Sunday, 6 February 2011

Just Imagine...

No, this isn’t going to be a blog post about John Lennon or the Beatles or the song. One of the things I’ve been highlighting in my struggle to adapt to a new country is the cultural differences I’ve experienced. Now we all know the usual ones (or at least if you’ve ever watched “Masterpiece Theatre” you’ll be aware of): they call a truck a “lorry”, they go to the “loo”, an elevator is a “lift”, you live in a “flat” rather than an apartment, cookies are “biscuits” they drink lots of tea, a car hood is the “bonnet” etc. etc. but it can go much farther than that.
Tea Sir?

Ah, the iconic red phone box!

Tea, tea and more tea

What the pound looks like

Oops, how did this get here?  Ha ha!

I know around Christmas time I mentioned the fact that Robbie had never seen the children’s Christmas classic “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and we had to try to find it on YouTube and he watched it for the very first time. That, and the fact that this year was the first time he’d ever carved a pumpkin in his 56 years on Earth, got me to thinking about all the other things that I take for granted and are a part of my life that he doesn’t know anything about. 

One other thing that sparked this idea was recently when we were watching the movie “Wall-E”. 
As part of the Extras on the DVD, the sound engineers were talking about how they collected and made some of the sounds for the robots and animation for the movie. One of the sounds they mentioned trying to get was the sound of a screen door. Now if I say to my readers in the US, “What does a screen door sound like?” you will immediately know from personal experience. Readers in the UK will only have a vague idea about some sound they might have heard years and years ago while watching “The Waltons”. No one has screen doors here, or screens on the windows for that matter. So that sound is not in their personal or cultural experience.
And this is why I entitled this “Just Imagine...” Just imagine you didn’t know what a screen door sounded like...or if you didn’t have any personal experience with any of the things on the list I’ve made that follows. Just imagine that if you’ve even ever heard of any of these things it’s either been from a movie, or maybe someone’s told you about it. You yourself have either never heard of it or never used it or don’t know what it is or tastes like. Just imagine you didn’t know what Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree looked like.
Imagine that “High School” means a Disney movie and should have the word “Musical” after it. You don’t know what a Middle School, Junior High, or Elementary school is or what ages you would be in each one. Of course you’ve never been on an interstate (just by the definition of the word) even though you’ve been on a “dual carriageway” (but usually with no more than 4 lanes total). Imagine you’ve never had an area code or zip code.
This list is by no means comprehensive but just something I put together over some time. See what you think or if you can imagine life without these:

Screen door
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (the TV show). How sad not to know that "Bumbles bounce!"
A-1 Sauce. They have Worcestershire sauce and something called "brown sauce" which are similar but still not the same.

Thanksgiving. Seriously now, can you imagine never having eaten a Thanksgiving dinner?

7-11. There are convenience stores, yes, and corner shops but nothing like a 7-Eleven. And of course, then, there's no:
Big Gulp, and no: 

Slurpee. Just what they see on "The Simpsons" or "Glee"

The Pillsbury Dough Boy (or Poppin’ Fresh). They don't know what happens when you poke his tummy.
Pillsbury. They have never seen this logo and there are no: 
Canned biscuits. Hard to live without, I have to say!

Archie Bunker. If you called someone an Archie Bunker here they wouldn't realize it's an insult. Whether you liked the show or not when it was on you can't escape the fact that it's full of iconic images. After all, the set is now in the Smithsonian.

Ma Bell. I think if I said Ma Bell to someone here they would thing I was talking about a person; Mr. Bell's mother maybe.

Blue jays. Some people don't like them but I've always thought they were pretty even though they are noisy and pushy. Still imagine a world without them. 
Band aids. Oh they have the item but they're called "plasters" or "sticking plasters". Band-aid as a brand doesn't exist. Because of that I have a funny Robbie story. Remind me to tell you sometime.

Bubble gum. They might have it here but I haven't noticed. But they definitely don't know Bazooka Joe!

Candy canes. I heard someone reference them on TV this year but have never been able to find them in the stores. Can you imagine Christmas without the taste of candy canes?

Bologna. And they don't know that your "bologna has a first name"... Can you imagine never having a bologna sandwich?

Budweiser Clydesdales. I hate beer and I'd never drink Bud but I love the Clydesdales and the commercials with them. They are such an impressive horse up close if you've never seen them and I love the red wagon and of course the dog! Lovely image. 

