Britain—the land where tea reigns supreme, rain is a fixture in the forecast, and cookies are actually referred to as “biscuits.”
Yeah, there are some things about England that many Americans can't wrap their heads around, and one of the biggest ones is the spaces they call home. What's so weird about them? There are actually quite a few things any Yank will find a little strange.
The “bathroom” isn't what you'd think.
In America, ask where the bathroom is and you'll essentially be directed to any room that contains a toilet. Not in Britain, though. They are apparently very literal and will show you to a room that contains a bathtub or shower, even if it doesn't have a toilet.
To get to a place where you can actually do your business, you'll need to ask for the toilet, a lavatory, or even the loo, if you want to put some British lingo to use.
Oh, and about using the toilet…
Most of us wouldn't think about going about the rest of our day without washing our hands after using the toilet—and if you leave the bathroom without doing so, ew.
Unfortunately for those among us who are germ-obsessed, you'll be displeased to learn that some British homes don't always have a sink in the same room as the toilet.
This isn't true for all houses, but there are some in which you might find a room with a sink but no toilet, or a toilet but no sink. Yes, that means you may have to wonder around a bit before you can actually wash your hands, and we'd advise you not to think about all the germy possibilities this could bring too much.
Hot and cold water don't mix.
That is, unless you do it yourself. In American homes, we obviously have separate handles for hot and cold water, but we’re able to mix the two temperatures to create a stream from the solitary tap that feels comfortable to us. In some houses in Britain, on the other hand, there are two separate taps as well.
There is a good reason for it, though. Around the end of World War II, British homes were designed in a way that could expose their water tanks to the elements if they weren't maintained properly. In these older houses, a water tank was usually placed in the home’s attic. That tank fed a hot water storage tank for central heating and hot water. However, if any part of the attic degraded to the point where water could get in, the water tanks could become rusty or covered in silt.
In some cases, rats could even make their way into the tank, where they'd just float around until someone found them and pulled them out. That means that the water coming from that tank (the hot water) isn't technically drinkable. The water from the cold tap, though, comes from the main lines from the city and is perfectly safe to drink.
If you find a "mixer tap" in a British home, that just means it's a newer home.
Their electrical sockets have an extra feature.
In America, we typically unplug certain things from the electrical socket when we’re not using them or just make sure things like lamps are turned off when we’re away. In Britain, though?
The actual outlet has a switch that turns it on and off, so plugging something in won't make it turn on automatically.
Their plugs are actually pretty interesting, too.
Like many electrical plugs used in America, British plugs also have three prongs. However, the prongs on American plugs are all the same length, while the prongs on British plugs aren't. This is because they're designed with safety in mind.
The top prong on the plug is the longest piece, and is essentially what grounds everything when the plug is plugged in. The shorter prongs are the two that actually deliver the electricity to whatever you're using, and they're designed this way so that no electricity is delivered if they're not pushed in all the way. That way if anything is lodged in the socket, no electricity can run through and cause a problem.
Their bathrooms often don't have light switches.
It's not uncommon to have a pull-cord to turn the bathroom light on. In American homes, we typically only see pull-cord lights in places that we don't find ourselves in that often, like the attic or a storage room in the basement.
Forget about this small detail when you walk into a British bathroom, though, and you might just have that cord for the lights hit in you in the face as you search for the nonexistent switch along the wall.
They might not have a basement, either.
Many Americans—particularly those in the northern half of the country—view basements as a must-have in their homes. Some are used for storage, and others are finished and used as an extra living space. They're really not that common in Britain, though, especially the type of basement that you could furnish and use to hang out in.
In the homes and buildings that do have them, they're typically more of a cellar—dark and damp rocky spaces that you might think would be better suited to a secret creepy hideout than a place you'd want to put any of your stuff.
If you're looking for a little extra space to unwind…
You'll likely find it out in your backyard shed—think the end of Shaun of the Dead, when Shaun pays a visit to zombified Ed for a round of video games. Sure, you can stash the lawnmower back there, too, but sheds are often used by British folk as a space to practice their hobbies—kind of like an outdoor craft room.
The garage might also be a good place for this kind of thing, but many British homes don't have them and, when they do, they're really not that big.
They have a system for utilities that's actually pretty interesting.
So, we can guess you've all heard of pay-as-you-go phones, right? We bet you haven't heard of that system being used for utilities, though. In certain British homes, that's exactly what people are allowed to do. They simply go to a local store and exchange money for credits that will be added to their account.
We have something similar in America—estimated utilities—which keeps track of how much of a certain utility you use each month and bases your bill around that average so you can better estimate what you need to budget. Some British utility companies actually do this, too, a vast improvement from their old system, which required families to drop coins into a machine when they needed more of a certain utility.
The summer months might feel a little toastier indoors.
Get ready for this one if you're someone who’s always hot, because it might change the way you think about living in Britain: many houses don't have central air conditioning! They're not gluttons for punishment though; the need for air con, as they call it, in homes is rare.
Even in the summer months, rain is a fairly common occurrence in England, so even the hottest days are more often overcast and a little cooler. Their summer temperatures aren't usually likely to get anywhere near as hot as those in the United States anyway, so any air conditioning unit they did have would only be used a few days a year, if it was even needed at all.
Think about it this way—even as a hurricane plans to send warm air Britain’s way, their temperatures will still remain in the high ‘70s at the highest. We don't know about you, but we'd trade those temperatures for sweaty summer days anytime.