Wednesday, July 2, 2014

British Expat Parenting

This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below. Mind The Gap A Brit's Guide to Surviving America Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:27:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 British Expat Parenting: The Trial of Having American Kids Tue, 01 Jul 2014 15:38:49 +0000

Children with dual citizenship get the best of both worlds. (Fotolia)

Like many Brits in the U.S., I have children who, while being dual citizens and very comfortable in the U.K., are essentially American. (My use of “trial” above is a bit tongue-in-cheek.) With that comes the eye-rolling, giggling and general mickey-taking about some of my British habits and sayings, showing a complete disregard for the “Not Wrong, Just Different” approach I have always taken.

Oh, not the usual ones like aluminium, tomato and basil (although they’ll throw that in when necessary), it’s words like “squirrel” for crying out loud. “Mom, say ‘squirrel,’” they beg, eagerly awaiting the careful enunciation of both syllables. My kids claim to be pronouncing both syllables too, but to anyone with half an ear, it comes out more like “squirrrl.”

“Sloth” is another one. The other day I rhymed it with “both,” and all three kids turned and stared at me, before the little guy just said, “Sloth – rhymes with broth, mom.” Jeez, give a Brit a break would you? And I’m not the only one who rhymes it with “both,” so there.

Although I don’t eat my pizza with a knife and fork, I do put out both when it’s dinner time chez nous. I put them out at each place setting, and, if anyone looks like they’re struggling with just the fork (cutting lettuce, for example), I helpfully remind them of the other utensil sitting just to their right. Again, mucho eye rolling at the very Britishness of it all. But I’m not the one chasing chicken around my plate or trying to roll gigantic pieces of lettuce into my mouth while slapping salad dressing all over my face.

Fortunately, at various times during childhood palate-development stages, at least one of my kids has liked traditional British snack food such as beans or scrambled egg on toast, sausage sandwiches and so on. (At the moment, two out of thw three will have any one of the above for lunch. Score!) However, no matter how I doctor up the Brussels sprouts, they’re having none of it and cannot believe their own mother eats the dreaded things. Ditto black pudding, which I recently purchased at a British specialty store and ended up having to share with the dog. Mind you, I know just as many Brits who wouldn’t touch that either.

Not that I have the mouth of a sailor, but I do find the odd swear word somewhat cathartic. My favorite, not well-known around these parts, is “sodding,” an adjective that lends just the right amount of angry emphasis without being too offensive. My kids think it’s hilarious and mince around the kitchen, vaguely mimicking the Queen while repeating whatever the “sodding” thing was that I had uttered. When my eldest was but a toddler, she delighted in saying “baddy ell” when in company, knowing that our fellow Americans had no clue what she was saying but Mommy did!

Are you a Brit raising children in the U.S.? Tell us about it below!

See More:
Toni Hargis: What I Miss About British Summers
8 Reasons to Raise British Children in America
How to Fly With Kids: A British Expat’s Guide

]]> 30 10 Clothing Hacks to Cool You Down in a Hot American Summer Fri, 27 Jun 2014 21:19:33 +0000 (Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

Come July, America can feel like someone cranked the sauna up to eleven. But you can keep the heat from wrecking your outfit by employing some of these cooling sartorial tips.

Chill your jeans
If you must wear full-length denim during the summer, stick your trousers in the freezer overnight. For maximum cool, put them on just before you leave the house. Not only will this nightly icing kill off any body odor-causing bacteria, it’ll also help chill your below-the-waist parts on that sticky walk to the car, station or bus stop.

Oust unsightly sweat stains
If you wear deodorant, chances are your favorite tops have permanent, tacky-to-the-touch patches on the armpits. Try pre-treating those stubborn pit stains with a spray of lemon juice before putting them in the wash.

Wear an undershirt
Ever wondered why American men wear vests to the office? It’s to keep sweat from reaching their work shirt. Also, a perspiration soaked vest can actually help cool you down. Gross but true.

Crop your vests, ladies
A long top can lengthen the torso and create the illusion of a skinnier middle. But it can also make you sweat like kebab lettuce. Take advantage of the fact that crop tops are trendy again, and slice of the bottom third off your summer vests. If you’re not keen to expose that much flesh—or prefer not to prance about looking like you’re about to record an ‘80s workout video—pair with tummy-concealing high-waisted jeans or a pencil skirt.

Invest in an unlined blazer and a straw hat

Most men’s jackets are lined with satin, silk or some other chic but sweaty fabric. If you must wear a coat this summer, seek out something in linen or cotton minus a lining. Pair it with a straw hat (which provides shade while dissipating the heat) to ensure that you look odd enough that folks won’t crowd around you on public transport. Win win.

Buy bra liners
Ever had to spend an afternoon with your arms folded to hide the croissant-shaped sweat patches that have formed on your midriff? Then you need a product like this. These babies will, allegedly, wick away boob sweat before it reaches your clothes.

Carry a hankie
A handkerchief may seem like an archaic accessory—helpful only to delicate Victorian ladies with the vapors. But when your forehead’s gushing like a Texas oil well, it’s the perfect mopping-up tool. A delicate dab here and there will stop your head perspiration from ruining your makeup or putting an unsightly kink in your fringe.

Invest in anti-sweating fabrics
Laboratories are apparently loaded with scientists knitting together uncooperative molecules in a bid to create cloth that will magic away our sweat and neutralize its stench. Uniqlo’s AIRism, for instance, is fast-drying and deodorizes.

