Things I Don’t Understand About the British, Part 2

Waaay back in October I wrote my first post about the mysterious ways of the British, and promised many more. I’ll start today’s round off by addressing a few things some readers asked about.

First, what is it with this liberal spreading of butter on bread, followed by peanut butter? The first time I saw my husband combine the two, I was disgusted. Butter and peanut butter? I was brought up to believe, as I think were most of my fellow Americans, that peanut butter requires no accompaniment besides jelly. (Pardon me, I’m in England now: jam.) I broke him of this habit and he now regards it as weird as well. I have no idea why they do this; all I can really tell you is that butter goes with sandwiches here, not mayonnaise, although you may encounter a “tuna mayonnaise” or “egg mayonnaise” sandwich, ie, tuna salad or egg salad, or even a “prawn mayonnaise” sandwich, in which the main ingredient is mixed with mayonnaise, and served on two slices of bread or a roll … which has been liberally buttered.


A reader asked about the chewing gum she and her children noticed all over the sidewalks of London when they visited several years ago. Why, she asked, could the chewers not throw it away? I can’t say that I’ve noticed this phenomenon, but I would guess that chewers threw their gum on the ground because trash cans are hard to find. And why is that?


The lack of trash cans (“rubbish bins”) in London is a common complaint among tourists, especially in train stations. Look back into the not-so-distant past and you will realize that trash cans were a favorite receptacle for bombs placed by terrorist groups like the IRA, so they were removed from many public places. Public safety or less litter? I’ll take public safety.


One of my personal pet peeves here is the shopping carts (“shopping trolleys”) in the grocery stores. Each of the four wheels spins in a different direction and they are unbelievably difficult to steer around the store without crashing into someone or something. Now, we’ve gotten this down in America, so what’s up with the Brits? It makes no sense that their shopping carts are so difficult to steer that they weave all over the aisle, back end heading one way, front end heading another. My arms get a real workout trying to steer these things in a straight line. (Hmm…perhaps this is also one of the reasons my lower back has been hurting so much.) I live in fear of accidentally crashing one into a car in the parking lot.

I mean, really, can it be that hard to get this right?

2 thoughts on “Things I Don’t Understand About the British, Part 2

  1. Kate

    While either butter or mayonnaise on a sandwich makes me kind of queasy, I can understand, I guess, why someone might choose one or the other. But I do not understand both together, especially in the quantities typical in UKI. It’s just not right. But watch out for your husband. Mine spent fifteen years in the US and never once used butter & mayo on a sandwich there, but within days of returning to Ireland, was right back in the habit.


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