This wind-up article appeared recently in an American
magazine informing them that, should they wish to
travel to the UK, they would need a few helpful tips.
By all accounts it was taken seriously by a lot of
The Brits have peculiar words for many things. Money is referred to as
“goolies” in slang, so you should for instance say “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.
- MAKING FRIENDS
If you are fond of someone, you should tell him he is a great “******” he
will be touched. The English are a notoriously tactile, demonstrative
people, and if you want to fit in you should hold hands with your
acquaintances and ******s when you walk down the street.
Since their Labour government whole-heartedly embraced full union with
Europe the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain continental customs,
such as the large midday meal followed by a 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, alas, do not work there due
to the magnetic pull from Greenwich). If you are late for supper, simply
apologise and explain that you were having a wank - everyone will understand
and forgive you.
One of the most delightful 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 Mazola and have it on you when you ask directions to the
yerinals. That way people will know you are an experienced cottager.
- FOOD AND WINE
British cuisine enjoys a well-deserved reputation as the most sublime
gastronomic pleasure available to man. Thanks to today’s robust dollar, the
American traveller 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. If he baulks at your request, custom dictates that you jerk your head
imperiously back and forth while rolling your eyes to show him who is boss.
Once the waiter realises you are a person of discriminating taste, he may
offer to let you peruse the restaurant’s list of exquisite British wines. If
he does not, 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. When the bill for your meal comes it will
show a suggested amount. Pay whatever you think is fair, unless you plan to
dine there again, in which case you should simply walk out; the restaurant
host will understand that he should run a tab for you.
Public taxis are subsidised 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” then grab the nearest
policeman (bobby) and have the driver disciplined. 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 fare of thruppence (the
heavy gold-coloured coins are “pence”), and state your destination clearly
to the driver, e.g. “Please 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, he is only teasing the American
tourist little does he know you’re not so ignorant!). For those travelling
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.
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 organisation - 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.
Safe travels and Bon Voyage!