Fix broken flip-flops with a hair tie
The most low-fi of summer shoe options is appealing because it’s light, cheap and your feet can breathe. But they’re also flimsy and the straps are given to snapping when you’re running for a bus. What’s a flip-flop wearer to do? Always carry a thick elastic hair tie. Next time your strap breaks, slip the band around your foot and shoe. It’s not elegant but it will stay in place long enough for you to hobble home.

Use deodorant to prevent blisters and smelly feet
Got a pair of strappy summer shoes you love, but they give you blisters the size of blimps? Rub your foot with a stick of deodorant. This will prevent chaffing and also help keep your sockless feet from stinking up your subway car.

Any other tips to stay cool in the sweltering heat?

See more:
Summer in America: 10 Tips for Visiting Brits
Summer in the States – Keeping Your Cool
Toni Hargis: What I Miss About British Summers

]]> 4 How Do You Say ‘Jaguar’?: British vs. American Brand Pronunciations Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:13:46 +0000 (Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

A recent article about the British pronunciation of Nike (to rhyme with “bike”) elicited howls of surprise and disbelief from my American friends on both sides of the Pond. According to the company itself, it’s NI-key! Rhymes with “spikey.” The one Brit I know who gives it the “spikey” pronunciation makes the exception for Nike Air. Apparently saying Nikey-Air is weird, so it becomes NI-kair. Go figure.

The whole Nike thing made me think about other brand names that we blithely pronounce the British-English way, to the amusement of our host countrymen and women. Take Sony, whose name is everywhere at the moment because of their World Cup sponsorship. Americans pronounce this almost rhyming with “slowly,” whereas in the U.K. I have heard versions closer to a “Bonnie” rhyming situation. Before the onslaught of denial and outrage begins: yes, it may be a regional thing, but only two days ago I heard a non-northern BBC World News correspondent (reporting from Asia) pronounce it thus.

Then there’s Adidas. Alas, according to the article, the company hasn’t pronounced on its pronunciation. They are also a World Cup sponsor, though, so we might get a clue during broadcasts. Brits and other Europeans tend to say “Addy-das” while Americans say “a-DEE-das” with the emphasis firmly on the middle syllable. Since the company founder was a German named Adi (short for Adolf), you’d assume the pronunciation would be the Addy version, so that next time an American corrects you, just tell ‘em the jury’s still out, then Google it as proof of the ongoing debate.

Brand name pronunciation is a strange thing really. There are the organic differences between Americans and Brits. Although we both emphasize the first syllable, Jaguar is pronounced “JAG-you-ar” in the U.K. and more like “JAG-wahr” here. And then there are differences that seem to be conjured up by the companies themselves. I remember hiring a Toyota Celica in the U.K. a few years ago and having all my friends fall about laughing as I pronounced it “SELL-uh-ka”—you know, like they do in the TV commercials here. Brits (and a few other nations apparently) pronounce it “Suh-LEEK-a” with the emphasis heavily in the middle.

And of course, there’s Hyundai, pronounced “HUN-day” in the U.S, but, as Top Gear viewers will know, “HI-un-die” in the U.K. And here, we have a clear answer about the correct pronunciation: the U.K .version is an Anglicized version, which the company, nevertheless, seems to go along with. The U.S. follows the Korean pronunciation. Porsche (mentioned in the original piece) is treated differently on both sides of the Pond, as is Nissan and Fiat, although those differences aren’t as big as Hyundai and Celica. Most Americans give Fiat a long “A” sound (British version of “long” btw) rather than the flatter “A” given by Brits, although we both stress the “fee” sound. Nissan’s stressed first syllable receives an ”ee” sound in the U.S. which, according to this Japanese speaker, is correct—rather than the more “it” sound across the Pond. But again, Google the subject, and you’ll find “experts” supporting both.

When I first came to the U.S., Oil of Ulay (pronounced “YOU-lay” ) was the British version of America’s Oil of Olay, but they have since gone global and now (except for a few countries) we’re all saying OH-lay. I am SO glad they didn’t go for Ulay since we would have then had the debate about whether the first syllable should be “OO-lay” or “YOU-lay.” Pantene shampoo, on the other hand, stays true to its confusing national pronunciations. Here, it’s Pan-TEEN to rhyme with canteen (which, incidentally Americans, is a British word for “cafeteria”) while in the U.K. it’s Pan-TEN.

I think we all say L’Oreal the same way! Or no (as they say over here)?

What other brands do Brits and Americans pronounce differently? Tell us below:

See more:
No, Arkansas Doesn’t Sound the Way It Looks: A Guide to Pronouncing U.S. Place Names
10 American Speech Habits That Grate on British Ears
A Brit’s Guide to American Regional Nicknames

]]> 58 Former Journalist Gavin Scott on Living a Screenwriter’s Life Fri, 20 Jun 2014 18:12:03 +0000 A selfie: Gavin Scott (far right) with Eddie Izzard and Terry Jones. (Photo: Eddie Izzard)

A selfie: Gavin Scott (far right) with Eddie Izzard and Terry Jones. (Photo: Eddie Izzard)

Most people couldn’t name (let alone recognize) any successful screenwriters, and as for British ones, well, arguably only Richard Curtis is a household name. But there are plenty of other U.K.-born screenwriters making their living in Hollywood, and Gavin Scott is one of them.

