All nationalities have their own funny little ways of doing things, and the British are no exception to the rule. Indeed, I sometimes think that, as a nation, we tend to go out of our way to be awkward and to do things rather differently from the rest of Continental Europe. This is not deliberate of course, it just happens that way. Let me give you a few examples.
As an expat, I will never get used to continental electricity plugs, sockets and light fittings. They look positively dangerous to me. I am used to those good, solid three pin plugs with a green earth wire for good measure.
That green wire is just so reassuring. Used throughout the UK and Ireland, they look and feel much safer that the flimsy two pin efforts that are used in Europe. Mind you, even they are sublime design creations when compared to the flimsy prongs to be found on electric plugs in the US and Canada. Where did they get that idea from?
As for light fittings, just don’t get me started on that one. I managed to electrocute myself a few weeks ago whilst changing a light bulb in our bathroom. I have never previously switched off electricity at the mains before just changing a light bulb, but apparently I should have done. Silly me, I thought that when the light switch was ‘off’ no electricity was coming through the circuit.
Apparently this is not the case over here, and I am fortunate that I was only standing on a low pair of steps at the time, and did not have my hands in water. Anyway, it did give the electrician a few laughs when he checked out our circuitry. Not only is our system in perfect condition, but I was then lectured about how I should always switch off at the mains first… I felt like a five-year-old.
Those readers who have visited Spain and the Canary Islands will also know that kettles are never provided in hotel bedrooms. This is, of course, to ensure that visitors only purchase drinks from the hotel bar.
However, for those of you who go self-catering on holiday, have you noticed that only very rarely is a kettle provided? Usually, it is one of those rather silly saucepans with two handles. Whoever heard of boiling water for a cup of tea in a two-handled saucepan? Most sensible travellers that I know always carry a portable kettle in their suitcase, just in case.
Bread makers and slow cookers? Well, until recently you could forget trying to get those two wonderful appliances in Spain and the Canary Islands. I know of many expats who have brought their bread makers with them from the UK, and were unable to replace them when they finally died.
As for slow cookers, well I was told by one lady in a department store that as Canarians never did anything slowly there would be no market for them. I am still trying to work that one out.
Did I mention two-handled saucepans? Yes, I resolutely refuse to call them pans, but will stick to the term that I have grown up with – saucepans. As a Brit, I really do detest those two handled things, particularly as most do not have insulated handles and so even the most dedicated of chefs needs asbestos hands to handle them.
I rather like the single-handled variety of saucepan, because I can hold the saucepan with one hand and stir or read with the other. I am no chef, but it seems logical enough to me.
I suspect that the two-handled variety to be a cunning invention of the French to throw the Brits off guard. Of course, the chefs over here tell me that the two-handled varieties of pan are perfect for putting in the oven. Come off it, who in real life actually puts a saucepan in the oven anyway? Mind you, it’s not all bad; I really do like our magnificent Spanish paella pan.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Letters from the Atlantic’ (ISBN: 9780992767136). Available as paperback, as well as on Kindle, iBooks and Google Play Books.
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© Barrie Mahoney
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