England vs America

little shops on a quaint london streetPeople are always asking me, “What’s the difference between herein England and America?”

So I realized I needed to form some stereotypes in order to better represent myself at the bar. And defend England. In a way.

Next time an Englishman asks his English question: “Why would you come here from America? I’d rather be in California! ” I will be able to respond , “Well, yes, but at least you don’t have to show your IDs to cops and it’s acceptable to hang out in the pub all day!.”

Here ya go: An 100% accurate sociological descriptions of life in Northern England as observed by an American gal working in a local pub and shopping at Tesco four times a week. Ta!

England vs America

real ale in a british pub

mmmmm. real ale.

In England, alcoholism doesn’t really exist.

I mean, there’s plenty of people who drink. But are you really going to call your hardworking uncle Steve an alcoholic just because he’s spending every evening from 5 – 7 at the pub? How could you when you’re always there to greet him – that’s just after tea revelry. Still think there’s a problem? Then bring the family down on Sundays, little Lucy and Dave can have juice and crisps and try their luck at the slot machines while uncle Steve and uncle Joe yell at Steve Moyes.

When greeted with the question ‘How are you,’ Americans will over-exaggerate their accomplishments, while the English can be downers.

The Northern greeting: “Hiya, are you okay?” or sometimes just, “you OK?” serves as a rhetorical question to engage friends, family and acquaintances, but you don’t really want to hear the answer. The acceptable answer is something like: “just getting by,” or, “I’m still alive,” and sometimes even, “Having a shit week.” Your friends will nod and understand and buy you a round of drinks.

Don’t say ‘happy,’ ‘excellent,’ or ‘great,’ the Northern Brits will look at you like you’ve just ingested too many cheap drugs from Amsterdam. Or they’ll just think you’re “slow.”

As we all know, this differs from American culture. If your friend says, ‘just getting by,’ you steer clear of that depressed loser.

and who knows what happens when a Northerner greats a Southerner

In America, the customer is always right. In England, the customer is a nob-head who needs to be put in his place.

Want to send back your food? Are you SURE there’s a problem. That looks fine to me, you fucking trouble-making wanker.

Want to return an item? Are you SURE you didn’t use it? That looks like a scratch to me, you careless scam artist.

Sometimes I miss –>walmart<–

police close road to hunt down a cut off penis

English cops and English journalism at their finest

English cops are friendly.

Lost your way? No problem, the cop is the civil servant of your dreams, eager to point you in the right direction lest you accidentally create crime by walking the wrong way. English cops also engage in the community with suicide prevention, taxi services for solo women, hitchhiker relocation, amputated penis hunting, and humour therapy.

You can politely decline to show your ID and all the police can do is berate you: “You mean to tell me two American tourists with large backpacks don’t have their passports on them?” “No, sir. That would be dangerous. One doesn’t want to get robbed, does she?” “Right-o! Quite true. One must be safe.” “It’s ok, officer, let me just write down my full name and address…”

On the more dangerous side, they don’t carry guns.

Vests

All workers that come anywhere close to the road wear vests in England. So do bicyclists and bus drivers, construction workers, postal guys and kids on field trips. Not just vests, ugly, over-sized fluorescent colored vests that identify exactly who they are and what is there business. When I first arrived in England I feared all vested humans, assuming they were some kind of police, security or swat team. Now I understand that they’re just poor lost socialist souls stuck in a state-sponsored job.

Haha, you silly American. It’s safety! You’re too much of a gun-toting barbarian to understand all these safety precautions!

CCTV..

Don’t think it prevents anyone from thieving, but you can’t escape the watchful eye. You are being watched at the grocery store, you are being watched outside your home, you are being watched while you drive, you are being watched as you hit on that cute librarian girl, you are being watched in the porta potty…Big Brother is everywhere!

But then again, he wears a bright orange vest and doesn’t have a gun. So is he really something to fear?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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munich's english garten in the summer

The Summer Was SUCCESS!!!