Caramel apples. What is fall without caramel apples? And here you can't get the caramels either or the sticks! Sad.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. No one here could tell you what that looked like.

Cheetos. I've heard from other ex-pats that I'm not the only one who misses Cheetos. It was one of the things, surprisingly, I asked for in a care package recently. I never thought they could taste so good! They do have something called "Cheesy Wotsits" that are not too bad but just not the same.
Clorox or laundry bleach. The only bleach they have is not supposed to be used on clothes. it's for the bathroom. But how will I get my whites white??

Drive-ins.  Not restaurants... 
not movies...
not even Sonic! Unless you see them on "Happy Days" or in the movies. Eating in your car really isn't done.

County fairs. And no funnel cakes or corn on the cob or turkey legs. 
Corn dog. Speaking of fair food, a world without corn dogs. Robbie didn't like them when he tried them but I think he was expecting something different. He'd never had corn bread before and had barely ever had a hot dog so I think it might have been a shock.

Cover Girl cosmetics. Even though they have American brands like Max Factor and Maybelline they don't have Cover Girl. I miss it because the powder compact like the one pictured was the first makeup I was allowed to use as a teenager. It was also, for a long time, the only thing I could find pale enough for my white face!
Denny’s. How could you not have never gone to a Denny's? I had to explain to Robbie the scene in "The Santa Clause" where all the sad dads got to Denny's on Thanksgiving but I really didn't have anything to compare it to here. No matter what you think of the food they still have my favorite name for a dish: "Moons over my Hammy". Makes me chuckle just to think of it.

Dogwoods. I've always loved dogwoods in the spring and the tale of how the flowers got the "rusty" edges. 
Pink dogwoods are my favorite because the color is so lovely.

Driver’s Ed. If you want a license here you have to pay for private lessons. They don't have classes in school for it. The tests here are so difficult it's very rare you pass the first time. 

The Farmer’s Almanac. I've very rarely read it myself but even if you're not a farmer you hear it quoted in the media now and then, especially for weather predictions and it's treated as expert advice.

Lightning bugs or fireflies. At least I haven't seen or heard of anything like it in Scotland.

Graham crackers. There's something called a "digestive biscuit" that is slightly similar but it's round and more "grainy". That's the closest you can get.
S’mores. Of course if you can't get graham crackers, marshmallows or Hershey bars you can't have s'mores.

Fruit Loops. And no toucan. 

Geico Gecko or Caveman--or now I hear it’s a Woodchuck! 

Girl Scout cookies. They're called “Girl Guides” and they don’t sell cookies. Boy do I miss them this time of year!

Mayberry and no Sheriff Andy, Barney Fife, Aunt Bee
Gomer Pyle, or Goober either. Recently I called someone on TV a real "Goober" and I had to explain what that was and then take him to YouTube to watch some old Andy Griffith Shows. Of course from there I had to show him Gomer Pyle USMC too. It just blows my mind that someone wouldn't have ever heard or seen any of these characters. Amazing.

Goodyear blimp. I've been told by someone in the know that people who work for Goodyear hate it being called a blimp. It should be called the Goodyear "airship". But blimp or airship, everyone knows what it is.

IHOP. If you'd say, "I hop" here they'd expect you to start jumping. Contrary to the name there are no International Houses of Pancakes here. 

The Great Pumpkin. They've only just started celebrating what they think of as that "American holiday" Halloween but haven't any clue about the Great Pumpkin.

Hamburger Helper. Now without getting into the nutritional value or the gourmet quality (or lack of) in Hamburger Helper, you have to admit that at times it's nice to have around when you're in a hurry and some of it does taste pretty good. 

Hero, hoagie, grinder or submarine sandwiches--or whatever name they go by where you live. 
Hershey kisses. Yes, I have to admit they have fantastic chocolate here and it really is better. But the iconic Hershey's kiss is a different thing. Robbie couldn't get over it. And without it, what do you put on Peanut Butter Blossom cookies?
Hot dog stand. Nothing like this around here. Certainly nothing that serves hot dogs! People here might have seen or eaten from one if they go on vacation to New York or Miami (which along with Los Angeles seem to be the only cities Brits seem to know about or visit)
Chili dog. Of course with the lack of hot dogs here you won't find chili dogs, however you like them. My favorite will always be the "Garbage Dog" at a cafe in Virginia Beach: chili, cole slaw and melted cheese. Messy, but yum, yum, yum.

