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The great escape

The joy of seeing Britain through American eyes

Bibury, Gloucestershire. Getty

After 12 years of living in Britain, says Brian Klaas on Substack, I’ve become a dual US-UK citizen. Here, in no particular order, is what I’ve learnt about my adopted home. “There is interesting history everywhere.” Growing up, I was taken on a school trip to see a building in Minnesota because it was built in 1891; since moving here, I’ve lived in a cottage constructed more than four centuries ago, in 1578. (“It had no closets. The floor was slanted. It was lovely.”) The villages are “utterly charming”; the pubs wonderful. “There is virtually zero risk of getting shot.” British people are, for the most part, “friendly, polite and terrified of social awkwardness”.

There are plenty of oddities too. Many bathrooms don’t have a light switch; instead, you have to find a little string hanging from the ceiling and pull on it. “Nobody knows why.” Some people still warm up by pouring boiling water into a rubber bag – a “hot water bottle”, they call it – and press it against their bodies. “Yes, even in the 21st century.” Regional accents seem to change within the span of a few dozen miles. In contrast, I sound like a generic suburban Midwesterner who could “conceivably be from an area with a 1,000-1,500-mile radius”. And driving in the country can be a nightmare. Lanes can be so narrow that motorists have to reverse to what’s called a “passing place”, sometimes a great distance back, almost invariably over large tree roots. “Both drivers are obligated, by British social law, to wave.”