Culture Shock

Brownie80

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Right now, I am typing this at 3:42 A.M. in the morning, from a hotel in New Amsterdam, Guyana. Me and my family are set to leave for Trinidad and Tobago at around 9:30 A.M., however, the only international airport is in Georgetown, the capital. In the week I have been here, my family have gotten sick, traveled on mostly ONE single road, seen dogs, donkeys (and carts the donkeys pull), and goats right in the middle of the road. Me and my family came here to see where my Dad grew up, as he was born in Guyana and was the first in his family, of 13 siblings, to make it to America. My point is culture shock really hits hard, especially in a third-world country. Even my Father said his country seems to have gotten worse than when he was last there, 22 years ago. So my question is:

Have you ever experienced culture shock and if yes, how hard did it hit you.
 

Barbas

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When I first came to England, I was not happy about being uprooted from the place I'd grown up in an ocean away and placed in a cold, wet climate with almost none of the comforts of home. I was further vexed by part of this being my own fault; I had no choice when it came to leaving, but some limited choice over which part of the UK I was going to live in. I chose poorly and, as a result, I wasn't a very happy young man. My first memory of England was landing at Heathrow airport on a grey, rainy day in autumn. I can still recall seeing the miles and miles of identical brick houses stretching off into the smog and thinking, "I'd kill myself if I was told to live here." In retrospect, London was a very interesting place. I just didn't appreciate things like Greenwich park or the architecture at the time because I was busy taking note of everything I could use as a point against the place.

The food in Britain was the first I ever tasted that I consistently threw up. It turned out that I didn't have food poisoning, it really was meant to taste like that. Yes, people really did enjoy having their morning toast fried in grease and fat, with a side of blackened shit that could have been whisked out of a gutter in the walled city by a typhoon - mushrooms, would you bleedin' credit it. Meat was blasted or boiled or nuked while vegetables were treated with even worse contempt. Chicken was usually so dry you had to keep a glass of water on standby. I used to wonder how many people choked to death on it per year. Still, they seemed to eat and drink like they could no longer feel taste or pain and had little desire left to live, so it was difficult to imagine it doing a great deal of damage.

The people could make you throw up, too, just by talking. I remember that was really something. Just standing there listening to some unshaven lout in tracksuit bottoms detailing his latest sexual escapade - "phwoar, I was lookin' at f**kin' wall-to-wall minge, c*nt" - was usually enough. Hygiene and a lot of personal habits horrified me.

The west coast of Scotland was a long exercise in patience. The town of Helensburgh is a place that, despite its undeniably existent charms, I will likely always remember as being "soul-destroying". The thing about the west coast in particular is that you can't get things done. The roads can't stay open long enough due to landslides, accidents or weather. The people, when they're available, have to drive for miles and charge a lot to fix broken water pipes or leaking roofs. When the power goes off or you're snowed in, tough. We were lucky to have telephones and internet toward the end. They even got us a Sky box, which really kicked the boredom.

The first years I spent living in the UK instilled in me a great contempt for the place and almost everyone who lived there. I came to realize over time that if I didn't make a conscious change to my outlook, I faced spending the rest of my life as a miserable, whimpering misanthrope. I feel quite warm toward Britain and its strange idiosyncrasies now. I certainly don't hate it. The west coast in particular was rugged and beautiful and taught me a lot about appreciating what you have, whether that be electricity, warmth or transport. Holding people in contempt never made me happy anyway, it just made me friendless.

I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that the culture shock of coming to Britain forced a change in my attitudes and was consequently a great force for positive change in the quality of my life. Fancy a kebab?
 

Albino Boo

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Barbas said:
albino boo said:
Barbas said:
USN?
It would be most cricket if you could elaborate, my good man. All I got from googling those letters was United States Navy and Ultimate Sports Nutrition.
The normal reason why people not from the UK end in Helensburgh is because they are in the US Navy. In the 80s about 20% of the population of Helensburgh were in the US navy
 

Barbas

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albino boo said:
Barbas said:
albino boo said:
Barbas said:
USN?
It would be most cricket if you could elaborate, my good man. All I got from googling those letters was United States Navy and Ultimate Sports Nutrition.
The normal reason why people not from the UK end in Helensburgh is because they are in the US Navy. In the 80s about 20% of the population of Helensburgh were in the US navy
Interesting. Most of the people I've seen in Helensburgh must be in their 50s or older. British sailors were sometimes visible, wandering about on their own, whenever I visited the place. Only time I've ever seen people who were clearly US soldiers by sight, though, was back in Hong Kong when one of their carriers docked. Helensburgh was apparently very affluent once, but hasn't recovered from the economic crisis. I heard that a lot of Free Polish soldiers settled down in east Scotland after the war. Inveraray had Shermans and other vehicles rolling down its streets in preparation for D-Day, and there was a training ground nearby. I think I found a Fallschirmjäger helmet on display at one of the book sales once.