The Missing Weeks-in-Review

Looking back, I realized the Week-in-Review stopped right before we got super success busking in Germany.

Um, yeah, so I guess we looked pretty crazy there for a minute, right? But the last month was pure curry wurst paradise.

So many wonderful things happened; I mean, we made  enough moolah for a new laptop. And found out food in Germany was busker-approved-cheap! And did we mention the price of beer? Or how easy and fun it was to sleep in the downtown parks? Yup, that was another perk. And the uber fast hitchhiking. Maybe it was just the summer, but July ended the Western Europe part of our tour really amazingly.

And now to return you to the Week-in-Reviews… We last saw you off with the most epic ever hitchhiking adventure on Week 12. Now onto Week 13, where we are awarded for “American Ingenuity,” and go skinny dipping in Munich to the chagrin of the reserved Germans.

 

 

dover has drug problem uk
Busking in the UK camden town

Busks This ::: What We Learned

Busking in England

Every time I asked a UK busker, “Do you have any advice for musicians that come here?” their instinctual response was always, “England sucks for busking. It’s better in mainland Europe.” That better damn well be true because the UK was an uphill struggle. With the exception of Glasgow and Liverpool, we were working our asses off to make £10-20. Which is $15-30, an essential amount of money for two backpackers, so we’re not complaining. However, we’ve had a much easier time busking in certain U.S. cities (oh, Alexandria, how you are missed!). We’d like to blame the weather, but after visiting Normandy, we can’t.

Even though all buskers complained, everyone and their mother’s sister’s lesbian-lover’s 5 year old son is a busker. I’ve never seen as many guys with guitars walking around town in my life. The junkies do it, the musicians do it, the school kids do it, the bands do it, the professionals do it, the gypsies do it, the guys in banana suits do it, the office workers do it on their off day. The pinnacle of two many buskers would be Bristol’s Bear pit, a concrete park with four under-road walkways leading above ground. Every single tunnel had a busker in it, but it was a terrible spot. I never saw a busker get tipped. I never got tipped.

Location and timing are the keys to doing well.

The best time to busk England is by far the lunch hour, around 11-3. The wonderful thing about British cities is that they all have pedestrian-only streets in the city centres, and tons of strolling traffic.

The thing that really annoys this American is that these city centres clear out at around 6 pm when all the shops close. The entire town goes the fuck to sleep. This is okay in a big city like Bristol, a college town, or London, duh!, or Glasgow (er, not British, but similar layout). But if you’re thinking you’re going to busk some of the small towns in the evening, don’t bother. For us American buskers, this was counter-intuitive as 5-9 is usually the best busking hour in the states. Not so in England. Even if you can busk the late night crowd, evening busking in England is really slow. 

Finding the right location can help with that. Smaller town England can be ok if you’re there in the afternoon For example, Lichfield, a far-out suburb of Birmingham and hardly a tourist city, turned out to be more profitable for us than Birmingham itself. That’s because we busked it during the lunch hour. We also did a lot of research on other buskers that suggested small towns south of London are good.

But really, the best cities are the tourist ones. Not London, because it’s too big and has too many rules and attracts fearful tourists who think everyone’s out to rob them. But the slightly smaller tourist cities: Liverpool, Glasgow, Bristol are the ones we played. We’ve heard Brighton, Bath and York might be really good. Oddly enough, some of the cities with more and better competition were a lot more profitable! So over saturation in large towns wasn’t a problem. Honestly, if I were to busk England again, I would ask my grandma (or somebody else’s grandma) what places she wants to visit and go there. Or maybe check Lonely Planet.

One more quick note on timing: we think we might have jumped the gun for arrival. As in, it was cold, cold, cold! and all the English families were still in school and not traveling around much. And it was cold, cold, cold! and raining. The English told us that’s as warm as England gets, but we don’t believe them.

Glasgow is the one exception.

