How to Behave with Americans and English




When in doubt give them




Do not try to understand this unfathomable summer drink


Sweet Tea

Pimm’s Cup

In conversation – 1 Understand that it is impossible to have a real conversation. The rest of the world thinks “Let’s meet for coffee” means two or more hours of talking. To Americans it means they arrive 10-15 minutes late because of “traffic” or “they were busy”; then they tell you how busy they were, are and will be. If, by chance, during the conversation one of you happens to mention any fact or question (who directed Casablanca, when the Washington team won the Superbowl, the name of Rembrandt’s mother or what are the ingredients of Clafoutis, etc.) out must come the electronic device to check the answer that very moment. Americans cannot bear to live with the uncertainty and are unable to speak until they know the utterly useless fact which will be instantly forgotten. Not to worry – unless they met you in kindergarten, they want to have sex with you or it’s a business meeting, they won’t talk to you. Ever.
In conversation – 2 Deal with the smiling – all statements from “I saw a wombat yesterday” to “It appears a tidal wave is crashing down on us” will be accompanied by a big smile and you will be viewed as evil if you do not smile constantly. Buy teeth whitener and practice a lot. Deal with their refusal to smile. Ever.
Navigating Don’t believe anything they say about directions. Americans can’t maneuver more than 2 blocks from their house on their own. Everyone uses GPS devices that are often wrong or broken. There are only 10 Americans left who can navigate by dead reckoning and they are kept in a special zoo in Nebraska. You can visit them and give them peanuts; everyone else, when they tell you how to get anywhere, nod in agreement and get there on your own. You won’t understand anything they say about directions – they will either use N-S-E-W instead of right-left, or they will give you longitude and latitude or they will use incomprehensible landmarks such as “at the furze, turn towards the copse, then go straight until the ha-ha”
Their houses Don’t go to their houses if you have claustrophobia (the houses are crammed with stuff) or lived in the Middle East (the houses have low ceilings, bad rugs, pets and a lamentable lack of marble, gilt, frippery and boxes of Kleenex). Warning: some kitchens are decorated with wallpaper featuring duck with bow-ties. Don’t look – Don’t ask. Ditto. Warning: their bathrooms are teeny-tiny. Warning: There are usually a lot of photos around. Never say anything like, “Oh, there’s a photo of your grandmother and the Hungarian Olympic shot-put team,” it will inevitably be a photo of the person and her bridesmaids. Stay silent.
When you are a guest Hosts act like waiters. You walk in and they say, “Are you hungry?” If you say, “No,” you will never get any food. Ever. If you say “Yes” they will start in on, “Do you want black tea or green tea or chamomile tea or filter coffee or instant coffee or Coke or orange juice with pulp or…” Whatever you say, you will get more questions: “Do you want full fat milk, skim milk, soy milk or almond milk? White sugar, medium brown sugar, dark brown sugar, or icing sugar? Do you want that in a cup or a glass?..” The only way to survive is to bury your fear and break in with “Cold water in a medium sized blue glass.” There are no questions – you will get tea and whatever they feel like giving you and you will eat all it. Or else.