My work dinners and related events often end up sounding like the start of a joke. I give you, for example, last night:
Two Irishmen, a Brit and an American walked into the Bar at Jamie’s Italian and ordered mojitos. The Brit said…
(Aside 1: Mojitos because it was unusually hot here. I hesitate to say “unseasonably” because it is the dead of summer, but it is sort of un-Britishly. Aside 2: my lovely Irish companions happen to have been female, is there no gender neutral term for Irish persons?)
Tonight it was even hotter, and we had a group pub outing planned. My group is always a sort of mini-UN in terms of countries represented, but we had the addition tonight of two people visiting from Glasgow, both of whom happened to also be American. This seemed to cause a bit of a reaction in the two Brits present (for completeness, the others attending were from the East Asian contingent, one from Thailand and one from Malaysia). One of the Brits in particular started riffing on the stereotypes that one country has about the people from another. I believe this was originally all directed at perceptions of the French, but don’t quote me on that.
Now I have to note at this point that the two Americans visiting from Glasgow were very different in their experiences: one was a long-termer like me, and the other a recent arrival. It was the recent arrival who ended up actually supplying the punchline to the story, at some point after one of the two Brits had left. The conversation was much longer than I can record here, and there was much more self-defending and other-bashing than I could possibly get across. The Aussies were particularly hard-hit by the slagging off. But, as usual for a former colony of a once great empire, the biggest rivalries were the US-UK ones. And it went something like this.
Recent Arrival Glasgow-based American: But what are some examples of British food?
Me: Spotted dick.
RAGA: (chokes and sputters)
Brit: It’s a sponge with raisins in it. Not at all nice.
Other Glasgow-based American: But pudding doesn’t mean the same thing here at all.
Me: Yes, it’s just dessert.
Brit: Really it’s in the vegetable section where the UK-US word differences get interesting.
(Discussion continues regarding courgettes, aubergines, swedes, etc. Food topic continues and somehow we end up discussing dinner time in Spain.)
Someone (I don’t recall): Yeah they eat dinner at 8 pm or something, don’t they?
Me (having just been there in January): No, more like 10.
Brit: Why do Americans eat so early? By 9:00 the restaurants are empty.
Me: Well, where I come from (the midwest) we’re on East Coast time for business purposes, so everything ends up being earlier in clock times. My parents are often at work at 7 am.
RAGA: Oh you’re from Minnesota? I’m from Texas.
Me: Same time zone.
OGA: At least you’re from same states where they change for daylight savings with the rest of the country, I’m from Arizona where they refuse to change and it confuses everyone.
Brit: What? They just don’t change right there?
Me: Yeah, I’m pretty sure Indiana is that way too, I went to university in Michigan and it was always confusing as to whether Indiana was on our time (Eastern time zone) or on Chicago time (Central) depending on the season.
Brit: That’s nuts.
OGA: Well, it’s a big country. The entire UK is, what, the size of Pennsylvania?
RAGA: Yeah, well, at least we HAVE different time zones!
Yeah, I’m still–several hours later–needing to not have a beverage in my mouth at the moment that I think of that delivery lest I start squirting said beverage out of my nostrils. Maybe you had to be there, but there was something about a looooong conversation of you-vs-us and cultural stereotypes culminating in a defense of American greatness over Britain because of the fact that we were big enough to need time zones that just completely cracked me up.