Even on the first weekend of May, with constant rain and temperatures of 10°-12° C, we were pulling in about £20 an hour. And considering the quality of the competition, I’d say that’s pretty fantastic! Plus, the Scottish people are very nice and Glasgow is far more picturesque than most of England. I’m sure the English won’t disagree. Now I wouldn’t go there in the winter necessarily, but it seems like a city that pulls in a lot of tourism. Thumbs up to Glasgow!

Enough of that, let’s ask the buskers:

The best interview I had jumped the boat somewhere before France. It was of a Scottish busker who walked on nails, did body manipulation, etc. He’d traveled all around the world busking, and you could tell he was successful and knew his craft. His advice: Canadians are the best tippers, stick to the coast and look for smaller tourist towns where people might know English. Also, Australia is great. 

Great tips.

UK Challenges Revisted

Almost a month later we’ve conquered all our challenges the same way we’ve conquered the UK. Yup, enough seen, time to leave.

£ money english currency in pence, notes, coins pennies

Pounds don’t get you much coffee

But in case you were going to follow in our footsteps, here’s how to deal with the things that initially stumped us.

1) Finding outlets/charging equipment 2) Finding the internet 3) The price of coffee

Not long after I posted that “UK Challenges” article we discovered a solution to all three of these problem in one easy retail joint. Our solution turned out to be your favorite American coffee chain: Starbucks! Turns out the British like Starbucks just as much as Pacific Northwesterners, meaning there’s one every couple of city blocks. Even in the smaller towns, you can expect a Starbucks. And, as in the states, they have free wifi without requiring a passcode. Here’s the best part: they offer drip coffee for £1.50 with free refills. So you get something that’s a luxury in England (filter coffee) for a cheaper price than all that fancy schmancy espresso stuff, and they give you a refill so you get a lot of caffeine! Yay for cheaper drugs.

Now, I know this sounds a little bit like a Starbucks advert, but hey man, I’m just saying, when you’re living in a fucking tent down by the canal and you gotta be connected to the internet at the same time, coffee shops are a haven! And when you’re traveling on foot, you don’t want to be walking around to every single shop checking to see if they have wireless, and then checking to see whether or not the shop requires a phone-operated password to connect to the wireless. So it’s easier just to go with the consistent and know that finding internet can at least be easy.

The internet has always been essential to our travel operation: we need googlemaps to figure out directions, we need to wikipedia research towns, we need to stalk our rivals online, and we really need to tell you exactly what we’re doing at every moment of the day.

broadmead

The uber downtown shopping mall extravaganza of Bristol

There are some alternatives to Starbucks as well:

In England, both KFC and Burger King have both free wifi (sans phone password) and filter coffee. Although you have less luck finding outlets in either.

Some English libraries have wifi. In the bigger cities (i.e. Birmingham, Reading) you can access the internet even as a foreigner. In the small towns, however, the libraries may not have wifi at all.

Cafe Nero does not require a phone passcode to access their internet. Their coffee is also overpriced.

One more thing to add about finding amenities in a UK town. Every single town we visited had a similar layout: a pedestrian mall at the centre of town. That meant that if you needed food or camping gear, or small supplies like tape, glue, etc, you could be assured that there was an Argos (department store), Tesco (grocery store), Sainsbury’s (grocery store), Poundland (the dollar store!), or other chain supply store downtown. This was very convenient for us backpackers looking to purchase cheap goods without traveling to the outskirts of the city.

newcastle2

Clouds, more clouds and no people

4) The Weather

Never improved. I guess that’s where the English get their fantastic sense of humour from. They were too busy having tea whilst Summer (last Saturday) passed them by. I believe it rained 6/7 days of the week the entire time we were there. Nothing left to do but shoot up heroin and write about the gloomy sky crying out it’s woes.

