Recently, I read a blog by *Matt Walsh (link below), detailing the worst casting decisions made for film and TV. Inevitably, Dick Van Dyke came up for his charming role and horrible accent in Mary Poppins. In this particular article, user Bigfoothobbit (the internet is fun) states, "In defense of Van Dyke- he has stated he wasn't sure he was doing it right. But the cast and crew was full of Londoners and nobody ever told him he was doing it wrong. Many Londoners might hate him for it, but apparently there was at least a handful that were ok with it." If I had read this comment three years ago, I might have agreed. Now I know better, and I laughed... a British person would never directly tell Dick Van Dyke that his accent was horrible. They might even smile and say that it was "fine, or alright"- code for non-approval.
I am positive that people all around me disapprove of me constantly but will never tell me. After all, I write a blog about my experiences in the UK as an outsider, I'm sure it is very annoying. Proof of point, I can see how many people read my blog and from where, I have nearly the same amount of British readers yet most of my likes and comments are from Canadians and Americans. Perhaps this is because I have more family and friends in Canada? Perhaps this is a cultural phenomenon? Perhaps my British friends would like me to pipe down a little or don't want me to feel an overinflated sense of worth? Bill Bryson seems to get away with writing as an outsider, with his magical formula of self deprecation and charm. I would argue that we are both great admirers of the culture in general. Also, the British secretly love Americans. Why else would they all watch Friends so much? I can barely make it through an episode. I constantly have to pretend that I know what people are talking about when Friends is inevitably referenced in nearly every conversation.
Other references that are lost on me are anything about British Bake-Off, celebrity gossip (if they are not royals or the Spice Girls I likely don't know who we are talking about), Strictly (Strictly Come Dancing- surely that is a strange show title), basically all of reality TV plus sports. I am up for discussing period dramas or a number of British comedy series, Miranda, Fleabag, Mum, Back to Life, Siblings, Cuckoo, Ghosts, Gavin and Stacey (and more, I love a British series). I read an unhealthy amount of British books as well. If you would like to discuss further, please do let me know! I will make you a cuppa.
Recently, I have been given more specific instructions when making a cup of tea for a guest. I was asked to make it "very weak," which threw me into a panic as I rushed to pull out the teabag and add more milk than I think is necessary. Days later, I was asked for a very strong cup of tea, with milk, at a specific time. This was for someone doing work on my house (none of my friends are this demanding), and I allowed extra steeping time, less milk, then questioned my decision to not use two teabags. I set the alarm on my phone and everything. I'm getting better at offering biscuits. I try to always have some on hand, and yes, I must hide them from my children. I'm sure I've done it all wrong many times.
I remember, while still living in Canada, before I was a (real) tea drinker- herbal does not count, I had a British friend over for a party and she asked if she could put the kettle on. I thought this was strange and mildly irritating as I had Earl Grey Keurig cups for those not drinking coffee. I now know that any tea not steeped in boiling water is disgusting, and the brand or type of tea is just as important. I would like to apologize to that friend. I hope she can forgive me! For the record, I don't even particularly enjoy Earl Grey, it's Yorkshire Tea all the way, if available.
I also once served a British friend coffee with salt instead of sugar, shortly after the twins were born and I was not fully functional (one could argue that fully functional me may not exist anymore). He sipped politely for a time, stared into his cup repeatedly and intently, then stuttered a bit as he said, "this is quite salty." I now appreciate the courage required to utter this statement. As far as I know our friendship survived this calamity. It's countercultural here to not "keep calm and carry on"-another way of saying, "suffer always." However, a mug full of salty coffee is too much for anyone to bear.
It's quite intimidating to make tea for the locals. I feel much more confident these days, although if these specific requests continue, I may need some stress leave. We hosted a birthday party for our six year old twins, my partner made tea for the parents. He was quite nervous, I didn't realize it, but that was his first time making tea for the British, added pressure of it being for people we don't know very well. I think he did alright, no one left early or anything, and all the tea was consumed. Although, that could just be British manners again. It is highly doubtful that we would ever get any feedback. So it's the same fate for us and Dick Van Dyke.