|Newcomers Guide to the North|
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. Underpants are called "wellies" and friends are called "tossers." If you are fond of someone, you should tell him he is a "great tosser"—he will be touched. The English are a notoriously demonstrative, tactile people, and if you want to fit in you should hold hands with your acquaintances and tossers when you walk down the street. Public nuzzling and licking are also encouraged, but only between people of the same sex.
It’s a little confusing at first. Motorcycles are called "lorries" and the hospital, for reasons unknown, is called the "off-license." It’s also very important to know that a "doctor" only means a PhD in England, not a physician. If you want a physician, you must ask for an "MP" (which stands for "master physician").Habits
Ever since their Tory government wholeheartedly embraced full union with Europe, the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain continental customs, such as the large midday meal followed by a two- or three-hour siesta , which they call a "shag." 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 shag—everyone will understand and forgive you.Universities
University archives and manuscript collections are still governed by quaint medieval rules retained out of respect for tradition; hence patrons are expected to bring to the reading rooms their own inkpots and a small knife for sharpening their pens. Observing these customs will signal the librarians that you are "in the know"—one of the inner circle, as it were, for the rules are unwritten and not posted anywhere in the library. Likewise, it is customary to kiss the librarian on both cheeks when he brings a manuscript you’ve requested, a practice dating back to the reign of Henry VI.Food
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 shag 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 balks 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 doesn’t, 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.Transportation
Public taxis are subsidised by the Her Majesty’s Government. A taxi ride in Scotland costs two pounds, no matter how far you travel. If a taxi driver tries to overcharge you, you should yell "I think not, you charlatan!", then grab the nearest bobby and have the driver arrested. 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 Halls of Residence." A driver will frequently try to have a bit of harmless fun by pretending he doesn’t go to your requested destination. Ignore him, as he is only teasing the tourist (little does he know you’re not so ignorant!).