We did solve some of our problem by buying a tent. It was stupid of us not to travel with one, but, you know, we figured we’d be making enough money to rent a mansion the minute we landed in London. Instead, we made enough money to buy a mansion of a tent, which is superior because you can be a temporarily disadvantaged millionaire in camaflouge and the British will never know the difference. The tent solved another problem: British schoolchildren standing over our sleeping bags at 7 am and asking if we were alive.

charityshop

I ❤ charity shops

5) How to find a Thrift Store

Booyah! These are everywhere. Fantastically so! England has “Charity Shops”, English for “thrift store,” lining their downtowns. They also have the song Thrift Store playing in all bars and major radio stations. Some common ones are: The British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, The British Red Cross, and your all-time-favorite, The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army Charity Shops are the crappiest.

6) Finding directions

Eventually you just acclimate and figure out where to look for road signs. Of course, we got lost all the time because not only are roads not labelled at every intersection, but also they change names and sometimes make U-turns. The only thing that makes up for this is the fact that the English have courteously placed road maps for you at every other intersection in the tourist areas of town. At least they know their cities are difficult to navigate!

7) Hitchhiking with all our gear

Well, that’s our own damn fault, but other than being exhausted at the end of the day, we didn’t have any problems getting hitchhike rides. In fact, based on the car-counting measurement of hitch-hikability, England is far more hitch-hikable the U.S. The only times we failed to get a ride were on the outskirts of a shopping mall in Bristol and the ferry to Dover. The first one was the fault of bad location. The second was the fault of a bad location. Otherwise, our chariot arrived within 150 cars and an average time of about 15 minutes. And the space worked out. Put your pack in the boot!

8) Finding toilets

Got much easier once we left London. Turns out fast food in England is like fast food in America – the employes are too underpaid and foreign to care whether or not you’re using their bathroom without paying. Cool! Also, grocery stores usually have bathrooms. Also, libraries usually have bathrooms. Also, if you’re in a large party town at night they may stick urinals on the side of the road, where the street signs should be.

bristol toilets in broadmead public resource

Bristol has not so hideous public toilets!

9) Being sick.

Well, lucky this one went away! We can’t blame the weather for that, unless the weather built up our immune systems and we developed stronger constitutions. We did drink a lot of ginger beer. Maybe that was the solution. Or maybe we have more English blood in us then we think.

 

Crapbot in Glasgow weird street musicians Scotland box head
london underground and overground hopping

Week Two – In – Review

All in all we spent too much time traveling week two. We accomplished our goal to reach Blackpool, but didn’t get much time to busk.

Day 8 (April 22nd)

Monday. Awoken by the drizzle. Damn the weather, we are soaked. No joke. No time to cry, though, time to get da fuck out of Bristol. Another introduction to giant English shopping malls. Failure to hitchhike on the traffic-cone blocked slip road. First meeting with the cops. They are so nice, they might be actors in a Month Python skit. We walk 12 miles through the English countryside just to find another slip road.

Gloucester Barge House Boat PlantsDay 9 (April 23rd)

Tuesday. Yesterday’s walking pays off with two easy hitchhike rides to Gloucester. Gloucestershire resident warns us that Gloucester is terrible – busking nets us a total of £4.50. Just enough for a bus ride to the motorway. Birmingham must be better! Get a ride with Cathryn who gives us our first in-home English tea. A nice hostel sleep to round out the day’s adventure.

Hitchhiking Through Birmingham, England (United Kingdom)Day 10 (April 24th)

Wednesday. Birmingum. East Cack gets a temporary library cards! Crudbot meets Tony Iommi’s star. Kinda cool. Other than that, no luck busking the city. Why stay on a rain day? We walk another 5 or so miles out of town to thumb out of Birmingham. Sleep in a park and wake up to School kids running away from us.

Day 11 (April 25th)

Thursday. The cops taxi us to Lichfield to keep the dual carriageways (2-lane highway) safe. Lichfield turns out to be buskable – we meet the same sax player we saw yesterday in Birmingham. £15 richer we ride the bus to Stafford with kids getting off school. Plan to busk Stafford, but when we get there (6 pm) the town is cleared out. What do British people do at night?

blackpool tower restaurant ukDay 12 (April 26th)

Friday. Operation make it to Blackpool. Two bus rides, one hitchhike ride, one more bus ride and…done! A nice night of rest in the hostel to avoid the super Irish sea cold.

