When I was in the Uk last weekend, there were 2 or 3 things that stuck me as being so very different from over here on mainland europe. This post is not to be taken too seriously of course, it is just my observation.
1. Tipping – as in giving tips for good service, not as in leaving garbage lieing around the countryside. The Brits don´t tip. Here in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, we tip. We tip the taxi drivers, we tip the hairdresser, we tip the pizza delivery guy, we always tip in restaurants or bars or cafes. In the UK, it just is not part of the psyche, and I had totally forgotten that. But why is that? Are the people who drive the cabs, wash your hair, or serve you food so much better paid in Britain than anywhere else? I don´t think so. Maybe we are the fools for giving that little extra, and I do not like it when it is expected, or already included as a service charge on the bill, but for good service, why not? Rounding up a little bit doesn´t hurt.
2. Salads. The british idea of a salad is some lettuce leaves, toms and cucumber. Dressing is seen as an optional extra, and if you want some, then there is a bottle in the fridge. Over on mainland europe, salads contain lots of delicious things, and the dressing is something made by hand in a variety of flavours, well unless you are italian, then it is probably oil and vinegar – but only the best quality. My salads have changed beyond recognition living over here.
3. Dislike of the EU und certain Europeans. Unfortunately it does seem that there really is quite a strong opinion against the EU and therefore by default, Europe. I had not realised just how strong the anti-Europe sentiment seems to be until this last weekend. I thought it was just propaganda by certain newspapers, but it seems not. So many people seemed surprised that we could like living in Germany. They seem to think we must be surrounded by Nazi´s. They don´t rate the French too highly either, and don´t even dare to mention the Romanians or Polish.
Now number 3 is of course not a trait of all Brits, and actually not only a trait of Brits at all. Here on mainland Europe, the Germans don´t like the French – but they like the Brits. The French don´t like the Germans ( the wars again), nor the Brits ( another war or two). There is worry about being flooded by Romanians signing on for welfare payments. The Italians are split between the virtuous north, and the mafia ridden south, and Greece and Spain resent the Germans for having a functioning economy and bailing them out. It is definately not all rosey, and shows, what I have always believed – we are all more similar than we want to believe.
I was reading an interesting post by an American, on the same theme – things he still did not understand about Britain (http://www.anglotopia.net/british-identity/humor/british-culture-9-things-i-still-dont-get-britain/) He had picked up on the xenophobia angle – but sorry mate, you will find that is a european shared trait. He had also picked up on the general cynicism and negativity of the Brits. He has a point. There is a tendancy to assume that everything is going to be a disaster ( olympic games for example), to complain and to knock those who have done well. The brits like to champion the underdog, so I think that is where that comes from. It is not something I have noticed on mainland Europe. But i have noticed that the tendancy to complain is shared with the Germans, and the French. We complain if the government is interfering too much, or not doing enough. We complain it is too cold, or too hot, that things are too expensive, or too low quality. This is a huge difference to the Americans I think.
So maybe the Brits are more European than they think after all. Take the drinking culture. The Brits love their beer and pubs, it is a major part of the culture. But also here in Germany beer is very important and the young people get just as drunk and throw up in the cab on the way home ( probably they do not tip in that case either :,) ) Scandinavia, despite the high cost of alcohol is no different from what i hear. In other european cultures wine is perhaps more prevalent than beer, but social gathering involving a few drinks and driving home over the limit goes on everywhere. Poor service is something else the American complained of in Britain. Well he should try coming over here. The American idea of service is totally different. They are used to lots of smiles and over the top service, for over the top tips. Apparently it is up to 30% of the bill in some cases. I do not find the service worse in Britain than here, if anything people are generally friendlier than over here.
So at the end of the day what am I trying to say? The brits don´t tip, and can´t do salads, but they are otherwise just as european as the rest of us over here. Stop fighting it, the EU is here to stay. You are in the boat with the rest of us, so might as well try and make it sail than just want to bail out.