When I first met my husband (who’s American, and I’m English), I never imagined we would have such difficulty communicating. After all, we speak the same language, right? Wrong.
It turns out that British English and American English might as well be entirely different languages. We are constantly misunderstanding each other, and confusing each other, and getting in tricky situations.
Did you guys know that if you tell a Brit to meet you on the fourth floor, they will go to the fifth floor? Or if you tell them you went to a public school, they’ll think you’re really posh? Or if you tell them you dated a prep school girl while you were at college, they will call the police?
It’s a minefield out there. And no matter how well-meaning you actually are, you guys are probably saying something really confusing or offensive to us Brits. Here are 11 things to avoid if you don’t want to make a British person really cross.
1. Calling us British at all
Let’s start there. Generalizing us all as British ignores all the different cultures and identities within the UK. Work out if you’re talking to an English person, a Welsh person, a Scottish person, or an Irish person — and then call them that.
2. Confusing us with Australians
And while we’re on the topic of national identity, we’re definitely not Australians.
3. Telling us something is “quite” good
Early on in our relationship, my husband commented that my mom’s cooking was “quite” good. Yeah, that didn’t go well. This word doesn’t mean “very” to us.
4. Talking about your pants in public
It will never stop making me laugh when you guys talk about your pants. To us, those mean underpants. So when you say you’re not wearing pants, this comes across a little naughty.
5. Talking about your fanny in public
What you call a fanny, we call a bum; what we call a fanny, you wouldn’t refer to in polite society. So when you guys talk about “fanny packs,” you’re essentially saying “vagina bag.”
6. Talking about your suspenders in public
Suspenders to us are a rather sexy item of lingerie that holds up your stockings. I think you guys call it a garter belt. Whatever you call it, it’s not something you should generally announce that you’re wearing.
7. Describing something as “lousy”
While we both know that “lousy” means “bad,” you guys also sometimes use it to say there’s a lot of something. We don’t use this definition, so in Grease when Sandra Dee is described as “lousy with virginity,” this sounds an awful lot like virgin-shaming.
8. Saying you’re patriotic
In the USA, it seems that patriotism is a virtue. People fly flags outside their houses with pride, and cries of “Murica!” can be heard on every corner. In the UK, “patriotic” is basically a synonym for “massively racist.”
9. Telling us to wear fancy dress to a smart occasion
If you invite me to a party and want me to wear a smart evening dress, tell me to wear black tie. Because if you tell me it’s fancy dress, I will assume it’s a cocktail party, show up in a bunny outfit a la Legally Blonde, and then be really pissed at you for making me look stupid.
10. Promising us “chips and cheese” and failing to deliver
Cheesy chips is a national delicacy in the UK. It means nice fat steak fries, with grated cheese melting on top. It’s delicious, and you eat it when you’re drunk. When I was visiting the States, I excitedly ordered “chips and cheese” only to be served nachos with some kind of liquid plastic drizzled on top. This is offensive.
11. Giving us cider without alcohol
Pro tip: never come in between British people and their alcohol. We love the stuff. And cider is a delicious summery alcoholic drink. If you offer me some cider and then serve me apple juice, our friendship is over.