“Quite” seems a very British word.  It’s used a lot here.  Americans think of the sophisticated Englishman in the movies saying a bitingly sarcastic “quite” in response to… probably something an American said.  It’s used often in common speech as well.

As an American coming to Britain, I used the word “quite” more than I did in the US as I heard it used all around me and I wanted to fit in.  But it was only after several years in the country that I realized I was often using it wrong.

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A dry sense of humour

The British tend to dry their clothes by hanging them to air dry, either indoors or out.  Americans tend to use an electric or sometimes gas tumble dryer.  A British female friend says it’s because British women aren’t as fat and therefore can wear more Lycra, which doesn’t do well in the heat of a dryer.

I myself haven’t used a “clothes line” as we call it in the USA since I was at University living in a student house.  Ever since then, I’ve had access to a dryer.  But since moving to the UK and living in three different houses, I’ve never had access to a dryer.  I’ve been re-introduced to the good fresh smell of air dried clothes, and especially the smell of outdoor-dried clothes in the summer.

Funny that in such a damp country as this, people depend on the air to dry their clothes.  But as wet a country as it is, it’s still a more a practical one.  Even the solidly middle class here don’t use dryers.  They also have cars, refrigerators, and houses that are half the size of American ones.  Yet everything is as big as it needs to be.

So you drive on the left, but where do you park?

The British drive on the left, as Americans and Europeans know, making driving there daunting for right-side drivers. But driving on the opposite side is only the beginning of troubles for Americans visiting Britain.

One big challenge for Americans is the size of the roads.  We’re used to wide roads of consistent width and free from obstacles.  British roads are often narrow, with parked cars on both sides, leaving only enough room for one car to pass at a time.  Oncoming cars regularly cross the center line in order to go around parked cars and the driver must be prepared for this to happen without warning.

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