We are often tormented here at Polandian with calls of “Why don’t don’t you just go home!” or “England is rubbish anyway!”, so, prompted by Island’s Polish six and aware that we’ve never done a reverse double-flip with pike (posted something negative about the UK) I bring you eight silly things from across the channel so you can all get it off your chest!
Notwithstanding the fact that the majority of Polandians these days are not actually British.
1. Hot and Cold taps
No doubt the worldwide #1 top grossing reason for people to have a laugh at the UK is the tap situation. I recall being given an explanation once that had something to do with bacteria and not wishing to transfer the little blighters from one water system to another insofar as one system (hot) was completely self contained within your house and the other (cold) had links with the outside world via the main supply pipe.
Personally, I think this bacterophobia is a hangover from either the C14th Black Death or the C17th Great Plague. Most likely the latter as before then nobody was really thinking about domestic sanitary systems except for the Romans, who had all gone home 1,200 years earlier to concentrate on runny cheese and unreliable cars.
I grew up with these taps and although you do get used to them the whole idea does remain rather stupid. There are times it is useful though. Imagine if you had just burnt your right hand and wanted to run cool water over it but at the same time urgently needed to defrost a chicken held in your left hand. How would you do that with a mixer tap, eh?
2. Three-pin electrical plugs/sockets
Probably seemed like a good idea at the time – safe, durable – but this really is a case of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I can only imagine that in the early days of electricity people like Brunel were connecting massive 600 Megawatt riveting machines to the grid using these plugs so they had to be up to the task. Nobody bothered to take a fresh look at the design for domestic use.
Fact is that British electricity is very lazy so it needs a whole square metre of metal prong surface area to tempt it to jump across. It is also very insecure, so without a connection to earth it gets nervous and hides in the corner of the socket.
It’s all made worse by an underlying British psychosis that if you leave things plugged in they will kill you, especially if you leave the house for more than 2 hours. This increases the frequency of plug use quite considerably compared to the far more playful attitude displayed toward electricity on the continent.
Take a look at that screw holding the socket to the wall though, now that’s a good idea!
Carpets have been mentioned by quite a few of our readers as a cause of some concern in British living spaces. I grew up in homes where everything was carpeted, even the garden. There’s no doubt that carpet is softer and warmer than wood or ceramic tiles so it does lend a warm and cuddly feeling to the whole domestic scene but I’ll be honest and say that having now lived without it for so long I find the thought of whatever disgustingness might be found if you took a microscope to it quite off-putting.
Never shy to take advantage of people’s phobias, the marketing boys of 1980 came up with “Shake ‘n’ Vac“, which has been selling well ever since. This is a sort of powdered deodorant for carpets that one imagines might also have the properties of a toilet cleaner in killing 99% of all known germs (although it almost certainly does not). You shake this powder all over your carpet, let it sink in for a while and then vaccuum (hoover). Mmmmmmm, tasty!
Fitted carpet has a place in bedrooms but that’s where I would draw the line. Top marks to Skanska then because that’s exactly how they used it in their apartments on Zajączka. We should be honest enough to say there’s little difference between fitted carpet and extensive use of rugs over a wooden or tiled floor aside from the fact that you can take rugs outside, hang them over the metal “rug rail” and beat the living shit out of them!
4. Tattoos, piercing and general chav / bling behaviour.
This is a generational thing. In my England the number of people with tattoos was certainly less than 5% and they were all sailors or skinheads. Piercing (other than earrings) was pretty much nonexistent (even the original punks tended to pierce their clothes more than their bodies) and the words chav and bling had not found any reason to exist. Nowadays, well, you can see for yourself.
I won’t go on about this too much for fear of proving that I’m just a grumpy old man but I am shocked each time I visit the homeland these days, especially by the popularity of tattoos.
A charming way of regulating traffic but a little overused. The Brits use so many of the things that they had to start inventing different types of roundabout to prevent the road planners slipping into a catatonic state during work hours. You now have normal ones, mini ones and the best of all, magic ones! Hemel Hempstead was the proud recipient of the first magic roundabout, AKA the “Plough Roundabout“, named after a demolished pub, natch. Here you have five roads converging on one spot and the way to solve the problem is to have five mini roundabouts that work in the normal clockwise direction housed within an enormous roundabout that you can travel around in either direction. Even the Brits had difficulty with this at first. I’m told there is another one in Swindon.
On average, for every 5 miles of British road there are 26 roundabouts and 17 speed cameras!
Just for a laugh I’d like to transport a bunch of Polish drivers from the amazingly simple Rondo Babka, site of an accident a day, to Hemel Hempstead. As a gesture of goodwill I’d give the emergency services a head start.
6. “Detached” houses (and tiny rooms)
The UK housing market consists of 6 types of dwelling shown here in order of poshness & value:
- A flat
- Terraced house
- Semi-detached house
- Detached house
- Anything in or close to London
- Buckingham Palace
So, for anyone earning less than €500,000 per annum a detached house is likely to be the zenith of your home ownership. You will always pay more for a “detached’ house in the UK, roughly 15% more than a semi-detached according to something I read, even assuming the space and rooms inside are exactly the same. That means in a very averagely priced area you might pay 250,000 quid for a semi and a premium of 37,500 for being “detached”. That’s getting on for 200,000 zlots in our money.
If you imagine this extra dosh will provide you with ranging views across the countryside, room to gallop a horse and shoot a few deer, you’d be very wrong. What it gives you, most of the time, is an alleyway just about wide enough to walk down that separates you from the adjacent homes. There will be other “detached” homes immediately behind yours, at the end of your back garden, and there will be other homes on the opposite side of your street. All these homes will be full of nosey neighbours who will all have great views of your home and garden. Truth be told, I felt I had more privacy when living in a Polish block than I ever did in an English house.
The British love of small rooms is well documented and it’s another thing I didn’t really notice until I’d been away a while and then re-visited the UK with fresh eyes. Hotel rooms in London are the worst case, but the average house anywhere in the country is not far behind. If you do visit anyone and they have a good sized room this is only because they have knocked 2-3 normal rooms together to make a bigger one, for example the lounge, dining room & kitchen. Look for tell-tale signs of structural beams, columns or arches to verify this fact.
7. The hot water bottle
Imagine a large industrial strength condom filled with boiling hot water and with a cap to stop the water coming out. What possible use could that be? Precisely!
The most fun is filling them because the steam shooting out of the neck always blows the boiling hot water all over your arm. If that doesn’t get you then you’ll just pour boiling water over your hand anyway. So then you try to hold them in a funky way to avoid all these issues and invariably drop the thing so the water spills out and scalds your leg/foot. No pain, no gain!
Surely a hangover from the days when the servant would fill a metal box with red hot coals and use it to warm the bed up. Just a way of rolling this luxury down to the proles.
8. Talcum Powder
I must have missed the part in the history books that mentioned the UK being invaded by tribes of Sumo wrestlers and weightlifters because that’s the only reason I can think of for the British obsession with this white powder. I’m not entirely sure what you are supposed to do with it but I think one of the popular uses is to soak up any left-over water after having had a bath or shower and not dried yourself properly.
There’s a distinct possibility that the use has shifted since I was a lad and that today the largest demand for talc is for cutting cocaine. Either way, I’ve not noticed it being especially popular in Poland or elsewhere. I did buy some and bring it over to Poland but it went past it’s expiry date unused (and this stuff has a LONG shelf life).