Born in Kingston-Upon-Hull, he moved to New Zealand with his family at age 11 and, after studying history and political science at Victoria University, he traveled across Asia before returning to the U.K. He worked there as a reporter covering politics, science and culture for the London Times, BBC radio and television and Channel 4, but after nearly two decades as a journalist he decided to switch careers—and had a huge stroke of luck.

“The most amazing thing that happened in my career was being selected by George Lucas to become part of the team creating The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” he says, which effectively got me into the business.”

Scott’s two earlier thriller novels, A Flight of Lies (about the hunt for the bones of Peking Man) and Hot Pursuit (about a Russian satellite that crashed in New Zealand), must have helped in their selection process, and saw Scott spending “weeks at a time” at Skywalker Ranch helping create the plots for each episode of the television series.

“It was a marvelous experience,” he says, “and among the many brilliant directors George recruited to shoot the series was Terry Jones, who performed in and directed my story of young Indy’s adventures as a spy in Barcelona, which starred Timothy Spall. Terry and I became friends and have continued to write together since.”

Not long after, Scott decided to move out to the U.S. with his young family. While he has been lucky enough to work on projects that are European-based, allowing him to keep in touch with the U.K., he now lives in Santa Monica with his wife Nicola and three daughters Rebecca, Chloe and Laura, a singer/songwriter who recently received her first gold record for her work on the Twilight movie series.

But what exactly does a screenwriter do? There’s some mystery surrounding how 120 pages of roller-coaster action, drama and emotion come to life. Cliché would have us believe that it’s a life lived in coffee shops, making a skinny latte stretch as long as possible while stealing free wi-fi, but of course, the truth is very different.

Scott has his own regular weekday routine, which begins in the morning with half an hour’s swimming, followed by the Times on his iPad over breakfast, and then walking to his “light and book-filled office” in his guest house.

“I stroll over there at 9 am and then I write—or research, depending on the phase of the project I’m in—until 12.30 or 1 pm, when I have lunch and a nap.,” he says. Scott categorizes this nap as the most essential part of his day: “It actually allows me to have two creative blocks of time instead of one long one that dwindles down to inertia. I resume work about 3pm and can then go on as long as needed, though I usually pack up between 6pm and 7pm, when I go to the gym.”

After the success of Chronicles, he was given the job of adapting classic British novel The Borrowers for the big screen. It starred John Goodman and Jim Broadbent and was released in 1997, by which time Scott was finding one of his oldest projects finally coming to life.

Small Soldiers, a dark animation/live action tale, was the first script Scott sold, and he had been writing it while commuting between the U.K. and the U.S. working on Chronicles.

“I had been working on the idea for years but was never able to find a story to fit the concept,” he says. “But when I got an agent in L.A. and began pitching my ideas around the town, this one aroused enthusiasm. Nobody hired me to write the script, but I got so sick of talking up the story I decided it would be easier to write it than pitch it one more time. That said, I did get given some copies of the amazing line of toys they created to go with it.”

Adapting sci-fi, fantasy and history stories has been somewhat of his hallmark since then, and he has worked on television movies and mini-series such as Jules Verne, Earthsea, and Emmy-winning Mists of Avalon, even taking the directorial chair for Treasure Island Kids: The Battle of Treasure Island, a family adventure featuring Randy Quaid.

Though he may not be writing movies starring George Clooney, he’s a working screenwriter with a long list of international credits—and he’s come closer to home again with his next script, something that may be his biggest hit yet.

Absolutely Anything is a story about a teacher who is given magic powers by some strange aliens, and fans of Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End will be thrilled to learn that Simon Pegg is in the lead role as Neil Clarke – though perhaps not as thrilled as Pegg himself says on his website (

The cast also includes Kate Beckinsale, Rob Riggle, Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, and the voices of Robin Williams and most of the Pythons. Scott joined his old friend Terry Jones as he was directing Absolutely Anything in London this spring, writing new dialogue as required and even appearing in the movie himself in his old role as a newsreader.

“As someone whose love of comedy was hugely informed by Monty Python, the chance to work with Terry was a gift,” he says. “Meeting your heroes is one thing – working with them is something else.”

Scott will return to England to research and write a series for U.K. television called Steam about the father-and-son team George and Robert Stephenson and The Last Summer, a thriller about how World War I began.

Continuing with the war time theme, Scott has yet another script idea: “I’m also hopeful Working Title will go into production soon on Dunkirk, a movie I wrote about the great rescue from France of Britain’s doomed expeditionary force in 1940 and changed the course of World War II.”

There’s some more acting work too, as Scott takes on the small role of a billionaire ex-husband in Muffin Top: A Love Story, a comedy about the sexes written, directed and starring Cathryn Michon.

“Though I’ve never been professional, I have been acting all my life really,” he says. “I acted in radio plays in New Zealand as a child, and as a reporter you are performing to camera or microphone.”

Back in the world of books, he’s completing a deal with a British publisher for a series of detective novels about an archeologist named Duncan Forrester, the first of which is set in 1946 and will be called The Age of Treachery. It’s set to hit the book shelves next year, but for now, as a working screenwriter in Hollywood, what advice can he offer to anyone looking to break into the business?

“I can’t stand either screenwriting advice books or lecturers, so my best advice is to watch as many great films and TV series as you can, read as much as you can, and write something five days a week. No sitting round waiting for inspiration—and no allowing yourself to get stuck: just plow on, get something down and come back and fix it later.”

He does however insist weekends are for relaxation, spending time with friends and family and transforming his collection of old toys and games into “Wonder Cabinets,” giant shadow boxes four foot high and three feet tall that use the toys to create new imaginary worlds.