Sticky toffee pudding really helped with the culture shock. We did not have such a thing in China. This must be rectified.
 

Denamic

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When I was in Britishland and visited a friend, they offered me tea instead of coffee. Fucking weird, man.
 

Dizchu

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Going to London for the first time was pretty crazy. The place is usually depicted as old-fashioned and conservative in most media. Even on the news, you'll mostly get shots of rather mundane things like the London eye, Big Ben and 10 Downing Street. Ohohoho, it was nothing like that when I actually went there.
 

happyninja42

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I went on a cruise when I was a teenager, and went to Jamaica. We were only there for a day, so it wasn't a big shock, but I remember seeing posters of Bob Marley everywhere. I mean seriously, like every damn poster, billboard, store had images of him. I get that he is a very influential figure in their culture, but come on, I live in the South of the US, and even here, the "Yay God! God is awesome! Let's put a Church on every street corner!" isn't as bad as that shit was. Seriously though, in the South, churches are like Starbucks. You walk out of one, and you can see 2 more on the opposite side of the street.
 

Silvanus

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DizzyChuggernaut said:
Going to London for the first time was pretty crazy. The place is usually depicted as old-fashioned and conservative in most media. Even on the news, you'll mostly get shots of rather mundane things like the London eye, Big Ben and 10 Downing Street. Ohohoho, it was nothing like that when I actually went there.
Heheh, the media loves to do that. If London turns up in a film or series, they'll invariably show you a tiny section of central London around the Thames-- Westminster, the Eye, etc. It must give a very wrong impression.

A representative image of London would be a stuffy underground train station, maybe London Bridge at rush hour. Still love the city, though.
 

Gorrath

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My biggest culture shock came from visiting India. Never before had I been to a place where bribery was such an intrinsic part of how government operated at all levels that it was pretty much just seen as a tax. I enjoyed seeing the sights in India but I'm not sure I'd ever want to go back unless things there change drastically. It was something I was prepared for in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, it was not something I was prepared for in a place not so torn apart by war.

I also had rather a lot of culture shock when I first visited Italy. America tends to do things in a rather more regimented way like the U.K. or Deutschland. Italy was great; I loved the people I met, the food, the hospitality and general good nature of the place but I found the lack of queues for anything, the total disregard for driving safety and parking laws to be astounding. At one point we had to get the police to help my father pick up cars and move them around so we could escape a parking lot. We were one big battleship sized 60's era Pontiac in a sea of tiny Italian cars. Thankfully, everyone was more than happy to help even when we didn't ask for it. If we so much as looked like we needed anything, any number of random strangers would come up and offer to assist us, usually ending in embraces and the kissing of cheeks for everyone.
 

Gorrath

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Silvanus said:
DizzyChuggernaut said:
Going to London for the first time was pretty crazy. The place is usually depicted as old-fashioned and conservative in most media. Even on the news, you'll mostly get shots of rather mundane things like the London eye, Big Ben and 10 Downing Street. Ohohoho, it was nothing like that when I actually went there.
Heheh, the media loves to do that. If London turns up in a film or series, they'll invariably show you a tiny section of central London around the Thames-- Westminster, the Eye, etc. It must give a very wrong impression.

A representative image of London would be a stuffy underground train station, maybe London Bridge at rush hour. Still love the city, though.
London was a fascinating place full of people and culture. But I'd rather drive in Mad Max's post apocalyptic world than ever try to navigate the place by car again.
 

Mr Fixit

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I can tell you a story of culture shock & I didn't even leave the country.

Ah the USA so freaking big that no 2 places are the same. When I was about 9 years old my family moved from central Florida to the Appalachian hills of north east Tennessee, a distance of only 738 miles. When we were in Florida we lived in a small, but growing town. We could easily & regularly walk to a couple stores less than a mile away. Here in Tennessee the closest anything is at least a 30 minute drive away.

Now for the people. Ah yes we were all instantly marked as "outsiders" because we were from the "big city" & not country folk like everyone else, so we were weird & strange & not to be trusted. A lot of the stereotypes are quite true, damn near everyone is Baptist with a lot of racism thrown in. I knew a set of cousins that dated, yay inbreeding. It took me forever before I could even understand what people were saying because the accent was so thick, I still don't understand half the people I talk to & I've been here 20+ freaking years. A chair is "cheear", tire is "tar", wash is "worsh" and so many others I can't name them all. Odd differences in what things are called still through me off, for example what I call "lunch" everyone here calls "dinner" & what I consider to be "dinner" is "supper" to the locals.

I could go on & on about the differences, but I gotta stop.
 

Silvanus

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Gorrath said:
London was a fascinating place full of people and culture. But I'd rather drive in Mad Max's post apocalyptic world than ever try to navigate the place by car again.
Oh, gawd, yes. Car is not how you want to traverse London. Using the tube (avoiding rush hour) is something I still quite enjoy, though, for some odd reason.
 

