Living abroad allows you a unique insight into how “the others” live – a wonderful world which any native is forever blind to (this, of course, applies to myself when I’m back in Norway!)
On these pages I have listed some of what I find to be the quirkier sides to British culture, people, food and attitudes to pets. Please note these are my own observations based on pure ignorance of the wider historical context of why things are the way they are in this country.
The lack of salad dressing
As I sat down to eat lunch at a Manchester bar this afternoon, I suddenly realised how very, very rare it is to get any kind of dressing on your salad. Because today I DID get a nice dressing (without asking for it) and it was such a shock that I realised I’ve become accustomed to eating dry, often tasteless lettuce – if only to soften my bad conscience for tucking into another burger.
And by dressing I do not mean the usual tray of
- Salad Cream (a tarted up bad quality mayonnaise)
- HP Brown Sauce (malt vinegar based, tomato and date sweetened mush)
- Ketchup (fine with chips)
- Mustard (fine with many things, including IN a decent dressing)
What I mean is some decent olive oil, some vinegar or citrus juice, salt and pepper. Not hard. But non-existent in most low to mid-range outlets here in the UK. Why? I have noticed a lot of people here don’t tend to eat any of their side salads. Perhaps the chefs feel a nice dressing would be wasted because no-one eats the green stuff anyway. I think more people would, if only there was some nice dressing to be had.
Britain: the home of some seriously weird “sporting events”
Most British people I’ve met think ski jumping is – well, not quite natural. Neither is biathlon, they say, when I explain the concept. Yet to me the number of downright weird activities the British get into in the name of a good competition (and usually as a good excuse for drinking a lot of beer in celebration) far outstrip any attempts by us Nordic people to be exotic.
Here are a few of these annual events I’ve discovered so far:
Cheese rolling, Coopers Hill Annual competition near Gloucester where brave locals chase a cheese down the very steep Coopers Hill. It’s like rugby on a 45 degree pitch, and as dangerous. Thanks to health and safety (too many spectators, not concern over the wellbeing or sanity of the competitors) the event was cancelled last year – but went underground (!) and was held unofficially anyway. You begin to see why the Saxons were so good at fighting wars.
Lee Dam New Year Swim For over 50 years, the locals of Lumbutts, Todmorden (north of Manchester) have stripped to their underwear to chase a wooden cup thrown into a small, local lake. On New Year’s day. Which is bloody freezing. Sadly this event has been caught in the crazy health and safety net which means the swim has turned into more of a dip in recent years, as the local sports club organising it have not been able to get proper insurance against, well, frostbite/shock/drowning and the like.
Worm charming At the World (yes, World) Worm Charming Championships at Willaston, each year people compete to “charm” as many worms as possible out of the ground in half an hour. The method of choice is to stick a garden fork in the soil and vibrate it. The record is 567 worms in 30 minutes. Mmm.
The Maldon Mud Race Well, it’s what it says on the tin really – a race through mud. To be precise, the muddy bed of the River Blackwater in Essex. Usually held in December, it’s been postponed this year due to freezing conditions and rescheduled for 25 April. Still a chance to enter, folks!
15 strange things the British do in winter
- Consider icy/snowy school playgrounds a health and safety hazard, reason good enough to close school
- Use “de-icing” spray cans on windshields, when a scraper is faster/environmentally friendly/free
- Call light snowfall “blizzards”
- Invite children to bankrupt their parents by taking flying visits to see “Santa” in Finnish “Lapland” when WE know he’s an elusive being never to be seen by human eyes residing in the Norwegian woods, only to appear to farm animals on Christmas eve
- Turn on Christmas lights before the clocks go back
- Speculating on the abilities of various car makes to tackle snowy conditions (“BMWs are useless in the snow” etc.) when winter tyres would solve ALL problems on ANY make of car
- Calling any wind with a chill “Siberian” or “coming from Siberia”
- Blaming the government/council/head of gritting/salt mines for lack of preparedness when it snows and nobody’s invested in snow tyres
- Venture out in short skirts without tights and no coat when going on the town no matter the temperature
- When not going out on town, wrapping up snug while letting children in prams go without gloves, hats and scarfs
- Playing football (WHY not in summer? Surely not ALL cricket fans are also football fans and vice versa?)
- Banning wood burners because of pollution, and insisting on gas and coal heating
- Taking children to indoor skiing centres when the hills are covered in (free) snow
- Seriously considering cancelling the seasonal “Winter Wonderland” market in my local village due to… snow
- Every year allow themselves to be ripped off by bandits promising a Christmas Lapland Wonder-experience which turns out to be some fairy lights in a tree and a dog with plastic antlers