Meatloaf sandwiches. Meatloaf isn't something many people here make or aware of and they certainly wouldn't eat it cold as a sandwich. Don't know what they're missing!

After dinner mints. I love soft lovely little after dinner mints but there's no such thing here. 

Kool-Aid. Can you imagine your childhood without Kool-Aid? Or the pitcher smashing through the brick wall?

Kraft cheese. Ok, they have really good cheese over here but  they haven't really got the sliced cheese thing down. Plus, sometimes you just want a nice slice of good old processed cheese for your sandwich. 

Iced tea. The attitude here is as Robbie's auntie once said, "Who wants to drink cold tea?" I tried to explain that iced tea and cold tea were different but had to give up. One problem is that refrigerators here are mostly too small to fit a pitcher.

Cheerleaders, marching bands and majorettes. Since there's no high school or football (they call soccer "football") there's really no need for bands, majorettes or cheerleaders.
Just thought I'd use the Ohio State Buckeyes as an example of a marching band!

Mickey Mouse Club. This might be more for my generation too but how would you like to have grown up not singing "M-I-C, see ya real soon, K-E-Y, why? because we LIKE you..."?

Mr. Clean. Also no Ajax, Comet cleanser or Windex. Have to learn about a whole different group of cleaning products.

Mrs. Butterworth. To check to make sure Mrs. Butterworth isn't known here I asked Robbie and he said, "Does she make cakes?" And of course everyone knows the iconic bottle.

 Network TV. Here it's BBC, BBC, BBC , CBBC (for children) oh and ITV. You can get others with a satellite or box but it's not a's very confusing. 

Cardinals. What a shame not to be able to see such a beautiful bird, especially in the winter. 

Maple syrup on pancakes or pancakes for breakfast or as a meal. I think I've said that they do have pancakes but they put jam on them and eat them as a dessert.

Margarine in sticks. I don't know why they don't have margarine for the most part at all and not in sticks. They do have soft spreads but you can't really bake with that because of the vegetable oil content. I once heard on TV that they banned margarine here because of the fat content. What???

Parmesan cheese in a jar. Parmesan cheese is very hard to find here and expensive. I wish someone would send me some Kraft Parmesan because spaghetti just doesn't taste right without it!

Paul Harvey. I don't know if younger people know about Paul Harvey but for most of the people my generation we'll never forget his unusual radio voice. And for those over here, they'll never know the "Rest of the story..."
PB&J They do have peanut butter but if you ordered a PB&J you'd get blank looks. It's not a very popular sandwich here. Also there's confusion because if you say "jelly" they think it's something like Jello. They spread jam on bread. 
Grape Jelly. Can you imagine a peanut butter sandwich without grape jelly? They don't really even have grape as a flavor here. If you see anything colored purple it's usually blackcurrant (which I think tastes like feet--ick!). Oh, and I had to use Smucker's as an example as a nod to my Ohio roots!

Philly cheese steak. I love cheesesteaks so much and I miss them dreadfully. My mouth waters whenever I think of one.
Steak-umms. Since you can't get a Philly Cheese steak here, at least you could get Steak-umms and make your own but noo.. The steak you buy in the stores here is too tough and fatty (what they call "sandwich steak") and seems better fit for a dog--or soling your shoes, just my opinion.
Popcorn as a meal. Yes, they do have popcorn here and you can get microwave popcorn but I don't think anyone here would eat popcorn as a quick meal replacement. Or is it just me? I also miss being able to make my own popcorn in a pan. Hey, there's no Jiffy Pop either!

Soapbox Derby. I don't even know if they do this anymore but it was very big when I was young. Our local track was just a block from my Grandma's house and the nationals were held in Akron which is very close to where I grew up. 

Popsicles. What would summer be without Popsicles or Fudgesicles or Creamsicles? And how could you do crafts without popsicle sticks?
Ranch dressing. Salad dressing is pretty much unknown here. Don't go to a restaurant and order a salad and expect it to have any dressing. If you ask for some it will usually be a vinaigrette. "Salad" here is usually just a leafy garnish on the side of your plate. You can even get "salad" on a sandwich which means lettuce and tomato. There are a few types of salad dressings in the larger grocery stores but no Ranch.