Lil devils x_v1legacy

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Barbas said:
The food in Britain was the first I ever tasted that I consistently threw up. It turned out that I didn't have food poisoning, it really was meant to taste like that. Yes, people really did enjoy having their morning toast fried in grease and fat, with a side of blackened shit that could have been whisked out of a gutter in the walled city by a typhoon - mushrooms, would you bleedin' credit it. Meat was blasted or boiled or nuked while vegetables were treated with even worse contempt. Chicken was usually so dry you had to keep a glass of water on standby. I used to wonder how many people choked to death on it per year. Still, they seemed to eat and drink like they could no longer feel taste or pain and had little desire left to live, so it was difficult to imagine it doing a great deal of damage.

The people could make you throw up, too, just by talking. I remember that was really something. Just standing there listening to some unshaven lout in tracksuit bottoms detailing his latest sexual escapade - "phwoar, I was lookin' at f**kin' wall-to-wall minge, c*nt" - was usually enough. Hygiene and a lot of personal habits horrified me.
...and here I thought it was just me. I am utterly repulsed by what they call food in the UK and have no idea how they actually consume what they eat there. Why do they do that to the food?!! Why?!! Soggy, slimy and bland AHHHH!! One of the things that made me most sick about much of Europe, not just the UK though was the smell. It smelled like rotting corpses in oil, rats and sewage to me and made me feel as though I was suffocating just trying to go about town. I could not get home to the clean air of the country fast enough. The rotting old smells made me have to hold my breath or pull a scarf over my mouth and nose and wish I had a gas mask to walk about town. The old buildings and architecture were amazing, however the smell of them was not. Just thinking about it still turns my stomach. OHH yes, the people... " I think I have to drop an f bomb every other word so I do not sound posh" when it just makes them sound like idiots with diarrhea spewing out of their mouths. Many people think Americans are sexist, racist and rude.. I have to wonder if they ever listened to Brits at a pub.

I am so glad that everything smells like pina colada, hyacinth and lilies at home here..
 

Flames66

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Barbas said:
The food in Britain was the first I ever tasted that I consistently threw up. It turned out that I didn't have food poisoning, it really was meant to taste like that. Yes, people really did enjoy having their morning toast fried in grease and fat, with a side of blackened shit that could have been whisked out of a gutter in the walled city by a typhoon - mushrooms, would you bleedin' credit it. Meat was blasted or boiled or nuked while vegetables were treated with even worse contempt. Chicken was usually so dry you had to keep a glass of water on standby. I used to wonder how many people choked to death on it per year. Still, they seemed to eat and drink like they could no longer feel taste or pain and had little desire left to live, so it was difficult to imagine it doing a great deal of damage.
Lil devils x said:
...and here I thought it was just me. I am utterly repulsed by what they call food in the UK and have no idea how they actually consume what they eat there. Why do they do that to the food?!! Why?!! Soggy, slimy and bland AHHHH!! One of the things that made me most sick about much of Europe, not just the UK though was the smell.
Evening chaps. As an Englishman, I am wondering what what disastrous morsels of food you have been fed? Are there any specific foods you can't stand or is it the general way food is prepared? It would be wonderful to converse on this issue as I have also heard some horror stories about food from across the pond (meat being pumped full of sugar, visitors almost ending up with scurvy due to lack of vitamins, that sort of thing).

Lil devils x said:
One of the things that made me most sick about much of Europe, not just the UK though was the smell. It smelled like rotting corpses in oil, rats and sewage to me and made me feel as though I was suffocating just trying to go about town. I could not get home to the clean air of the country fast enough. The rotting old smells made me have to hold my breath or pull a scarf over my mouth and nose and wish I had a gas mask to walk about town. The old buildings and architecture were amazing, however the smell of them was not. Just thinking about it still turns my stomach.
What is this smell you are on about? It can be a bit wiffy around my area due to a tidal lake and nearby sewage treatment facility, but I can't say I have noticed a pervasive pong in any City Centers.

Barbas said:
The people could make you throw up, too, just by talking. I remember that was really something. Just standing there listening to some unshaven lout in tracksuit bottoms detailing his latest sexual escapade - "phwoar, I was lookin' at f**kin' wall-to-wall minge, c*nt" - was usually enough. Hygiene and a lot of personal habits horrified me.
Lil devils x said:
OHH yes, the people... " I think I have to drop an f bomb every other word so I do not sound posh" when it just makes them sound like idiots with diarrhea spewing out of their mouths. Many people think Americans are sexist, racist and rude.. I have to wonder if they ever listened to Brits at a pub.
Yes. Unfortunately I went to school with many such people. They generally came from quite deprived backgrounds in the inner city. Some of them were quite pleasant once you got to know them, others were just as nasty as their vernacular implied. There were a few fairly nasty racist incidents while I was growing up due to anger over council houses being given to immigrants instead of the people whose homes had been demolished to make way for them. Fortunately I was able to avoid most of it, thanks in part to not understanding it and being fairly oblivious a lot of the time.
 

