Important cultural differences…

Alright, I admit, the title may be slightly misleading. Unless you classify ice cream and light switches as important, as I do.

So there are many and varied differences between the US and the UK, and for some reason it seems to be something that I’m asked quite frequently by Americans when I’m chatting to them. “So what’re the biggest differences between here and the UK?” they say. And despite how many obvious and huge differences there are, it’s actually rather difficult to name any of them when put on the spot like that.

Well, now I have a specific and immediate answer I can give whenever presented with that question in future. It might not be what most people are expecting, or the most interesting answer, but you can’t fault it for it’s pragmatism.

Light switches in the UK look like this (without all the chrome and fancy black plastic, but the general shape remains the same):

Now, imagine you’ve just made your evening meal, and you’re holding your plate of food in one hand and your drink of choice in the other and you’re about to walk out of the kitchen, but you don’t want to leave the light on. You have no choice but to ineffectually jab at the light switch with the edge of the plate over and over again until you either catch it just right and turn the light off, or spill your lovingly prepared food onto the floor. Was the floor hungry? Possibly. But you didn’t need to feed it just yet. And certainly not with that bolognese you just made (with tagliatelle, philistine).

American light switches have overcome that problem quite nicely. Observe:

You see that? The majesty of the little nubbin sticking out so brazenly into the room like that? Now all you have to do, chow in hand, is wander past and deftly catch the little bugger with the edge of the plate, your finger, hell, flick it with your nose if the fancy takes you.

Light switches, eh? It’s the simple things that make the difference.

Also, ice cream.

There are so. many. more. flavours of ice cream here. It just doesn’t seem fair. The UK market gets maybe, conservatively, 20% of the available flavours that the US has access to. Now, admittedly, it’s cold in England a lot, and so ice cream isn’t going to be such a big thing, but even so. We like our after dinner niceness, dammit, and I resent the fact that we only get thrown a metaphorical bone when it comes to the flavours on offer.

Today, for instance, I purchases some Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns ice cream, which is not available in the UK as far as I’m aware. Caramel ice cream, (pronounced ka-ra-mel, not car-mel, tch) with cinnamon bun dough and cinnamon streusel swirl. Oh God it’s good.

But then, I hear it’ll be snowing in parts of the UK soon, so maybe ice cream isn’t at the top of their list of priorities…


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