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An American in Britain
(Впечатления американца о Великобритании)

1. Прочитайте и переведите текст, составьте аннотацию, подготовьте устное сообщение о том, какие британские обычаи, традиции и привычки вызывают удивление у американца. Удивляют ли они Вас? Что не делает обычный британец в отличие от обычного американца?

By Michael Harling

Mostly, the mornings are gray. Many times, however, the low slate shelf blows over and blue sky, fluffy white clouds and even sunshine are the order of the day. Other times, the drab skies do nothing but hang overhead and brood. Then, of course, it rains.

The next thing you notice is the temperature.

In general, England is fairly temperate; you're unlikely to wake up to twenty below zero mornings or three feet of snow, but it does get cool, even in the summers, so a little heat is often appreciated.

Unfortunately, the British obsession with conservation and frugality makes this a bit awkward. Your flat is equipped with 'storage heaters,' which, once turned on, don't give off heat -- at least, not immediately. Instead, they wait until electric rates are cheapest, then they begin storing heat. When enough heat has been stored, it is slowly released. During the cold season, when the heaters are on continually, this isn't so much of a problem, but if you wake up in the morning to a frigid flat and turn the heater on, you'll get heat the next afternoon, when it's bright and sunny.

Weather and temperature aside, it's time to start your day.

In the bathroom, if you're paying attention, you'll notice there is no toilet. The toilet is in another room, all by itself. This can be jarring at first, but it doesn't take long to discover the advantages of such an arrangement.

You'll also notice that the English haven't yet caught on to the concept that hot and cold water, coming out of the same faucet, produces warm water. In the tub and the sink, there are two taps. One is cold, the other, ostensibly, hot, although this depends on the time of day, since the hot water heater is also programmed to turn itself on only when the electricity is cheapest.

You look in vain for a place to plug in your electric razor. You needn't bother. First of all, if you have a U.S. razor, you can't plug it in anywhere. The two- or three-pronged plugs common in the U.S. look positively petite next to the honking big plugs on the British appliances. Their plugs have to be big -- they draw 220 volts, not 110. If you did manage to plug a U.S. razor into a UK socket, the razor would explode. This makes the Brits very cautious around electricity.

But 220 or 110, U.S. or UK, you still can't run your razor in the bathroom. There are no plugs.

This, too, is a safety feature, based on the premise that electricity and water don't mix. This also cuts way down on the number of amusing stories involving hair dryers and showers, but the Brits seem willing to sacrifice a bit of humor for the sake of aggregate longevity.

The bathroom shower is a cunning device -- a box, mounted on the wall above the tub, which takes in cold water and spews warm water out of a showerhead. It's a grand idea, though it does not produce anything your average American would mistake for actual water pressure.

Back in the bedroom, you look for a closet and a suitable outlet for your razor. You find neither. In Britain, there are no closets; clothing is kept in something that looks like an oversized gun cabinet, which they call a wardrobe. And the outlets in the rest of the apartment are for normal, three-pronged plugs, while your razor has a two-pronged 'safety' plug for the type of outlet you would find in the bathroom if outlets were allowed in bathrooms, which they're not. Or, at least they weren't when your flat was built.

If you want to plug your razor in, you'll need an adapter, which you can pick up at any hardware store.

Time for breakfast. The kitchen, you will note, is smaller than you are used to, but not small enough to take much note of. What you do find notable, however, are the diminutive appliances.

Yes, those small, white boxes underneath the kitchen counter are the refrigerator, the freezer and the washing machine. Adding to this line-up is a kitchen stove which looks like something a 10-year old might get for Christmas; you are certain, if you look closely, you will find the words "Easy-Bake" embossed on it somewhere.

Before you start cooking breakfast, it's worth noting that the U.S. is years ahead of the UK in terms of non-stick technology, so make liberal use of butter or cooking oil.

Breakfast over, it's time to learn about doing the dishes, or washing up, UK style. Fill the sink with hot water and washing up liquid, then immerse your dishes and wash them as you usually would. Now take them out of the soapy water and put them in the drying rack.

No, no, don't rinse them; just put them in the rack. Yes, like that, with soap bubbles all over them. Apparently, your mother was wrong -- you can eat off of dishes that have not been thoroughly rinsed and not get sick. In time you'll get used to the idea. (Or you can sneak back into the kitchen and rinse them off when no one is looking.)

It's now time to think about going out and getting some chores done. You need that adapter for your razor and could use some more eggs and milk. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and it looks like a grand day for a walk; better take your waterproof jacket.

Walking in England is hard work. In America, folks pass on the right because they drive on the right, so one might expect the Brits to pass on the left because that's the way they drive. But instead, they march headlong down narrow sidewalks with no notice of people coming toward them. Every approach is a contest of wills, a guessing game and/or a collision.

