There are certain things so ingrained into the custom of your home country that you never really examine them closely; It’s not until you go travelling, meet people from all over the world and then try to explain them that you realise how weird they really are.
I first noticed this while talking about Eurovision to my Canadian friends. There is just no way of painting an accurate picture without showing exactly how barmy it actually is. Their faces were a canvas of pure bewilderment, and it made me see something through their uninitiated eyes. That something suddenly seemed very odd indeed.
It’s happened more than a few times since and never fails to crack me up. Apologies for the non-Brits reading this, but may you enjoy laughing at our culture.
I’ve had these moments when explaining:
“So, about 400 years ago a bunch of terrorists tried to blow up the government to establish a Catholic rule by putting a load of gunpowder under parliament. Their plan failed and now every year we make huge bonfires, get drunk and set off fireworks.”
“Oh yes, every year people get horribly burned and maimed. They make special warning adverts for the telly. It’s so much fun!”
….which leads us to:
Guy on the Fire
“Children just love to make a life-like replica of the top terrorist Guy Fawkes and then throw him on to the fire and watch him burn with joy in their eyes. So magical.”
Eurovision Song Contest
“Loads of european countries enter a performer or band to sing a song. They’re always crap and each country votes in a massively political way. It’s massively camp and it lasts for about five hours with half pot that being the scoring. We never, ever win anymore because everyone hates us.”
Having curry after a night out
“So, you know when you’ve had a massive night out and have drank about eight pints? What you always want to do is sit in a curry house for an hour at 2am and eat a huge spicy meal. With more alcohol at double the price it was in the pub.”
“So every year when Lent begins we make pancakes which are then doused in lemon juice and sugar. There are also pancake races in most towns where everyone runs holding a frying pan and flipping a pancake. The winner is the person who reaches the finish line first with their pancake. The prize is pride.”
“When Christmas rolls around we all go and watch a show that will have one of four fairytale story lines so everyone knows the ending, and it will star a D list ex-soap actor. Most of the female characters are played by men and every single line tends to have a sexual subtext. It’s great for kids.”
“A load of people chase a wheel of cheese down an extremely steep hill. half of the people watching are paramedics because most of the contestants will end up with some form of minor injury. It’s a popular national sport.”
Letting the old year out
“After counting down to midnight and signing Auld Lang Syne you have to run out of the back door, around the front and come in carrying coal. This means that…errm…good luck? Everyone does it.”
Drinking tea to cool down
“Bloody hot day today, eh? How about I cool us all down and make us a round of lovely, refreshing, scalding hot tea? That boiling water really perks you up on a sweltering afternoon like this.”
“So, we take the seed of a chestnut tree and put it on a piece of string. ‘Experts’ bake or soak theirs in vinegar so they’re extra hard. Then children hurl them at each other until one conker is destroyed and therefore defeated. What do you mean it doesn’t sound safe?”
Do you find any of these weird? Or have you never thought about it? Is there a tradition from your country people find strange that you’ve never thought about? Or is the UK just super strange?