I’m going to visit a friend in the UK for a couple of weeks this spring. He’s putting me up, so I don’t need to worry about accommodations and whatnot. But in general, is there anything I should know to avoid being an annoying and/or clueless American while I’m there? I am told that the last letter of the UK alphabet is pronounced “zed,” so I’ve at least made a start.
Where are you going to be based? What kind of things are you looking to do when you are here?
General advice though:
Accept that things are done differently here (not massively, but you’ll notice loads of little things). Best not to compare things unfavourably with home, and to just go with the flow.
Take care crossing the street. Look right!
Don’t call things “quaint”
You’ll be pegged as an American pretty much straight away, so don’t try and pretend otherwise. Just be yourself.
As a corollary to 4) some Americans seem to talk a fair bit more loudly than is common in Britain. This can be perceived by some as being a bit rude. Probably doesn’t apply to you, as I’m sure there’s a lot of confirmation bias in my observation.
I grew up in England, and have been back a few times. The last time I visited (2005) I was struck with how globalization has really made the countries (culturally at least)… similar. There’s Starbucks, McDonalds, and KFCs pretty much everywhere. We get the same TV and lots of the same music.
I guess I’d say be careful taking over electronics, they use 240v compared to our 110. You can’t plug anything into the wall, and if you do find a shaver plug, it could well fry what you have. Be careful and make sure you get any 'leccy stuff you need checked out before you go over.
Make sure you get out to the countryside. On our day trips outside of London I felt like it was the England I grew up in.
I live in Columbus, Ohio. There is pretty much no way I am going to be comparing things unfavorably with home. (Ohio is great and all, but still.)
Will be staying in Nottingham while I am there. I’m more or less leaving the sightseeing stuff up to my friend, who has lived there his entire life. Although if people have sort of general advice as to “things that must not be missed,” that’s OK of course.
Things like laptops are usually OK with the different voltage, but things like hairdryers will probably fry. You’ll need a US to UK adapter plug for anything you do bring over, but these are dirt cheap online.
What are your culinary tastes? I ask because it’s not unheard of for American tourists to try to find foods they’re familiar with, only to find them inferior. If you’re prepared to trust your host on what’s good locally*, this won’t be a problem.
I disagree about the way to look when crossing the road - always look both ways. We have too many single-lane one-way streets and arsehole drivers for it to be safe only looking one way.
Tipping: tip taxi drivers, waiters, bar staff sometimes (“and one for yourself” - don’t leave money on the table; people won’t realise it was left as a tip, and will take it).
I agree with Baron Greenback about some Americans (tourists, at least) talking a lot louder than we’re used to. Some visitors I’ve been out with seem to be trying to shout across the plains of the Old West. Easy enough to tell from people’s reactions if you need to dial it down.
Other than that, TBH, I don’t think there’s any advice you need, and you probably don’t even need that, since you’re staying with a friend. Shame you won’t be in London - we could do a Dopefest.
Visa and Mastercard are used pretty widely, although I wouldn’t rely on them in small shops, pubs etc. American Express is much less widespread. One thing to definitely do before you leave is to let your card issuers know that you will be using them in the UK, otherwise there’s the risk that they might put a stop on them for anti-fraud reasons.