Reuben sandwich. One of my favorite sandwiches done right. First of all, can't find a good deli here, don't have corned beef (well they have this nasty stuff in a can that looks like Spam that's called corned beef), no Russian dressing, don't have sauerkraut, might have swiss cheese and the rye bread but not good ol' Jewish rye that I've found. What a shame. 

Root beer. Oh my gosh, do I miss root beer and root beer floats. I've only found two people here that have tried root beer and they both didn't like it. Most everyone else has never tried it and thinks it is more like beer than soda pop. There's also no ginger ale, grape soda or cherry Coke. 

“Trix are for kids”. No they don't have Trix cereal so when I've said to Robbie, "Silly Rabbit," I forget he doesn't have a clue what I mean.

Summer camp. Had to include a picture of the camp Ben went to and worked at. 

Frito’s (or the Frito bandito). Maybe I'm showing my age. I don't think the Frito Bandito is PC anymore

VBS. It was always there in the summer. It was at VBS I had my first kiss when I was 5 years old!

Wonder Bread. Now I'm not a big Wonder Bread  fan but everyone knows what it is and what the package looks like and "how it builds strong bodies..." etc. It's definitely true, though, that they have MUCH better bread here and that's why toast is practically its own food group. They have a relationship with toast over here that I don't understand!

Waffles. Can't find waffles or waffle irons in any shape, size or type.

Stove Top Stuffing. Yes there's stuffing but of course no Stove Top. Actually, I've seen the stuffing cooked outside the turkey mostly and a lot of the time in stuffing balls. Oh, and turkey and stuffing are for Christmas for sure. 

Weenie whistle. When they talk about this toy in the movie "Santa Clause 2" no one knows what they're talking about.

Weenie roast. Hot dogs aren't really popular here mostly because they come in a can. I kid you not. I have to restrain myself when I'm in the store and I see a can that says "American Hot Dogs". First of all, no self-respecting American would eat hot dogs from a can!! Uh oh, shouting again...sorry!
Squirt cheese. Ok, they may be lucky in this one. I did hear someone superciliously say that Americans had horrible cheese that squirted out of a can, like this is the only cheese we have. I actually have a guilty liking for it sometimes. (and for all you Brits looking down your nose I just have this to say to you: "Primula".
Bactine. I haven't noticed a lot of first-aid cream choices. It's not usual to find of use anti-bacterial cream and I haven't seen cortisone creams. And apparently hydrogen peroxide is under lock and key in the drugstore (chemist).
Reese’s Cups. Whether you like Reese's cups or not, there's just nothing like it here. That also means no Reese's Pieces. I don't know what they'd tempt ET with here. 
Super Bowl. Well, you can see the Super Bowl if you stay up past midnight but it's not a popular broadcast here and you don't get the fun Super Bowl commercials, which is one of the reasons for watching in my opinion. No parties or tailgating here unfortunately.
Ann Landers or Dear Abby. Yes, they do have advice columnists, called "agony aunts" here but not these two.
Sloppy Joe. Also, no Manwich. The first time I made it for Robbie he said, without knowing he was being funny, "This would be better eaten with a fork. It really is too sloppy to be a sandwich."
Drugstore soda fountains or Diners. One of my first memories was my dad lifting me up onto a red stool just like those and having a Coke in the neighborhood drug store. I know they are now few and far between in the US which is a real shame.
Soft pretzels. When Robbie first visited me he couldn't get over soft pretzels and he really loved Auntie Ann's. He'd never had anything like it. 
Cinnabon. Talking of mall food, the sinfully, wickedly, scrumptious Cinnabon. Gaining weight just looking at it. Cinnamon rolls of any kind are very hard to find here. 
Tater Tots. I can't say they're my favorite thing but some people couldn't live without them (yes, Ben I mean you)
Tylenol. Actually if you look close on this picture you'll see the name "paracetamol" which I guess is the name of acetaminophen here. Here's the frustrating thing: You can only buy 16 paracetamol or aspirins or ibuprofen at a time. Apparently at one time people (who?? and how many??) tried to commit suicide by taking too many paracetamols so they've made it illegal to buy more than 16 at a time so you can only get pain relievers in packages of 8 or 16. Stupid!!
Half and Half. I add this because I saw a remark on a web site selling ice cream makers (ok, it was QVC UK) and someone said, "I hated that the recipe book had American recipes. What in the world is Half and Half?" Duh..Half cream and half milk. Now if they had asked me...
Julia Child. I think the recent movie was the first introduction anyone had to Julia and her unforgettable voice. 
The Dew. I had to include this for Ben but I've heard they actually have it in some of the stores now, although Robbie says he's heard it doesn't taste the same. They can't put as much caffeine in it either because of the EU health rules (dumb, dumb). Every time Ben came to visit we had to order it through a web site online that has American products at a MUCH higher price--about $1.60 a can!
Grits. Well you could have guessed this one couldn't you? I suppose there's places in the US you can't get grits either but you can get cornmeal which you can't get here so no cornbread either. You'd especially never see anything with white corn over here. I actually miss instant grits!

