ales – pale, dark, stout . . . it matters not. American “light” beers and ice beers are little better than cat piss.

    Guns, knives and sprays, oh my! The American position on firearms is perhaps the most difficult concept for Europeans to understand. In general, we give more innate freedoms to our citizens than many other countries, and in return, have a willingness to accept more risks. The cliche image of an everyday “shoot-out at the OK corral” is simply that – a cliche. Besides, this culture had its genesis in our 18th century rebellion against your mad King Georgie. So, it’s basically your fault, innit?

    Since I am now trying to spend Euro rather than dollars, I understand the confusion with coins. Who needs a 2c piece? Who needs a penny or a nickel for that matter? Round it to the nearest 10c and be done.

    Barbequed pork ribs are one of the major food groups in the U.S. Who makes the best ribs is tantamount to a political argument. Dry rub, mopped, tomato base, vinegar base, ad infinitum. In ANY city in the midwest or south, ask around about the best, and give it a try – especially in Kansas City, MO. In Omaha, Ozark Smoked Meat Company is one of the best.

  9. By the way, I have absolutely no difficulty understanding you – accent or not. Of course, I spent many of my college years and thereafter watching BBC TV – Monty Python, The Avengers, Secret Agent, Dr. Who, As Time Goes By, Blackadder, Vicar of Dibly, Absolutely Fabulous and Benny Hill, for a few. I also knew who Henry VIII’s sister was . . .

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