Day 13 (April 27th) 

Saturday. Reunited with Tony the dancing Brit of past East Cackalacky legend (Lemon Grass Cafe Show of June 21st, 2011). Busking nets a small profit of £10. Discover the detriments of 7.5% cider. Tony is gracious enough to let us sleep in his house all evening before dragging us to an after-hour party B&B get together. We meet a cat that fetches money, we speak French with a windmill operator and then we discuss the pros and cons of turning 50 with two British cougars. Yes Alice, the rabbit hole is deep.

Day 14 (April 28th)

Sunday. A day of recovery from B&B madness. And laundry. More busking for small pocket change. We work on repertoire and resurrect Crudbot as Sir Crapbot.

Week Two Lessons

The weather sucks, the weather sucks, the weather sux. (C’mon guys, stop whining!) Hey! The weather sucks! Hitchhiking has eaten up our time. Thank god we have a friend in Blackpool!

Woah! Is That The Three-Week Mark Up Ahead?

I guess we’ve been doing this ‘busk the world’ thing for almost three weeks now!

Time to get nostalgic about everything that happened in the past few weeks. And congratulate ourselves. Here we go –

readinghike

The Cack After Hiking Through Reading, England

Week One-In-Review

Day 1 (April 15th)

The Beast finds a new home in Patchogue, NY. Bye-bye buddy. At JFK, we receive a lecture about one-way tickets, but are allowed through the gate anyway.

Berlin Bear in RejkyavikDay 2 (April 16th)

Iceland: Tom sleeps. Sharmini gets 30 minutes of Rejkyavik. London by 10 pm. Our first doner kebab.

Day 3 (April 17th)

Don the new personas: sherpa tourists. Backpacks on, we march through London. Our second doner kebab. Unimpressed by much but the double decker busses. Our third doner kebab. At nightfall, we’re in Uxbridge camping out.

Day 4 (April 18th)

Meat pies in the morning. We mean to hitchhike. But where the hell do they keep onramps around here? A walk from Uxbridge to Slough, then a ride from Slough to Maidenhead, then another walk from Maidenhead to the motorway and finally we reach a slip road to hitchhike. Our first ride runs a brewery. He drops us off in commuter Reading. Did I mention that England is fucking cold?

Day 5 (April 19th)

It’s music time! Acquire a 3/4 sized nylon string guitar. Hey – it’s only £25! More buying fun – giving our time to Charity shops, Guitar takes us for a walk to the motorway. Another hitchhiking ride. Success! All the way to Bristol. We are comforted by the sound of police cars & fire alarms. An American lullaby in England. That plus discovering English Starbucks has cheap brewed coffee and free wifi- life can only get better!

Broadmead in Bristol Shopping CenterDay 6 (April 20th)

Stripped-down busking. T on guitar and S on hardware saw and vocals. The Dutch saw makes nice squeaky sounds. We get to feel devious by playing in front of the atm £22. The junkies hate us. Our nth doner. Sleep under Clifton tower. Try not to be scared by seagulls that sound like drunk assholes.

Day 7 (April 21st)

More busking. This time we try Broadmead, the shopping mall. About the same slow £10/hour middle-American-like rate. Oh well. At least this busking thing is working! Our first cider: meet a scouser and (mumble unintelligent drunk name) who offer us 7.5% cider & vodka in exchange for “something John Lennon”. Scouser falls asleep on the steps curled up like a baby.

Week One Conclusions

British food sucks. Busking in England is meh – but maybe we just need Crudbot. Doner is great – don’t care what the English say. England is like America but they have funny words for streets and highways and trunks and almost everything else. All music originated in England, don’t try to pretend otherwise.

MAP IT!

 

sharmini with abortion guys in blackpool england