Successfully Understanding the British: A Guide for American Visitors


	The Brits have peculiar words for many things. Money is referred to as 
	"goolies," so you should say, for instance, "I'd love to come to the pub but 
	I haven't got 	any goolies." "Quid" is the modern word for what was once 
	called a "shilling" -- 	the equivalent of seventeen cents American. 
	Underpants are called "wellies" and friends are called "tossers." If you are 
	fond of someone, you should tell him he is a "great tosser" -- he will be 
	touched. The English are a notoriously 	demonstrative people, and if you want 
	to fit in, you should hold hands with your acquaintances and tossers when you 
	walk down the street. Public nuzzling and licking are also encouraged.


	Ever since their Tory government wholeheartedly embraced full union with Europe, 
	the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain continental customs, such as 
	the large midday meal followed by a two- or three-hour siesta, which they call 
	a "wank."  As this is still a fairly new practice in Britain, it is not uncommon 
	for people to oversleep (alarm clocks do not work there, due to the magnetic 
	pull from Greenwich). If you are late for supper, simply apologize and explain 
	that you were having a wank -- everyone will understand.


	University archives and manuscript collections are still governed by quaint 
	medieval rules retained out of respect for tradition; hence, patrons are 
	expected to bring to the reading rooms their own ink-pots and a small knife for 
	sharpening their pens. Observing these customs will signal the librarians that 
	you are "in the know," for the rules are, of course, unwritten. Likewise, it is 
	customary to kiss the librarian on both cheeks when he brings a manuscript you've 
	requested, a practice dating back to the reign of Henry VI.

	One of the most delighful ways to spend an afternoon in Oxford or Cambridge is 
	gliding gently down the river in one of their flat-bottomed boats, which you 
	propel using a long pole. This is known as "cottaging." Many of the boats (called 
	"yer-i nals") are privately owned by the colleges, but there are some places 
	that rent them to the public by the hour. Just tell a professor or policeman that 
	you are interested in doing some cottaging and would like to know where the public 
	yerinals are. The poles must be treated with vegetable oil to protect them from 
	the water, so it's a good idea to buy a can of Crisco and have it on you when you 
	ask directions to the yerinals. That way, people will know you are an experienced 


	British cuisine enjoys a well-deserved reputation as the most sublime gastronomic 
	pleasure available to man.  Thanks to today's robust dollar, the American traveler 
	can easily afford to dine out several times a week (rest assured that a British 
	meal is worth interrupting your afternoon wank for). Few foreigners are aware that 
	there are several grades of meat in the UK. The best cuts of meat, like the best 
	bottles of gin, bear Her Majesty's seal, called the British Stamp of Excellence 
	(BSE). When you go to a fine restaurant, tell your waiter you want BSE beef and 
	won't settle for anything less.  Once the waiter realizes you are a person of 
	discriminating taste, he may offer to let you peruse the restaurant's list of 
	exquisite British wines. If he doesn't, you should order one anyway. The best wine 
	grapes grow on the steep, chalky hillsides of Yorkshire and East Anglia -- try an 
	Ely '84 or Ripon '88 for a rare treat indeed.


	Public taxis are subsidized by Her Majesty's Government. A taxi ride in London 
	costs two pounds, no matter how far you travel. If a taxi driver tries to 
	overcharge you, you should yell "I think not, you charlatan!", then grab the 
	nearest bobby and have the driver arrested. It is rarely necessary to take a taxi, 
	though, since bus drivers are required to make detours at patrons' requests. Just 
	board any bus, pay your thruppence (the heavy, gold-colored coins are pence), 
	and state your destination clearly to the driver, e.g.: "Kindly take me to the 
	British Library." A driver will frequently try to have a bit of harmless fun by 
	pretending he doesn't go to your requested destination. Ignore him, as he is only 
	teasing the American tourist (little does he know you're not so ignorant!).

	Speaking of the British Library, you should know that it has recently moved to a 
	new location at Kew. Kew is a small fishing village in Wales. It can be reached 
	by taking the train to Cardiff; once there, ask any local about the complimentary 
	shuttle bus to Kew. (Don't forget that buses are called "prams" in England, and 
	trains are called "bumbershoots"--it's a little confusing at first. Motorcycles 
	are called "lorries" and the hospital, for reasons unknown, is called the 
	"off-license." It's also very important to know that a "doctor" means a PhD in 
	England, not a physician. If you want a physician, you must ask for an "MP" 
	(which stands for "master physician").

	For those traveling on a shoestring budget, the London Tube may be the most 
	economical way to get about, especially if you are a woman. Chivalry is alive and 
	well in Britain, and ladies still travel for free on the Tube. Simply take some 
	tokens from the baskets at the base of the escalators or on the platforms; you 
	will find one near any of the state-sponsored Tube musicians. Once on the platform, 
	though, beware! Approaching trains sometimes disturb the large Gappe bats that 
	roost in the tunnels. The Gappes were smuggled into London in the early 19th 
	century by French saboteurs and have proved impossible to exterminate. The 
	announcement "Mind the Gappe!" is a signal that you should grab your hair and look 
	towards the ceiling. Very few people have ever been killed by Gappes, though, and 
	they are considered only a minor drawback to an otherwise excellent means of 
	transportation. (If you have difficulty locating the Tube station, merely follow 
	the signs that say "Subway" and ask one of the full-time attendants where you can 
	catch the bumbershoot.)

	One final note: for preferential treatment when you arrive at Heathrow airport, 
	announce that you are a member of Shin Fane (an international Jewish peace 
	organization -- the "shin" stands for "shalom"). As savvy travellers know, this 
	little white lie will assure you priority treatment as you make your way through 
	customs; otherwise you could waste all day in line. You might, in fact, want to 
	ask a customs agent to put a Shin Fane stamp in your passport, as it will expedite 
	things on your return trip.

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