Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Advice to Brits visiting America

There seems to be lots of books with advice to Americans visiting the UK, but not so many for those going the other direction on holiday, so this is intended to fill that void.

Disclaimer: you will find many blogs by expat Brits living in America, but all their advice is wrong, so take that as a warning for you to stay away from those expat sites and just read this authentic one. After all, if they were THAT intelligent, they would still be living in the UK, right?

Note: These tips are for short-term visitors. You’ll only find advice that is helpful for holiday goers and not stuff about how to get a driver’s license or register to vote.

Well, I guess that’s about all for now.

Wait. I forgot part of the post.

1. We use different money here. No Francs or whatever you use in the UK. On the bright side, our money has no value anymore, so there’s no need to worry about exchange rates.

2. We don’t speak your language.

3. Americans change lanes a lot. Watch your ass.

4. Don’t take the train. Jesus.

5. Expect to hear the words “excuse me?” a lot when you speak to us, and not because we want to get through. Not only do we not speak your language, we don’t understand it, either.

6. America is not dangerous.

7. You will love our beer.

8. Avoid eye contact with panhandlers. On second thought, try to just choose a destination other than New York. Chicago is nice. They don’t have panhandlers in Chicago. They have “street newspaper venders” in Chicago. Hint: buy one or they’ll spit on you. Kidding. Just kidding. And you can take the train in Chicago, so you’ll feel right at home. Only they call it the El. That’s because... well, you don’t need to know all that.

9. If you MUST choose to land in New York, don’t ask directions to Chicago. They won’t have a clue. Anything west of the Hudson is just blurry fiction to them. They won’t understand you anyway. And you DAMN sure won’t understand THEM.

10. The Golden Gate Bridge is not in Chicago.

11. It is unlikely you will meet President Obama during your visit. I know. Bummer.

12. If in New York, resist the temptation to talk about cricket with the person standing in line next to you. If in New York, resist the temptation to talk to the person standing in line next to you.

13. Two words: Gray Line.

14. Choice Hotels. Alamo Car Rentals.

15. Everything is farther than you thought it would be. Except in Massachusetts and like that.

Actually, I don’t know why more Brits don’t visit here. It really isn’t that bad. (Not to steal the New Jersey license plate state slogan: “Not as Bad as You’ve Heard”.) I recommend visiting in the spring or fall. Unless you are visiting Miami, then July is the best time.

If you see a cop behind you with his red lights on, don’t pull over right away, because it may not be you he wants to pull over. Take your time and be sure. A mile or so. Then stop on the shoulder, wait for him to get out and approach you, then move ahead 100 yards or so. This is a courtesy unique to America, and they will appreciate it. You may be sure. Never let them see your hands as they approach your car. Bend down sideways in your seat if possible. Then sit up straight quickly. And I hope you are lucky enough to get to play, too. It will be something for you to talk about when you get home.


If you REALLY have serious questions, I promise to answer seriously. Just ask. Otherwise I don’t know what real advice to give you. I know I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of what to do if I visited the UK. I’ve heard you are not all that keen on guns but beyond that, I’m not sure. And you use passports and stuff, right?

Update: Contrary to the picture at the top of this post, there is no bridge to the U.S.A. I mean not from where YOU are. At least I don't think there is.

Update #2: I was lying kidding when I told you not to go visit ex-pat blogs. They know a LOT more about America than Americans ever will.


  1. I thought Boston and Massachusetts were synonymous? (Is there anything west of Boston?) But if you are in Boston (or New York) make sure to take the short trip to Niagara Falls for the day.

  2. People are allowed to travel to the USA? I thought you just grabbed them of the street, called them 'terrorists' and put them to the torture in Cuba?

  3. Great post although I spat out a little tea when reading your condemnation of all other expat Brits in the States. I take great pride in researching answers that I give to Brits about the States....most of the time. ;-) When in doubt I throw it out there for general discussion. Never fails.

  4. Ah, the place where bridges are bought and sold (many times) at the drop of a hat. The birth place of junk food and the home of the braves ... oh no! I forgot! The were almost wiped out by Mr. Custer and his buddies.

    America! I never realised that it was still open for business.

