A Brit's tips for those visiting England
Some helpful, frank and humorous advice for all those venturing to Blighty for their holidays. In no particular order…
• If you are London bound, get to grips with your Cockney Rhyming Slang – the historic and amusing lingo originating from the East End is deep rooted and will give you plenty to natter about in the pub over a pint or two , although it’s rarely used these days. For example, ‘apples & pears’ (meaning stairs) is linked with fruit and veg grading on market stalls, ‘early hours’ (meaning flowers) related to Covent Garden Flower market early risers and ‘Merry Go Round’ (meaning pound, the sterling type) because of the money’s shape and usage.
• Tea – Brits believe it can solve even the biggest problems and gets imbibed pretty much constantly. Even if you aren’t a big fan don’t attempt to refuse it….that would be dreadfully impolite. It is an institution and yes it does ALWAYS come with cold milk if you’re drinking the proper stuff!
• Cake – the obvious companion for the above reference. No that doesn’t just mean scones or a formal afternoon tea at The Ritz, it is the staple of many British diets and it is not unjustifiable to enjoy it at virtually any hour of the day (or night!) if the need arises. If you feel like being bold and whipping up your own crumbly creations consult Delia Smith , the UK’s best-selling cookery author or Mary Berry , the 84 year-old CBE recipient who is renowned for her baking.
• Sarcasm – we do love to tease and many Brits rely on sarcasm to deliver their dark humour. So always read between the lines when talking to a fellow countrymen & women and embrace it, it’s delightfully witty.
• Pubs – the cornerstone of Great Britain, where all of the best plans are made and where you seek solace or celebrate depending on how your day is going. They are cosy, warm, often with low wooden beams and you can get some quality beers, ales or a glorious G&T. It is sacrilege to not visit enough to forget how many you’ve been to on your holiday!
• Get out of ‘Landan Taaahnnn’ – leaving the capital is a must, even though it’s vast and could happily amuse you for months on end it would be such a shame to visit England and not get a flavour of all that’s on offer. We have an incredible national heritage . Soak up the Yorkshire Dales, Cornwall or Devon, visit Stonehenge, the Norfolk broads, the Sussex Coast, Bristol’s busting centre….the options are endless. Yes if you are used to Australian/North American distances that you can easily cross the country in a few hours, so make the most of it.
• Etiquette is everything – one can’t possible forget one’s manners. You can always seek help from experts Debrett’s who can advise you on how to ‘navigate the pitfalls and peculiarities of British society’ (their words not mine!). They have been featured in Vanity Fair and Brideshead Revisited, alongside Wilde, Orwell, Wodehouse & Le Carré novels.
• Become familiar with what the role and history of the monarchy is if you aren’t already – the oldest form of Government in the UK . The British monarchy is a constitutional monarchy which means the Sovereign is Head of State, but the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament.
• If there is a glimmer of sunshine – don’t be surprised if you see ladies and gents walking around in summer attire, it’s essential given the volume of rain and gloomy skies to delight when the weather offers even minute hope. Don’t however broach the dreaded weather as a dinner conversation, we know it is dire!
• If you want to blend in – don’t take photos leaping out of some of the few remaining red phone box (created by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott), you will only get strange looks!
• We’re bloody (yes, that quintessential British word can be used in a positive manner!) passionate about sport – rugby, cricket, tennis and football. You name it, if it’s a sporting activity we’re probably into it. Make sure to brush up on the teams and stars if you want to have good pub banter for your new mates.
• Cheese – this in my mind deserves its own category, as does cake and tea. It is indeed acceptable to eat cheese (preferably Cheddar) with Marmite or Pickle. If you’re a fan of the former and latter, check out a ‘Ploughman’s lunch’ at your local brewery.
• Explore our food – we always get a bad rap for ‘stodgy food’, it’s not all unpalatable and there are many wonderful discoveries if you can find quality offerings. A fish & chips by the sea, a hearty Shepherd’s Pie, a bacon and egg butty (translation sandwich!), a curry (we have some of the best) not forgetting the Roast dinner of course.
• Soap box – if you’re knackered (translation tired!) from trekking about all day, put your feet up and absorb yourself I one of the long-running soaps to give you a genuine flavour of what the majority of British households will be watching in conjunction. EastEnders or Coronation Street, depending on whether you want to listen to Southern or Northern accents respectively.
Yes you want to hop in a Black cab, see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the Guards, stroll in St James’ Park, watch the BBC or a Bond classic and listen to some Beatles – but there’s so much more to discover in England, do some digging before you see your first Union Jack so you can truly get a genuine feel for the place.