Hee Haw. The easiest show to make fun of but everyone knew what it was. My favorite segment and song is the "Gloom, Despair" one that follows but there were so many others like "Where oh where are you tonight?" and "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?" Ah, mem'ries...

Barbershop quartets. I love barbershop music. The harmonies just can give you goosebumps, there's nothing like it (and nothing to compare here). Oh, and let's not forget that it's not just men who sing Barbershop. I was proud to once have been a member of a Sweet Adelines group, The Virginia Coast Chorus.
Chicken Fried Steak. Yummy, yummy. Of course the name throws them over here--is it chicken, is it steak? And man do I miss Cracker Barrel and the chicken fried steak they make there! 
Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White, Pat Sajak. I'm not going to get into the differences in game shows here because you could make a whole web site on just that subject alone. But can you imagine not ever having heard, "I'd like to buy a vowel"

NASA. Imagine living in a country that has never had a space program or astronauts. It's all such a fabric of our lives that we don't even think about it, take it for granted and always talk about the money it wastes. Really we should be hugely proud of its numerous accomplishments.
Popcorn balls. Hard to make popcorn balls with microwave popcorn that's for sure. Too bad, because my mom used to make popcorn balls every Christmas and they were fantastic!
I don’t think so Tim” I said this once to Robbie and he said, “Who’s Tim?” I have seen the program shown on one of the more obscure satellite channels that show American comedies. Tim Allen is mostly known for "Toy Story" and "The Santa Clause" but few people know about what he did before that.
Butterscotch. Ok, this is Scotland, home of Scotch the drink and you'd think they'd have butterscotch candy but no...nothing like it. Which also means no butterscotch morsels to make Oatmeal Scotchies cookies. 
Life Savers. And speaking of candies, no Life Savers either. Wow, imagine never having had a Life Saver of any flavor. Oh and on a Simpsons episode Marge mentioned Jolly Ranchers and Robbie didn't know what they were either. 
Tang. Even looking at the picture Robbie couldn't figure out what this was. I should have put this under the NASA picture actually. We used to have a glass of Tang every morning for breakfast when I was growing up. I still prefer it to orange juice! Really!
Black eyed peas.  Growing up in Ohio I never ate black eyed peas at New Years but living in the South for so long I acquired a taste. I just include this because it came up not too long ago at New Years. Of course they've heard of The Black-eyed Peas the pop group but like Robbie said, everyone here thinks they made up the name. And try explaining what black eyed peas are to people who've never seen or tasted them. Ain't easy.

So that’s just a quick list I put together over a few days. Now I also realize that on some of these I might also be showing my age. You might find it hard to believe that these so common things aren’t known or used here but it’s true.
To be fair, I have another list of things I’ve learned about, used, tried, had to find out about that they have here we don’t have in the US. I’ll post that list next time.
I'm sorry it's taken me so long. I've had the list and everything written for about a month now but I was having trouble with the graphics. I've had to redo this now 3 different times. That plus a bout with a stomach bug in mid-January that kept me away from the computer for about a week. 
 At this point in the year I’m feeling like a mole because we, literally, haven’t seen the sun for days at a time. It’s dark until around 8:30 in the morning, and then it’s overcast and grey and then it gets dark by 4:00. It’s no wonder we’re all a lot of “palefaces”.
I think it 's also appropriate to end this with something else they don't do here and that's "Taps". They have a different bugle call for military funerals and remembrance services. They both send me into floods of tears but I hope you will take a minute and listen to them both. Thank you and God bless anyone who is now serving or has ever served to keep both the US and the UK free.

...And one for the Scottish:

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