  5. For the record, there are a handful of people in this country who can communicate just fine with UK visitors, mostly because we are educated, have read books by British authors (perhaps in excess) so much we frequently spell honour and favour in ways that drive our countrymen insane. If all else fails, we have a passing knowledge of other European languages since we don't consider learning another language unAmerican.

    On the downside, we aren't much liked and probably don't know many interesting places to visit, at least none that YOU would likely want to visit.

  6. @Almost American - Thank you for visiting! I sense a little tongue-in-cheek, though. Bostonians are not nearly as provincial as New Yorkers. :) Niagara Falls? Not quite such a short trip from either place, but well worth it. Better yet, make Buffalo the destination and visit Boston on a day trip! Leave New York out entirely and just visit Canada for a day. There you go. :)

    I don't want anyone to think I am down on New York. New Yorkers are salt-of-the-earth people who just get a bad rap in the movies. Go there. Enjoy. I used to have a business partner from Brooklyn. "From" being the operative word. That was years ago, though, and I have mostly regained my original speech patterns, except for the occasional Italian or Yiddish word. :)

    I didn't mean to go on and on - thanks again!

    @Adullamite - So incisive as usual! But if I told the truth as honestly and unbiasedly as you tell it, no one would ever visit. :) I think you know very well the Cuba torture thing is only applicable to Scots, in retaliation for your bagpipe torture inflicted on us. Shall I go into how much Scots love terrorists and humanely let them out of prison? I suppose not.

    @Expat Mum - I know you understand that the word in the title was only bait to get you to visit, and the other paragraph put in just to rile you enough to make a comment. It worked. I try to do it monthly. :)

    How is your visit to the Old World going? I see by the time stamp on your comment that you are still a broad. I mean abroad. I really hope you are having a wonderful time!

    PS - It is never a bad thing when you spit out tea. :)

    @Symdaddy - More revisionist history! Heh. So Custer and his boys "almost" wiped out the braves? That's a pretty big "almost" my friend. One of the soldiers' horses survived, though. Bet you didn't know that. :)

    It is good to see YOU back again, too. Thank you.

  7. @Stephanie Barr - You illegal aliens really gripe my butt. You sneak up here from Guadamala and snag an American husband to get a different last name, go to night school for 2 years and learn a few words in English and then start blogging like you were the queen of East L.A. or something. You struggle through the Cliff Notes of 2 chapters of some Charles Dickens book and start preaching about how you and the Brits are just simpatico like two peas in a taco literature-wise, and then brag about how you could put extra youse in every word you want to put them in if you wanted to, and often do just by mistake. Like “asshoule” and “humourless”, and you think that will ingratiate you with the British. Hah! Well, I’ve just got one word for you: Vayo con dios mon rancho grande.


    On a lighter note, I was wondering what you were going to do now that the shuttle program has rode off into the sunset. Is there still going to be a NASA? Inquiring minds want to get the inside scoop. Or is all that irrelevant now that The Anointed One has bankrupted our country? I hope we keep NASA. I hope we go to Mars. When I say “we” of couse I mean “you”. No offense.

    Words to look up today after you finish reading this:


  8. "Vayo con dios mon rancho grande"?

    You meant "Vaya" didn't you (as in "go with God")? Though why you use the French "my" and called me a big ranch, I have no idea. (I'm familiar with nuance, sarcasm and subtlety and note, with irony, you suggesting I didn't given that you frequently miss all three in my comments).

    I'm gainfully employed, thank you, working the expendables with regards to science satellites and the like. However, there were many who are not. I hope we go to Mars and keep having NASA, but I do want NASA to be effective and get there intelligently.

  9. Yes, I did mean Baya. And I would never mistake you for a man if I were speaking French.

    I don't think I missed any nuanced humor this time in your extra-humorless initial comment. Pretty sure about that.

    Do me a favor: go look them up again.

  10. I confess I often miss your delicate nuanced subtlety. :)

  11. Your comment about the police...

    Are you kidding, being sarcastic, or trying to get them arrested?? ALWAYS leave your hands where they can see them, NEVER make any sudden movements, and definitely pull over ASAP and stay put the moment you know they're pulling you over. but do move up 100yrds or so, but not AFTER the cop is also stopped. lol jesus, they cartainly WILL have some story to tell when they get home.



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