“Some of the pieces have electro-mechanically operated tableaux and are inspired by the seaside entertainments which fascinated me as a child in places like Bridlington on the east coast of England,” he says. (Some of these can be seen on Gavin’s official website.)

He also moderates events like director and actor Q&A’s for BAFTA LA, and it’s here that he meets many of his fellow Brit screenwriters—both established and the new-in-town. He loves it when they “get together to chew the fat,” adding, “I’m not surprised there are so many British screenwriters: we’re a literary culture.”

He loves hiking in Santa Monica mountains and walking on the beach, often listening on his iPod to BBC podcasts. “Wonderful Radio 4 was something I used to miss a lot before you could get it on the Internet,” he says. But he admits that he would miss the English countryside and the architecture of England “terribly—if I didn’t find every excuse to go back and work there and recharge my batteries.”

The family still has a house in Twickenham and they visit the U.K. two or three times a year, including trips to see relatives in Hull, the city which will be the City of Culture in 2017.

“About time!” he says. “I had a very happy childhood in Hull. I grew up next to East Park and I loved the riverside of old Hull, which survived despite the Luftwaffe. And exploring lanes and alleys with names like the Land Of Green Ginger and Dagger Lane and visiting Andrew Marvell’s school still there in the old marketplace. It’s rich with history if you know where to look.”

See more:
British Expat of the Month: Dave Parry of Chicago Tafia
British Expat of the Month: Fiona Bloom, Publicist Extraordinaire

]]> 1 10 Strange Things Brits Find in American Supermarkets Tue, 17 Jun 2014 22:40:21 +0000 Hey, it melts very nicely.(Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma, File)

Hey, it melts very nicely.(Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma, File)

One of the first things you have to do when you arrive in a new country is to go grocery shopping. New Brits in America probably won’t be intimidated by the size of stores, but once you start wheeling up and down the aisles you’ll notice plenty of choices—and you won’t recognize many of the brand names.

It can be intimidating, so here is a guide to 10 very American things you’ll find when you shop. Some you’ll know under another name, and some it’s up to you to decide if you want to put them in your shopping cart…

Breakfast Cereal
The cereal aisle is always a colorful eye-opener, and even though many of brands are transatlantic these days, you’ll recognize Rice Krispies and Frosties as Frosted Flakes. As for newbies, a couple of examples are Wheaties, a good way to learn about American sports, and Count Chocula, which only appears around Halloween. Of course, here’s plenty of healthy stuff too though: granola is popular cliché tree-hugger one, and brands like Kashi are fiber-filled too—though you always need to watch for sugar.

The Whips
The subject of fierce pronunciation debate by Stewie Griffin and Brian the dog in “Family Guy,” Cool Whip is an imitation whipped cream, a topping for desserts and pies. It originally had no cream or milk, but now the “Original Cool Whip” has skimmed milk and light cream. Staying with whips, Miracle Whip is another alternative—this time a kind of sweeter mayonnaise that technically doesn’t have enough vegetable oil in it to be called mayonnaise at all. Brits might see it a kind of U.S. version of salad cream, and, like salad cream, will either love it or hate it.

Marshmallow Creme
A tub of Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme looks very similar to Miracle Whip—and, not coincidentally, is made by the same company who makes the Whips—and is a fluffy marshmallow that you can spoon out and spread over the perennial favorite, apple pie, the Florida-born Key Lime pie, or indeed anything that takes your fancy.

Graham Crackers
If you’re getting some Jet-Puff, you’re probably going to want to pick up a pack of Graham Crackers (pronounced “Gram”) too. Originally a coarse, healthy snack invented by a Presbyterian minister to stop carnal lusts, they’re more often sweetened with a sprinkling of sugar, honey or even cinnamon, and are the “bread” in which you squish fire-roasted marshmallows (or Jet-Puff, if no flame is available) and a bit of chocolate to make S’mores, a campfire favorite in the U.S. since time began.

Coming in a bag, grits are a corn dish that look a bit like flaky porridge oats and are a food from the pioneer days—and very beloved in the American South. Heated gently in a pan and stirred slowly, they come out looking like—well, many would say the name is apposite. Adding cheese, peppers and other goodies—sweet or savory—can enhance/take the taste away, and, again, they’re a love-it-or-hate-it breakfast staple.

Packets and long tubes of shrink-wrapped jerky are in stores and gas stations across America. Dried cuts of meat of all kinds, they’re salted to the max and are a chewy favorite for truckers, adventurous types or anyone taking a long trip because they’re handy, packed with protein, last more or less forever and don’t need to be refrigerated. In California, they’re often found in earthquake kits.

Iced Tea
Iced tea is something that will catch cuppa lover’s eyes. Another favorite, especially in the southern states where it often comes pre-sweetened, it comes in glasses and cans and is strongly-brewed tea chilled/served over ice and with maybe a slice of lemon. Lipton’s Tea is usually what you’re given, though brands like PG Tips and Typhoo can be found in specialist stores like Cost Plus World Market.

As for milk, Skim is non-fat (in the U.K. it would be known as skimmed), 1% means low-fat (semi-skimmed), 2% is reduced fat (no equivalent), while Whole/Regular is what Brits would also call full fat. There’s also almond, vitamin-enhanced, soy and goat milk, while “Half and Half” is half-milk and half-cream, for coffee. Like American chocolate, Brits often say American milk “just tastes different,” from what they’re used to, so you might want to experiment.

