The Ultimate American

Any college student’s semester-abroad blog will acquaint you with the funny words, confusing idioms and quaintness that surrounds much of British culture.

Ooh – wellies! Hehe – lorry!

Oh the biscuit-cookie confusion, and chip-crisp conundrum. How delightful.

I make light, but there are subtle linguistic differences I still haven’t fathomed after eight years. The culture shock of living in a place so different yet so similar to where I grew up can still give me pause.

You know when you are little and you and your siblings have a secret language that only you (and everyone one else who ever learned pig latin on a playground) know?

Sometimes my American culture seems like obscure, insider knowledge. But I’m the only one in-the-know for thousands of miles.

Now, they aren’t earth shattering, essential elements to one’s life (I don’t think anyone feels life would be incomplete without mailboxes or Jeep-Eagle dealers) but the loss of common, shared experience and cultural reference points is surprising.

Here are some random examples from my last week or two:

Here, no one leaves school with the achievements of Eli Whitney forever branded on their consciousness. They never had vocabulary words like Carpetbagger or made a dreamcatcher at summer camp (the entire notion of summer camp being utterly foreign).

Here, no one reads Make Way For Ducklings or Where the Wild Fern Grows, and big yellow school buses are just something you see on tv.

Here, no one appreciates festive Jell-O (an arguable victory) or has grits, ever, and Taco Bell is the stuff of legend.

total aside, can you believe there was a nationwide Jell-O Mold Design Competition? EXACTLY.

After a visit home, I once brought some Hershey’s Kisses to work was told “wow. There are real? I saw them in a movie once.”

There is no Thanksgiving, sure, or Fourth of July. But Memorial Day, Labour Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Day, and even Flag Day are off the calendar too. Oh, and Mother’s Day is moved.


It’s never the things I expect either.

I mean, why did Captain Planet make it across the pond and not Ghostwriter?

Why Pop Tarts but not Toaster Strudel?

Why Crayola but no Elmers? Who doesn’t want a cute cow on their school glue? I mean really.

And – I am almost done ranting, promise – peanut butter. What would life be without peanut butter?


Imagine a childhood without PBJs. And not knowing who George Washington Carver is. (wait, what’s grammar again? hm.). I literally pity the fool.

While peanut butter is readily available in supermarkets in the UK, it’s an obscure condiment (usually found near honey and jars full of cherries).

Peanut Butter is a novelty item, not a staple. And where it does exist, you won’t find Jif or Skippy or Peter Pan.

Reeces cups are only just starting to be stocked in my local grocers. Don’t even ask about the special seasonal egg or pumpkin shaped ones.

Buckeye Balls? Forget it.


Now sure, my palette has grown significantly in a whole world of new foods, and my early dependency on a sugary-butter substance masquerading as protein-intake is probably best left in the past.

But my undying obsession with peanut butter cookies is evergreen.

And at last, I have at last found an everyday peanut butter cookie recipe to love.

Magnolia Bakery and Smitten Kitchen, I am beholden to you.

And while no one here will understand this when I tell you the dough smells like the first pack of Do-si-dos opened in Spring, and the finished morsel is the exact texture of a Keebler Soft Batch cookie; everyone, anywhere will tell you they are delicious.

her photo, not mine!

ps. I need a lifetime supply of peanut butter chips shipped over stat.

send c/o The Expat Kitchen.

4 Responses to “The Ultimate American”
  1. Anika says:

    I would seriously DIE without peanut butter. I have no idea how that is not a national condiment. I had the HARDEST time in Spain without it. Who would have thought? I’d never been super in love but I def had it more often than I thought apparently, and after it not existing in my life for 5 months, I have been positively obsessed with it ever since, appreciating every delightful spoonful.


  2. Hilary says:

    Ghostwriter made it to NI and was awesome – we’re not called the most eastern state of the USA for nothing. (Unless of course that too is regional-specific joke, and no one else actually calls us that? Discuss).


    • serasara says:

      No wonder I like you and your country so!

      Also, I totally wore a pen around my neck for like a year. Raise your hand if you are surprised… Anyone? Bueller?


      • throckmorzog says:

        Things not to miss about the US: In 1930, the republican- controlled house of representatives, in an effort to alleviate the…anyone? Anyone?…the great depression, passed the…anyone? Anyone?…the tariff bill? The hawley smoot tariff act? Which…anyone? Raised or lowered?…raised tariffs, in an effort to…anyone?…collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know?…it did not work…this is called…anyone? Something d-o-o economics…anyone? Voo…voo…voodoo economics.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: