Archive for the ‘Life in the UK’ Category

The commentary for the Olympics on the BBC is just fantastic. Much better than the more dispassionate reporting I’m used to in the US. It took a little getting used to the announcers rooting hard for their fellow Brits, but it’s really quite endearing. They are also a little more forward at times with their commentary, even if it’s a little off color.

The most poignant comment I’ve heard thus far occurred a couple of days into the games whilst Gary Lineker (the BBC One evening host) was lamenting the fact that Britain had yet to medal. He consoled his audience by saying “but you’ll be happy to know that the German’s have yet to medal as well!”. The pub I was in just erupted in laughter…what a brilliant line! The scars from WWII run deep…



Potholing? Seriously??

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Life in the UK

So apparently the British term for spelunking is potholing….as in pot-hole-ing. i.e, exploring potholes. Like those things that make your car go bump-bump-bump, but are not your hydraulics….



“The better Andy Murray gets, the more English he becomes” – my wife’s coworker.


Of course, for those of you that don’ t know, Murray (the first British tennis player to make the Wimbeldon Finals since 1938) is actually Scottish, not English. I’m sure the Scots are loving this one….

I’ve never lived at a latitude as far north as, well, all of the UK. With the summer solstice approaching and the days growing longer than I’ve experienced for most of my 30 years of existence, I find myself working later into the day with more energy. For example, today I was just keepin’ on keepin’ on, gettin’ my research on like LL Cool J mackin’ on broads, and before I knew it I was sharing the communal lab space with just the middle eastern fellow in the neighboring lab (aahh, working in a European lab). Then I glanced at the clock and my eyes bugged out when I saw it was 7:30 already! Hot damn, I wasn’t even tired. Even had enough energy to pound out an abstract for an upcoming meeting my adviser has been hounding me about (for no reason, the damn thing isn’t due for another week or so) before leaving at 8.

Then I realized, that pang of guilt I feel when leaving the lab “early” at 5:30 on some days over the past couple of months is because of how damn light it is outside. There’s something unsettling about leaving work when it looks like noon outside. It’s funny how we entrain ourselves to our native light-dark cycle.

The thought then occurred to me, if I lived in the arctic circle right now I’d probably work 24hrs straight before noticing. Weird….

First Football Match

Posted: April 22, 2012 in Life in the UK

Being an avid sports fan I had to get myself to a football (soccer) match here in the UK. There is a local team which I ostensibly support that recently had a “derby match” (a match between local teams) that had some implications for movement between divisions in the Premiere League.  So it was a pretty intense game, and the experience was very different from anything I’ve experienced at numerous sporting events in the US.

Firstly, if you are an American and you ever want to lose the stereotype we have as Americans that English accents sound distinguished and polite, go to a football match…this is not a family event! There were fans (both male and female!) yelling and calling the other team “cunts” and “dickheads”…my favorite was when one fan asked another in front of him to sit down so he could see the field, the reply was “fuck off friend!”. My other favorite was considerably more tame, when one fan taunted the linesman after being late and missing an off-sides call for being “unfit! You are an unfit linesman Stuart! and you have skinny legs!”. That one just cracked me up.

One of the other things I found quite odd was that they completely separate fans that support the away team from those that support the home team. Away fans are herded into one small section of the stadium all together, the idea being that this helps prevent fights from breaking out all over the place (I guess the fans are a lot tougher than the players falling all over the field). Unfortunately, this also makes it much easier for the away fans to coordinate one of their many “fight songs”. Which brings me to one of the other differences: the fans sing…a lot. There’s not so much chanting as a helluva lot of singing various fight songs (oh how I miss a good “bullshit” or “asshole” chant; or the taunting of a goalie, or the best of all, a sarcastic cheer!). You would think you were at a friggin’ musical with incomprehensible songs being emitted every minute or two; nuts.

Oh yea, and they don’t do high fives here after scoring a goal…something to keep in mind so that if you are ever at a game and the home team scores a goal, you don’t raise your hand expectantly in the air towards friends and other fans while they look at you like you’re a whack job.

Overall, it was quite fun and the fans were refreshingly passionate, however it made me very much miss  my suite of North American sports (especially now that the hockey playoffs are full swing; LETS GO FLYERS!!!).

Kickin’ it Stateside

Posted: August 12, 2011 in Life in the UK, Worldview

I recently had the opportunity to head back to the good ole’ U-S of A over the past week to be in the wedding of a good friend. After living in the UK for almost a year now, it offered a chance for me to see the US from a fresh perspective. Some of the things I noticed:

1) US roads are very poorly marked. Unless you know wtf you’re doing and where you are going, it’s a nightmare. I’ve never been a fan of GPS (Sat Nav) and have always gone the route of maps or Google maps if need be. I was visiting an area on the east coast not far from where I grew up in New Jersey so figured I didn’t need a damn map, but I had a devil of a time finding the “city centre” of one of the towns I had to go to. In Europe and the UK there are tons of signs pointing one to the center of any small town or village. WTF USA…not very tourist friendly I must say….although the one thing the US does to better is street signs. It’s such a pain in the ass in Europe and the UK when you have to squint your eyes to try and see a street sign plastered 25 feet up on the side of the building…yea, that’s useful.

2) Again, the roads…I’ve noticed that roads in the UK and Europe are always marked with respect to cities and not necessarily directions (i.e, M3 towards London, not M3 South). I’ve always find this kind of annoying, but now I see the logic in it. All you need to know is the relative location of a handful of major cities, and where you are going in relation to it, and you are golden. In the US, unless you are on an interstate it can get very tricky, other roads like county roads, highways etc. don’t always run in the direction in which they are named (e.g, 22 east will run north at times…) which can take you way way off. Damn Americans.

3) Alright, the food in the US is about 1000% better, on average, than in the UK. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the area, but just getting a falafel wrap from a street vendor in Philly was better than just about every sandwich made in the UK I’ve had thus far. Oh yea, and if you’re ever in Philly and want the best damn cheesesteak of your life, go to Jon’s Roast Pork (Pat’s and Geno’s are complete rubbish, Jim’s on South Street is decent after a night of drinking, Campo’s, Tony Luke’s and Phillip’s ain’t bad…but Jon’s Roast Pork is THE best by far, 12oz of rib eye my friend)….eat that shitte or whatever RisottoProf says…

4) We Americans are a bunch of arrogant jackasses that don’t give a hoot about the rest of the world…oh well…whuddyagonnado?!

5) I didn’t realize how much I missed the in your face attitude of east coast city folks in the US. While at Jon’s Roast Pork a yelling match broke out between a customer and the guys behind the counter because he waited 40 minutes for his cheesesteaks (the response…SOME PEOPLE WAIT OVER AN HOUR FOR OUR STEAKS!). Now that’s something you don’t see in the UK…wow, it’s funny the things you miss…

Hmmm…I guess that’s it for now…I keep meaning to post about British and American stereotypes, so I think I’ll stop here and leave some juicy bits for that post.

British vs US media

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Life in the UK

There was a great article in the Washington Post a few days ago about the differences in the media in the US vs Britain. I found it particularly enlightening as I have struggled to comprehend what it is we see at the news stands here. At first glance, it all seems like a bunch of rubbish to us. Tabloids that aren’t worth a moment of our lives. While after reading this article I now have greater appreciation for the art of British journalism, I find it hard to get over my cultural bias of seeing it as half-truthed nonsense. Nonetheless, for those of you out there following the Murdoch phone hacking shenanigans, this may provide some important context that is missing from a lot of the American reporting.