Veggies with a different name
Coming to the fruit and vegetable section, there are a couple of re-namings that you probably know already, but be prepared for blank stares if you do use the English ones: eggplant is the American name for the aubergine, Zucchini is what Brits know as courgettes, the super-hip rocket is known as arugula in the U.S., a swede is rutabaga, and Hannibal’s favorite, the fava bean, is what Brits would know as a broad bean.

Canned and Processed Cheeses
Finally, there’s the marvelous invention that is Easy Cheese, or cheese in a can, which, as you’d imagine, comes up rather short against a Wensleydale or a Double Gloucester. Velveeta is a soft processed cheese you can spread or melt easily (older Brits might just remember it as “Velveta” around the WWII era). It’s similar to the boldly-named (and processed) American Cheese.

Expats, what are your favorite finds in American supermarkets?

See more:
A Matter of Taste: An Expat on Differences Between British and American Palates
We’re Not in Tesco Anymore: Six Ways U.S. Supermarkets Differ From British Ones
Why the U.S. Should Adopt British-Style Supermarkets

]]> 45 10 British Flavors Americans Will Never Widely Appreciate Wed, 11 Jun 2014 21:04:11 +0000 Marmite: an acquired taste. (Photo: Newscast Limited via AP Images)

Marmite: an acquired taste. (Photo: Newscast Limited via AP Images)

Always remember, dear reader, that one foodie’s weird is another foodie’s wonderful.

Let us begin with perhaps the most obvious flavor of all: Marmite. So polarizing is the sharp saltiness of Marmite’s assault on the senses that even the brand’s own advertising slogan admits, “You either love it or hate it.” Marmite is a yeast extract spread, a by-product of the beer brewing process, and is eaten on toast or bread with some butter. In a sandwich, it pairs pretty well with cucumber, which neutralizes Marmite’s zing. Newcomers should spread lightly, for Marmite is at once pungent, penetrating and powerful, like if soy sauce and A-1 had a bastard child and fed it nothing but wasabi.

Prawn cocktail flavored chips
Chips (or crisps as they’re known in Blighty) are the most commonly eaten snack in the U.K. with Brits consuming around six billion packets per year. There are literally hundreds of exotic flavors to choose from (pickled onion, flame grilled steak, roast beef, to name a few), but prawn cocktail seems to be the seasoning that our American friends find the quaintest.

Crisp sandwiches
A crisp sandwich (colloquially known as a crisp butty) is when you sprinkle some of your eccentrically flavored crisps between two slices of bread and chow down. In fact, most Brits think nothing of making a sandwich out of anything that happens to be lying around the kitchen: banana sandwiches, ketchup sandwiches, salad cream sandwiches, cheese and jam sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches… all you need is some bread and a dream.

Kedgeree is an Indian-influenced buttery rice dish made with flaked fish, hard-boiled egg, parsley, and curry powder. When I was a boy, my mother would occasionally serve it up for dinner. I hated it. I hated it so much, in fact, that it led me to the discovery that if I held my nose while chewing I couldn’t taste its foulness. But as a Brit, I’m in the minority because kedgeree is a national dish on a par with toad in the hole and bangers and mash. I was unaware until recently that kedgeree is traditionally a breakfast dish. An American friend had seen it on a brunch menu during a business trip to London and decided to give it a whirl. “Big mistake” was his two-word review.

Fry’s Turkish Delight
Imagine sipping on a bottle of cheap perfume while nibbling on chocolate, and you’re somewhere close to what a bar of Fry’s Turkish Delight tastes like. This sweet is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, so they must be doing something right.

Such is the remarkable popularity of Irn-Bru in its native Scotland that it outsells both Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In the 1980s, the drink’s tagline was “Made in Scotland from girders.” If that isn’t enough to put you off, then perhaps its luminous orange color will be. The taste? It’s sort of citrusy with a hint of ginger that leaves a long lingering finish; the kind that’s only weird if you didn’t grow up with it.

Chips and curry sauce
And by “chips,” I mean fries, and by “curry sauce,” I mean yummy. This dish is a staple of British fish and chip shops and is particularly satisfying as a late-night, post-pub snack. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, for this sweet and spicy condiment complements perfectly the savory fries.

Chips and vinegar
While we’re on the subject of chips, we must of course address the fact that Brits douse their fries in vinegar. Americans find this little corner of the British palate frightfully foreign.

This alcoholic drink has certainly got a kick to it. It’s one part beer, one part cider and an optional splash of blackcurrant cordial. Because it’s cheap to make and quick to intoxicate, Snakebite is particularly popular amongst students, and it’s actually rather refreshing on a hot summer’s day. If you like beer and you like cider, then you can’t really go wrong (unless you drink 18 pints).

Earl Grey tea
In the opening line of Sting’s 1987 hit “Englishman in New York,” the former Police front man croons, “I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear.” And although Mr. Sumner doesn’t mention specifically what type of tea, he is surely a fellow of refined taste, one with a penchant for the floral notes and bergamot aroma of Earl Grey. This flavoring is perhaps a little too distinctive for Americans, who generally prefer their tea sweet.

@MindtheGap_BBCA is live-tweeting England’s World Cup matches, starting with England vs. Italy on Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm ET. Tweet along using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win Doctor Who Season 7 on DVD.