Come to think of it, perhaps they do walk the way they drive. As if to prove this, you suddenly find yourself facing an oncoming car. You quickly double-check to assure yourself that you are, indeed, on the sidewalk. This is a tricky sort of business, seeing as how, in Britain, the sidewalk is the pavement, not the street, so when someone shouts, "Walk on the pavement," you're not really certain where to go. But the Brits aren't confused about it, and that is definitely a car and it is definitely on the sidewalk.

No need to panic, just step out of the way and let him go by.

In a country as small and crowded as Britain, traffic, even in a small village, is bound to be an issue. The roads don't help. The one in front of you is about as wide as a narrow, one-way street in the States, but here a commuter bus and a delivery van are inching past each other in opposite directions while an impatient young man on a motorcycle roars between them. This type of traffic is certain to cause tie-ups. Fortunately, the cars are small and fit neatly on the sidewalks.

You wonder if some sort of parking regulation might help the traffic congestion but look in vain for any 'No Parking' signs. In fact, there don't appear to be many signs at all. The reason is it doesn't snow here, so traffic signs can be painted on the roadway itself to keep the sign-clutter to a minimum. For example: a double yellow line along the side of the road means "No Parking at any Time." You can see it very clearly there, underneath all those parked cars.

After a short but eventful walk, you arrive at the supermarket. The first and most obvious difference is that all four of the shopping cart wheels swivel, making them sort of fun to push around, but aside from that -- and some odd brand names and unusual food items -- it's much like an American supermarket. Well, a mid-sized American supermarket. Then you discover the other, glaring difference; they're out of eggs. They're also out of milk.

Back outside, it's raining. Put on your waterproof.

It won't do you any good to ask directions to the nearest hardware store, as there are no hardware stores in England. What they have are DIY stores.

DIY (or Do It Yourself) is a British obsession. This stems from having small houses, which, even if they are not ancient, seem to be in constant need of some sort of enhancement. The drive to wring more and more space out of tiny living areas is a national mania, so DIY shops are common and generally stocked full of useful items. And DIY doesn't stop inside the house; gardening is also an obsession of the British, who have raised the practice of creating intricate gardens on plots of land too small to raise veal on into an art form.

So ask anyone where the nearest DIY is and they'll tell you there's a good one just around the corner and up East Street a ways that you can easily walk to. And you head off, not realizing that Brits walk WAY more than we do.

About two and a half miles later, you spot the DIY. On the door is a sign reading, "Closed for Lunch, Noon to 2PM."

It's stopped raining, however, and the sun is shining, so take off your waterproof.

No sense walking all the way back to town, you might as well wait here for the store to reopen. All you need to do is find a pub. This will be easy. One of the best things about Britain is that you can't swing a cat without hitting a pub. In fact, there's one next door to the DIY and another one right across the street. Pick one that suits you and settle in.

Since you're not wearing cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat and smoking a big cigar, people probably won't take you for an American, providing you don't:

talk too much or too loudly

leave money lying on the bar

try to tip the bartender

refer to the game on the television set as 'soccer.' ...

Michael Harling is a freelance writer who, inadvertently, ended up living in England. His website, "Postcards from across the Pond," can be found at


Устные темы и тексты
для перевода

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  • 2016 State Duma Elections
  • About the Bologna Process
  • American Dream
  • American Education System
  • American State Power System
  • Are You a Good Conversationalist?
  • Brain Drain
  • Brief History of Great Britain
  • British Culture
  • British Meals
  • British National Identity
  • British Traditions and Customs
  • Common Superstitions
  • Cross-Cultural Perception of the World
  • Did Man Really Set Foot on the Moon?
  • Directing a Hollywood Film
  • Earthquake
  • Economy of Great Britain
  • Elections in Great Britain
  • Elizabeth II
  • End of the US Colonial Era
  • English as a Global Language
  • Funny and Wise Proverbs
  • Funny Foreign English
  • Funny Riddles
  • Globalization
  • Ghost
  • Golden Rules of Conversation
  • Great Britain and Russia
  • Help! I Have to Make an Oral Presentation!
  • Higher Education in Great Britain
  • Holidays in the United States
  • How to Prepare for Exams
  • How to Think?
  • Innovation
  • International Law
  • Kings and Queens of England
  • London
  • Most Shocking Doping Scandals In Sports Before 2016
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  • Public Education In Russia
  • Reading to Understand a Text
  • Republic of Mordovia
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  • The Selfish Giant (by Oscar Wilde)
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  • Social Inequality
  • Sources of the US Law
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  • Where to Find a Good Job
  • Why Monarchy is a Good Thing?
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  • Впечатления американца о Великобритании
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