July 3, 2017
“Can you scoot your fanny over, please?” my massage therapist asks me.
“I beg your pardon, what?!” I say, having temporarily forgotten that in the US your fanny is your butt or your bottom.
He says: “Oh, if you could just scoot over a bit for me on the massage table, that’s all”.
“Oh, yes, of course!” I reply, immediately moving for him but not without starting to giggle helplessly at this “lost in translation” moment. In the UK, your fanny is your “front bottom” (the nickname we had for our girlie parts as youngsters, because heaven help you if you said the V word). But in the US, this particular part of the anatomy is labelled slightly differently – and yet in my four plus years of living here the confusion this can sometimes cause still never ceases to make me chuckle.
Thinking about this – and, of course, with it being Independence Day when the US celebrates its exit from the British Empire with fireworks, BBQs and parades – it got me pondering on the Anglo-American dynamic and all the things I love about living here – as well as the things, like fannies, that continue to make me laugh. Here they are – Go ‘Merica – the things I love; Whoah America!, the things I still can’t quite get used to…
Just do it: One of the things that first lured me to the States – and has certainly been a factor in me staying – is the attitude of the people and their “CAN DO” approach. Nothing is impossible; everything is attainable. People still live and breathe the American Dream. If you say to the average American: “I want to be world champion”, they will likely say to you: “YES! Go for it! How can we help?” In my experience, the average Brit would say: “That sounds like hard work. You’ll probably fail at that. Why don’t you get a proper job?”
Warm and welcoming: The race organisers at Ironman and Iroman 70.3 events often set up homestays for the pro athletes to help minimise costs and embed you in the local tri scene. I’ve been astounded at how warm and welcoming every family has always been. Many of the families I’ve stayed with have remained great friends, years after I’ve visited. Generally speaking, the generosity and hospitality of the American people still astounds me. It’s not just homestays, of course, it’s evident in the grocery store, at the pool and in all aspects of everyday life.
Natural beauty: I love the climate and the sheer natural beauty of some parts of this country. Don’t get me wrong, I realise that some parts of the UK are stunning too. And I also acknowledge that I’m writing this from a very privileged position having lived in Southern California, San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado, since 2013. But holy cow, these places are breathtakingly beautiful and I realise I’m very fortunate to have called/call them home.
Thanksgiving: Of all the American public holidays (that’s Bank Holidays for the Brits in the audience), Thanksgiving is most definitely my favourite. It’s like Christmas but without all that bother of buying and wrapping presents. Just the turkey and the gathering of all your nearest and dearest – I love it!
Being a Brit: On the whole, I’ve found that having a British accent is great currency and it opens doors that might otherwise stay firmly shut. My favourite (not favorite?!) is probably hitching a ride home from Malibu after getting a mechanical problem while out on my bike. A very lovely lady in a flash Porsche SUV pulled over and asked me if I was OK. When I replied and she heard my accent, she said: “Well, honey, I’d take you anywhere with that cute accent. Get in!” She delivered my bike and I 25+ miles home.
Spelling: I’ve never got my head around some of the spellings: why use a Z (that’s Zed not Zeeee) instead of an S? Surely that’s just bastardiSing our fine English language. Ditto color instead of colour; theater instead of theatre. Maybe it’s the pedantic English Lit graduate in me, but whenever I’m writing for an American publication and have to use a Zee to avoid it technically being a typo, I follow it up swiftly by standing in the corner singing God Save the Queen until I feel clean again.
What’s the date: Every other nation on Earth (I think) uses day-month-year but here in the US it’s always month-day- year and heaven help you if you forget that. I still have to stop and think before writing a cheque (check?!) sometimes and have switched all my watches to MM-DD-YY to help my peanut brain remember this. After almost five years, I just about get my date of birth the right way around when asked for that.
I’m not an Aussie: It’s become comical just how often the British accent is mistaken for Australian. “I love your accent, which part of Australia are you from?” Err, the part that sent the Aussies down there in the first place! To be fair, that seemed to happen more in California than it does in Colorado, but it never fails to make me chuckle. When someone asks me where I’m from now, I’ll often say “take a guess!” – and when the first three guesses are New Zealand, Australia and South Africa you know it could be a long conversation. Conversely, when you have someone say: “I’d guess Bristol” then you know you’ve found a goodie (not that I sound too much like a Bristolian, but as someone who grew up near Swindon I’ll definitely give them a gold star for effort).
Healthcare and capitalism: technically I realise these should be two separate topics, but I’m lumping them together in a bid to keep my soap box rant short and this blog post light. In the 32 years I lived in the UK before moving here, I don’t think I ever really appreciated what we have with the NHS and how everyone, regardless of wealth or status, receives healthcare. You don’t realise just how good we have it in the UK until you’ve lived here and pay exorbitant prices for healthcare. (I’ll be paying off my shoulder surgery bills until well into 2018). The rich get richer, the poor get poorer – and never is this more evident than in the most capitalist country on earth.
Restaurant dining: when two or more of you are eating out, it’s considered polite in the UK for plates to be cleared only when everyone at the table has finished eating. Here, as soon as one person has finished, the wait staff swoops in to pick up your plate. I’m totally used to it now, but my auntie (a recent immigrant to the US) still struggles with it and will say “How rude!” I realise that here it’s all about efficiency and someone trying to do their job well and I applaud them for that, of course – and tip handsomely – because whatever you do, NEVER FORGET TO TIP!
To-mah-toe: Of course, when it comes to pronunciation, there are countless examples with “I say to-mah-toe, you say to-may-toe” among the headliners, but the one that gets me the most is herbal. Please, will SOMEONE tell me why you take the ‘h’ off ‘herbal’? You don’t say ‘ealthcare, do you? So what’s the deal with that one?! I like my herbal tea as much as the next person, but I do prefer it with the ‘h’ in front. Also, what’s with “carmel” instead of “caramel”? Call me crazy, but I thought Carmel was a place in California and caramel is a flavour of ice cream or syrup, no?
Either way, enjoy your caramel and Happy Fourth!