See more:
Think British Food Is Boring? 9 Dishes That Will Change Your Mind
A Matter of Taste: An Expat on Differences Between British and American Palates
Five British Soft Drinks Every American Should Try

]]> 143 Preview: How Will England, U.S.A. Fare in Their World Cup Groups? Tue, 10 Jun 2014 17:21:03 +0000 (Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

As far as World Cup draws go, both England and the U.S. have been dealt tough hands. Here’s a team-by-team guide to the two nations’ groups:

Group D: England, Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica

England: There is little doubt that Group D will be a tough test for England. Coach Roy Hodgson has selected a youthful, relatively inexperienced squad, only six of whom have played at a World Cup before. The weight of the country’s hopes will fall heavily upon the shoulders of Scouse duo Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Both will be playing in their third World Cup, and for 34 year-old captain Gerrard, it will most likely be his last. Rooney, meanwhile, will be hoping to break his World Cup scoring duck of eight games without a goal. FIFA ranking: 10

Italy: Four-time world champions Italy comfortably qualified for Brazil with two games remaining. In order to get something out of this game, England will need to contain midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo and powerhouse striker Mario Ballotelli. Adding to England’s already difficult task will be the tropical monsoon climate of Manaus, which could be particularly draining if Italy plays their possession game and makes England chase the ball for ninety minutes. The last time these two sides met at a major tournament was during the Euro 2012 quarterfinals. The Three Lions lost that game on penalties (inevitably) as Italy went on to eventually finish runners-up to Spain. FIFA ranking: 9

Uruguay: For a squad as rich in talent as Uruguay’s, they made a real meal out of qualification. After finishing fifth in the South American table, they then had to beat Jordan in a two-legged playoff to be sure of their place in Brazil. In Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlán they have no shortage of firepower up front; however, defensive frailties were exposed during a qualification campaign that saw them concede 25 goals in 16 games. They are the current Copa América holders, reached the semifinals in 2010 and the last time a World Cup was held in Brazil in 1950, Uruguay won it. FIFA ranking: 7

Costa Rica: Costa Rica will consider themselves a little unfortunate to have been drawn in such a tough group, especially after they breezed through qualifying with a couple of games to spare. During that impressive campaign they won all of their home games (including notable victories over the U.S. and Mexico) and only conceded seven goals, giving them the best defensive record in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. Sadly, however, it does look as though Costa Rica will be the proverbial whipping boys of Group D due to the caliber of their opponents. When England play Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on June 24, it will be the first time in history the two teams have met. FIFA ranking: 28
Group G: United States, Ghana, Portugal, Germany

United States: Drawn into “The Group of Death” (every World Cup has one), the U.S. will need to be firing on all cylinders if they’re to advance to the second round. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann brings a wealth of World Cup experience to the helm; he played in three for Germany (winning it in 1990) and coached them to the semifinals in 2006. However, Klinsmann raised a few eyebrows by choosing to leave all-time USMNT leading scorer Landon Donovan out of his 23-man roster. The onus now will be on players such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard who will certainly have his work cut out. FIFA ranking: 13

Ghana: America let out a collective national groan last December when they were drawn against Ghana in Group G. The Black Stars have been the bogey team for the United States at the previous two World Cups, eliminating them in 2006 and 2010. This is a game that both sides will feel they can win, and how crucial those three points could be come the end of the group stage. FIFA ranking: 37

Portugal: While it would be unfair to label Portugal a one-man team, Cristiano Ronaldo is almost certainly the only reason they made it to Brazil. After finishing second in their qualifying group, it was Ronaldo’s four goals in their two playoff games against Sweden that booked Portugal on the plane to South America. Ronaldo is arguably the greatest player of his generation (Lionel Messi causing said argument) and possibly even of all time, so stopping him will be key to the U.S. getting something out of this game. Portugal will enjoy the added bonus of home-like support given their Brazilian bonds. FIFA ranking: 4

Germany: The prospect of Jürgen Klinsmann taking on his beloved Germany is so mouthwatering it’s enough to make you choke on your hot dog with sauerkraut. This German squad is laden with attack-minded players (they scored an astonishing 36 goals in ten qualifying games) and their midfield in particular is a veritable arsenal of offensive options, including Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, André Schürrle, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus and Julian Draxler. If there is a weakness—and that is a big if—it’s possibly at the back. In a 4-4 qualifying tie with Sweden they surrendered a four-goal lead in the final 30 minutes, but this was the only blemish on an otherwise 100% record. FIFA ranking: 2

@MindtheGap_BBCA is live-tweeting England’s World Cup matches, starting with England vs. Italy on Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm ET. Tweet along using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win Doctor Who Season 7 on DVD.

How do you think England and the United States will fare in Brazil? Tell us in the comments below:

]]> 2 World Cup 2014 Watch Guide: Why You Won’t Miss a Kick Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:49:12 +0000 England World Cup (and Liverpool) teammates Steven Gerrard (left) and Raheem Sterling training in Miami. (Photo: AP/Wilfredo Lee)

England (and Liverpool) teammates Steven Gerrard (left) and Raheem Sterling training in Miami. (Photo: AP/Wilfredo Lee)

It has often been said that “Americans don’t care about real football.” Thankfully, this assertion continues to carry less and less weight these days. NBC’s successful live coverage of every game during the 2013/14 Premier League season proved that football’s reputation is growing in the United States. Thankfully for British expat soccer fans, an even greater level of coverage is expected ahead of the biggest tournament in world football: the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Kicking off on June 12, the World Cup will be aired in its entirety on ESPN and two of its sister channels (ESPN2 and ABC). So for those of you with a cable subscription, you can catch every single game—including all seven of England’s World Cup matches (it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic, right?)—from the comfort of your own living room. And just in case you’re as obsessed with football as I am, the same network is rolling out daily 24-hour news coverage, analysis and commentary of all the happenings from Brazil, via ESPN3 and WatchESPN.

