Social Etiquette For The Uninitiated English Person(s) Visiting America.
1 – At the dining table.
For thousands of years, human beings have created and developed tools for the purpose of making their lives easier and more comfortable. The dining room is no exception and the human being has crafted wonderful instruments in which to transport it’s food into it’s mouth. Here in England, we have the knife and the fork to serve such purposes. Of course the knife and fork has served many a culture and society. In the USA, the knife and fork are presented as a decorative feature to the dining table and serve no purpose other than to be a mere jolly folly. After many years of social evolution, the American will use his or her hands to transport their food to their mouths. A fork may be used and is acceptable for the more complicated items which may be a little more difficult to transport to the mouth. The English person must be warned NOT to use a knife as this is deemed anti-social to the American at the dining table. If a knife is used to manage one’s food, a punishment may be handed out by the indigenous authorities. Up to one year in jail may be given to the person(s) who dare use a knife to cut and handle their food at the American dining table. Alongside the imprisonment, the person(s) will only be supplied and permitted to eat tomato soup from a bowl using only a fork during the allotted detainment. Be warned! DO NOT use a knife! Use just your hands and if necessary – just the fork.
2 – Safe pencil work.
If you are scribbling, sketching, writing or otherwise with a graphite or lead pencil and suddenly realise that you have made a mistake and do not have a device to clear the mistake, your only option may be to ask for such a device. Here in England, we call such a device a ‘rubber’. Under no circumstances ask your American friends, aquaintances, store assistants or otherwise for a ‘rubber’. A ‘rubber’ according to the American language means something utterly different to the rubber we would use here. Of course, some folk in England may use the word rubber to mean the same as it would to our American friends, but this is a very rare occurence. The American equivalent to ‘rubber’ is ‘eraser’, so ask for an eraser and ‘erase’ your mistakes. In America, you are much safer using an eraser rather than a rubber and one can avoid problems with impregnatng everybody’s mind with any confusion. While erasing your mistakes with your eraser, you could use such phrases as ‘I am erasing my mistake’ or ‘I have erased my mistake’ or simply say nothing at all and merriy erase your mistake while feeling happy and contented in the knowledge that you have made one small step to adapting to the American way of life. Remember, under no circumstances use the word ‘rubber’ when asking for an eraser – even if you have no lead in your pencil!
3 – Pets & Animals.
Most of us love animals or even own pets. If the English person wishes to communicate his or her affections about animals and pets to his or her American friends, please think carefully about how to approach this seemingly innocent situation. DO NOT ask to ‘stroke’ a pet or animal while talking with an American person. It will not do to ask an American if you can ‘stroke’ his or her pet. Replace the word ‘stroke’ with ‘pet’. In the USA you ‘pet’ pets, for example, you may say ‘I have petted your cat’ or ‘can I pet your snake?’. It would be socially unacceptable to ask an American ‘Can I stroke your snake?’. This would appear to be crude and very ill-mannered indeed. Some people in England refer to a cute cat as a ‘pussy’. DO NOT use this word in America and never, ever under any circumstance use the word ‘pussy’ and ‘stroke’ in the same sentence! Failure to do so could result in deportation from the country.
4 – Knowing your boundaries.
If one day you decide to go or stumble into a bar, club, pub or otherwise and happen to meet a complete and utter stranger or suddenly aquaint with somebody from out of the blue and they offer to buy you a drink or vice-versa – think about the possible consequences of such an action or behaviour. The unwise English person must tread very carefully or risk having half of his/her assets being vulnerable to possession. Before the unknowing English person has even left the bar, club, pub or otherwise, he or she may need to seek legal advice and a lawyer to start a divorce proceeding. Stop, look and listen! Legal aid can be very expensive, on top of the already exisiting risk of losing one’s possessions. It may be acceptable here in England to receive or buy a drink or even indulge in a round or two with a newly aquainted friend, but in America it is as good as saying ‘I do’ to a priest in a holy church. If you are already romantically involved with an American counterpart, be very, very aware of your behaviours and actions. Failure to do so may result in the English person being nulled of any further activity in bars, clubs, pubs or otherwise and the English person will be subjected to a gross disrespect from the whole of America after being named and shamed by Oprah Winfrey on her popular television chat show.
Remember, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’.
More to follow after I get out of jail, waited for access back to the USA after deportation, found a lawyer and sought legal advice and erased my sins in a foreign land.
(Written December 2007).