Ten Things Britons Must Not Do When Visiting the US
by Andy Walsh
Following the sage advice I gave to Americans visiting the UK in a previous article, I have decided to pen a few words for travellers in the opposite direction. What do Britons arriving in the States have to look out for?
Again, British visitors to America often assume that because they watch 'Ally MacBeal' or 'Friends' that they know everything there is to know. Well, believe me you don't.
Here are ten rules to try and help you:-
1.If you are a regular watcher of 'The Jerry Springer Show' then stay at home. There is no hope for you and you will end up both embarrassing yourself and your country.
2. Don't buy or wear a baseball cap. British people are genetically programmed to look stupid in one. You will stand out like a sore thumb if you do attempt to break this rule.
3. In a restaurant, when the waiter asks you if you want a regular or large portion of something, always ask for the regular. A bit back, I spent a couple of months in Chicago and put on 15lbs.
4. Not everyone in the US wants to be greeted with 'high-fives' and a whoop. There may come a time when you may want to do this - try to control yourself. Obviously, if an American does it you then, by George, do it back to them with gusto. Just don't be the instigator.
5. Never, ever go to a Fourth of July party. I've been to several and believe me it can get nasty. Similarly, never refer to Americans as 'Colonials' - it can only offend.
6. If you are ever stopped by a police officer, then what ever you do STAY IN THE CAR. In the UK, getting out and waving is seen as friendly. In the US, it can see you face down on the sidewalk, legs spread and a gun behind your ear. It's all a matter of etiquette.
7. Don't mention Vietnam - just don't.
8. As soon as you hit US soil, stop apologising all the time. Saying 'sorry' is polite but if you're in New York City and apologise to everyone you bump into, you're not to going to get very far. Similarly, if something bad happens to you and you are the victim, you don't have to apologise.
9. A person who has just done you a service and holds out their palm isn't waiting for you to 'slip them some skin'. It's more likely that they're expecting a tip.
10. Don't expect to be mugged every time you leave the hotel. Violent crime in most US cities is no worse than back in the UK. Just be careful where you go. However, your chances of being the victim of a serial murderer have just increased tenfold by stepping onto US soil. Just don't worry about it.
In all seriousness, Britons will find the US a delight with friendly folk and superb service. There's a dynamic edge to American culture that can be both invigorating and overwhelming. Enjoy the malls and the food (just don't eat too much). Whether you're heading for the cities or the Great Outdoors, be sure to have a wonderful time.
Well, I hope that helps you out. Enjoy your trip.
(c) Andy Walsh 2001
Andy Walsh is a househusband and writer living in Cumbria in the UK. He writes novels, short stories and poems some of which you can read at http://www.stbrodag.com
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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