Meanwhile, in what will likely come as a refreshing change for Americans and British expats alike, the matches will also be viewable live stateside at a reasonable hour this time around. In the years since the U.S. itself hosted the 1994 World Cup, football consumers across the nation have had to contend with impractically late (or early) kickoffs, with the last four tournaments being held in France (1998), Japan/South Korea (2002), Germany (2006), and South Africa (2010).

For the most part, Brazil’s time zones are not wildly off balance with those of the United States (Alaska and Hawaii notwithstanding). Indeed, those of you on the east coast will be able to catch England’s first group match against Italy starting at 6 pm ET on Saturday, June 14, while England vs. Uruguay kicks off Thursday, June 19 at 3 pm ET, and England vs. Costa Rica takes place Tuesday, June 24 at 12pm ET.

Those last two matches, of course, take place on weekdays, meaning that there’s one thing not even favorable time zones can overcome: your job. Thankfully, if you’re fortunate enough to have unrestricted access to the internet at your place of work, ESPN is your friend. In addition to its comprehensive television coverage, the network is set to stream all 64 matches live on (note: you will need to provide the login details that accompany your cable subscription).

And, because this is the 21st century, wholesale internet coverage means every match can also be watched on your smartphone or tablet. Indeed, if either of these are your prepared viewing method, ESPN is making all matches accessible via its WatchESPN app for iOS and Android.

At the end of the day, however, if you’d just rather watch the World Cup in a manner more befitting of the British way of life, there is no better place for revelry and live action than the pub. Thankfully the U.S. is replete with British-style establishments. That said—and this works in your favor when it comes to football—a not-so-authentic aspect of American pubs is their abundance of television screens. But even in America, pubs can become quite packed during a match—especially if that match features England or the U.S.A.—and multiple screens allow for easier access during those crucial 90 minutes of football.

Follow @MindtheGap_BBCA on Twitter, as we’ll be live-tweeting England’s World Cup matches this summer, starting with England vs. Italy on Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm ET. Join in using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win Doctor Who Season 7 on DVD.

See more:
Football vs. ‘Soccer’: A Translation Guide for Brits and Americans
No, Arkansas Doesn’t Sound the Way It Looks: A Guide to Pronouncing U.S. Place Names
10 Pubs in California You Should Visit

]]> 13 Editorial: Is Tipping in America Excessive? An Englishman’s Take Tue, 03 Jun 2014 18:10:17 +0000 (Photo: Fotolia)

(Photo: Fotolia)

The other night, bidding farewell to my guests following a meal, a heavy hand grabbed my shoulder from behind. It wasn’t an old friend who had s ]]>

It was a waiter who, after accosting me in this fashion, explained his angst: “Hey! You didn’t leave me enough tip!”

Now, we weren’t in a strip club in Lewisham. No, we were in an elegant restaurant in a posh part of Beverly Hills adjacent. Furthermore, we had left about seventeen percent, on the full $200 amount of a discounted check (it was half-price night), even though we received horrible service, which his actions outside only served to punctuate. Yes, we left $35 on top of a $100 check, effectively a 35 percent tip, and Dude still wasn’t happy.

It led me to thinking, would the same situation happen in the U.K.? There, a place where tipping happens but not in an excessive way, we tip for truly good service or in high-end places, where the experience allows for the gratitude. Certainly, if a waiter behaved this way in a place like that, they would be fired for misconduct. But here in America, tipping, though subtitled “optional,” is absolutely expected, thus giving the receivers a righteousness over my extra dollars.

The honorable level is something of hot topic, especially amongst service workers or expats, who debate amounts with the fervor of two delinquents over a video game score. Some say at least 15 percent—18 percent is fair, 20 percent is good. Others conclude that leaving a tip of 15 percent or less shows them the service was bad. If it was bad, why are we giving anything? If the new toaster you bought didn’t brown bread, you’d take it back for a refund. And you can always count on the high-rolling douchebag to ruin all equations with a palm-gracing equivalent of a small country’s GDP, setting new precedents in the waiting world.

I’ve noticed in America there are three species of tippers.

Guilt Tippers are the empathizers: they’ve “been there themselves” or “seen the struggle” or simply are uncomfortable with the extra cash that’s bulging out of their allowance. They sympathize with the server, knowing that their contribution will help the person get a step closer to that Lamborghini / yoga pose / Arbonne goalpost on his or her vision board.

Ego Tippers are those that loudly proclaim how much they’re putting in, or drop a hundy at the bar for a beer, and reconfirm to the bartender (usually a hottie) that they can keep the change, three or four times. These types should generally be avoided if you wear highly flammable clothes, as bottle service sparklers are often nearby.

Then, Fear Tippers follow trends reluctantly to secure their dignity, shun conflict, nurture relationships, or to avoid a bogey sandwich next time at their favorite eatery. These poor souls feel the further wrath of the modern payment app, requiring them to add tip and sign right in front of the intimidating employee.

Here’s what also strikes me as bizarre: if two people sit at the same restaurant, different tables, both have the lasagna and a bottle of wine, why does the guy with the expensive palate and job promotion pay more tip? It takes exactly the same effort and time to pop and pour the vintage Puligny Montrachet as it does the house Fetzer, yet the enjoyment of our hard-earned wealth is democratically shared with the cork-popper.

