If you’ve ever traveled outside of the U.S., you’ve undoubtedly noticed the lack of ice in beverages. Do the residents of other countries, especially Britain, hate chilled drinks? Well, no, but the answer is somewhat complicated.
Ask Europeans about their anti-ice preference, and you’ll get an array of reasons and excuses. Some people claim ice takes up too much space in a glass, leaving less room for the beverage. Others will note that ice eventually waters down the drink.
These answers might seem sufficient—unless you’re talking about a glass of water, in which case the argument falls apart. Ultimately, history plays a bigger role than personal preference. To find out why, however, you need to know a bit about the history of refrigeration.
Americans didn’t have a way to keep perishable food cold until the mid-1800s. In 1840, the first ice boxes changed everything by keeping perishable foods fresh for longer (and subsequently driving down the cost of some expensive items).
In 1915, manufacturers introduced the first electric refrigerator. By the 1930s, state-of-the-art models included freezer compartments. These appliances didn’t need ice, as they used a new refrigerant, freon, to keep foods cold. They were reliable, quiet, and efficient, so ice boxes disappeared by the end of the 1950s.
That’s what was happening in the United States. However, the story was different in Europe. Outside of the United States, ice boxes weren’t too common; they were an expensive luxury.
By 1959, 96 percent of American households had a refrigerator, compared to only 13 percent of British households. By the 1970s, most British households had the appliance but most didn’t have an attached freezer. Ice was still relatively rare, and the British never developed a taste for chilled drinks.
What About Tea?
Here’s another beverage-related question for the British: Why do they frequently drink their beloved tea with milk?
First off, it tastes good. Plus, But according to some British, milk plays a major role in preserving China cups. It reduces the overall temperature of the drink, preventing the China from cracking, and it limits stains from strong black teas.
Queuing: Britain’s Favorite Tradition
Ask any Brit, and they’ll tell you all about the importance of orderly queuing (forming lines). How did that habit develop?
While it has a basis in social norms of the 1800s, queueing became a bonafide part of British identity in the early 20th century. During the Great Depression, newspapers published photos of poor British citizens forming queues for social assistance programs.
Then, during World War II, the British began rationing and queuing became a civic duty.
“Propaganda at the time was all about doing your duty and taking your turn,” said Dr. Kate Bradley, a lecturer in social history and social policy at the University of Kent. “It was a way the government tried to control a situation in uncertain times,” she added. “In
“Things that weren’t rationed would go on sale spasmodically, word would go round and long queues would start to form. People often joined the end of a queue without knowing exactly what it was for, they just hoped it would be something useful.”