I have numerous friends that work in restaurants. I’m an actor in L.A.; it’s like having a Chihuahua in Beverly Hills. Many of them actually are well-compensated by their server jobs, often much more than nurses, doctors or other professionals back home. It’s an interesting conundrum, as these high potential earnings make it a somewhat aspirational position, with countless getting waylaid from their true goal. On the flipside, I think this optional/obligatory tipping equally encourages establishments to underpay their staff, expecting patrons to make up the deficit. Besides, if you’ve ever been to dinner with a server in America, you’ve probably seen them give back most of their wages in a ludicrously geared tip.

Where does it stop? Restaurants expect tips; that’s normal. Coffee shops now have a little pot, often with Guilt-Tipper-targeted taglines of “Karma” or “Tipping Makes You Sexy” inscribed. Hotels have various interaction points from valet, to bellboy, to cleaner to concierge that could wind up doubling your bill. Do you tip the guy that packs your grocery bag? The bank manager who approved your mortgage? The car mechanic that didn’t screw you (he said)? I’ve long thought it would be an interesting exercise to dedicate a week to over-tipping all these unsung heroes instead.

So what are my top tips for tipping? Well, whatever your stance, if you’re in another country and it’s customary to tip, then that’s what you should do. Find your point of comfort though and tip reasonably based on that. Factor it in before you decide where to go, rather than getting a shock when you get the check. If you’re in a group splitting the bill, calculate the average amount of tip before you leave someone else to pay. Don’t rely on discount vouchers or Groupons for a cheap night out—the tip will ensure it’s still pricey. Make more money, so giving gratuity doesn’t hurt as much.

Or just switch teams and follow your own patrons aggressively into the parking lot for that extra two percent.

What IS the correct amount to tip and to whom? Join @MindTheGap_BBCA and etiquette expert @DebbyMayne tomorrow (Wednesday, June 4) at 2 pm ET on Twitter to discuss using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a Ripper Street Season 2 download from iTunes.

See more:
Tipping in America: How To Do It and What To Expect If You Don’t
8 Stupid Mistakes Brits Make in America
Eating Out: 10 Differences Between Britain and America

]]> 93 Toni Hargis: What I Miss About British Summers Thu, 29 May 2014 20:07:07 +0000 (Photo: Fotolia_

A British pub in summer. (Photo: Fotolia)

Don’t get me wrong: there’s lot to love about a summer in the U.S.—especially if you’ve just emerged from a brutal northern winter. For the most part, we have what they call “guaranteed summers” while our friends and loved ones back in Blighty usually hope (often against hope) for one or two weeks of good weather. Once in a while though, I’ll be on the phone with family members, all sitting outside in someone’s garden on a warm summer evening, and the pangs and memories come flooding back.

The smell of an English garden in the evening—there’s nothing quite like it. (Don’t know about anyone else but my Chicago roses barely smell of anything.) It helps to be quaffing a glass of Pimm’s too, or perhaps, to my American husband’s disgust, a lager shandy. (And please, none o’ that Leinenkugel rubbish.)

Talking of booze, I also fondly remember standing outside 400-year-old London pubs with workmates (again—has to be on a summer evening.)

Or sitting in the beer garden of a country pub till the light starts to fade—about the same time as a lot of pubs closed. I mean, come on, how can you beat these beauties?

And isn’t there something magical about it still being daylight at night? Up in the far north of England and beyond, it stays light well past 10 pm. Admittedly it’s not so much fun when you’re trying to get small kids to bed who are insisting that it can’t be bedtime because it’s too light.

Then there’s your 99 ice cream cone. Delicious! In the northeast of England, we had Mr. Whippy vans, selling the creamiest of creamy ice cream with a delicious Cadbury’s flake sticking out. (Sometimes we had red, sticky “monkey’s blood” too.) Sadly, according to the people at Cadbury’s, the origin of the name has been “lost in the mists of time.” My American kids always have to have a 99 when we’re back in England, whether it’s boiling hot or freezing cold.

A 99. (Photo: Fotolia)

A 99. (Photo: Fotolia)

What about British beaches – with their beach huts, buckets and spades, windbreakers and the occasional donkey? I have to admit, although we visit the beach a lot on our trips over, we’re usually fully clothed and dodging rain showers. I remember one particularly cold summer, visiting Walkworth beach in Northumberland, we actually had to take cover from the howling gales by sitting deep in the dunes!

By the way, beach huts aren’t quite as basic as they used to be. Apparently there are now waiting lists to buy them, and one in Dorset was recently sold for £170,000 ($284,000). And did you also know that the approximately 850 working beach donkeys now undergo an annual MOT (fitness test) to make sure they are up to the task, and weight limits are in place to prevent overweight children from riding them? The UK Donkey sanctuary has developed a Code of Practice to ensure beach donkeys are kept safe and healthy.

I even miss British rain showers. OK, not rain as such; I’d much prefer it if we didn’t have to think about the rain, but even in many U.S. regions, summer can equal rain aplenty. The great thing about British rain showers, though, is that they can be over in two minutes. It can also be raining in your garden and not in the neighbor’s, so fast do they move across the country.

Or is this a case of looking back through rose-colored spectacles?

See more:
Summer in America: 10 Tips for Visiting Brits
Summer in America: Keeping Your Cool
American Beaches: What Brits Should Know

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