Lil devils x_v1legacy

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Flames66 said:
Barbas said:
The food in Britain was the first I ever tasted that I consistently threw up. It turned out that I didn't have food poisoning, it really was meant to taste like that. Yes, people really did enjoy having their morning toast fried in grease and fat, with a side of blackened shit that could have been whisked out of a gutter in the walled city by a typhoon - mushrooms, would you bleedin' credit it. Meat was blasted or boiled or nuked while vegetables were treated with even worse contempt. Chicken was usually so dry you had to keep a glass of water on standby. I used to wonder how many people choked to death on it per year. Still, they seemed to eat and drink like they could no longer feel taste or pain and had little desire left to live, so it was difficult to imagine it doing a great deal of damage.
Lil devils x said:
...and here I thought it was just me. I am utterly repulsed by what they call food in the UK and have no idea how they actually consume what they eat there. Why do they do that to the food?!! Why?!! Soggy, slimy and bland AHHHH!! One of the things that made me most sick about much of Europe, not just the UK though was the smell.
Evening chaps. As an Englishman, I am wondering what what disastrous morsels of food you have been fed? Are there any specific foods you can't stand or is it the general way food is prepared? It would be wonderful to converse on this issue as I have also heard some horror stories about food from across the pond (meat being pumped full of sugar, visitors almost ending up with scurvy due to lack of vitamins, that sort of thing).

Lil devils x said:
One of the things that made me most sick about much of Europe, not just the UK though was the smell. It smelled like rotting corpses in oil, rats and sewage to me and made me feel as though I was suffocating just trying to go about town. I could not get home to the clean air of the country fast enough. The rotting old smells made me have to hold my breath or pull a scarf over my mouth and nose and wish I had a gas mask to walk about town. The old buildings and architecture were amazing, however the smell of them was not. Just thinking about it still turns my stomach.
What is this smell you are on about? It can be a bit wiffy around my area due to a tidal lake and nearby sewage treatment facility, but I can't say I have noticed a pervasive pong in any City Centers.

Barbas said:
The people could make you throw up, too, just by talking. I remember that was really something. Just standing there listening to some unshaven lout in tracksuit bottoms detailing his latest sexual escapade - "phwoar, I was lookin' at f**kin' wall-to-wall minge, c*nt" - was usually enough. Hygiene and a lot of personal habits horrified me.
Lil devils x said:
OHH yes, the people... " I think I have to drop an f bomb every other word so I do not sound posh" when it just makes them sound like idiots with diarrhea spewing out of their mouths. Many people think Americans are sexist, racist and rude.. I have to wonder if they ever listened to Brits at a pub.
Yes. Unfortunately I went to school with many such people. They generally came from quite deprived backgrounds in the inner city. Some of them were quite pleasant once you got to know them, others were just as nasty as their vernacular implied. There were a few fairly nasty racist incidents while I was growing up due to anger over council houses being given to immigrants instead of the people whose homes had been demolished to make way for them. Fortunately I was able to avoid most of it, thanks in part to not understanding it and being fairly oblivious a lot of the time.
Oh don't get me wrong, there are plenty of foods in the US that I have the same sentiments about, but being in Texas, we have a bit of a higher bar when it comes to flavor and spice. I use black pepper, white pepper, jalapenos, onions, garlic, cumin, thyme, red and green bell peppers and Adobo leaves among many others when cooking. Not smoking meat with mesquite, hickory and pecan wood is sacrilege here. We still use in ground pit cooking and I get my vegetables straight from the farm and they actually taste fresh. I do not eat anything that has been processed, frozen, canned or microwaved and my meat comes straight from the butcher shop from the ranch where the cattle was raised so you can imagine my shock when eating what is served there. Of some of the things I attempted to eat that were the most repulsive that I think I can remember the names of: shepherd's pie, meatballs, cornish pastry, rumplehumps, steak that could break your teeth, even the mashed potatoes were terrible.. Where is the pepper? Where is the spice? Do they ever use pepper on anything? LOL

I live in the country where the only smells I smell are from my flower garden. It smells very tropical here where I live, and my home was built in 2007, everything is new, clean and fresh smelling. Where I live there are no rats, no roaches and there never have been here since everything is new here even the pipes and sewage systems are new and never had anything built here prior so nothing rotting underneath. In fact, there is nothing underneath except unbuilt earth, no subways, no tunnels, no rotting basements. When I open my front door, I see nothing but trees,fields of flowers, grass, animals and the horizon as far as I can see. No ones pets take a dump on my lawn, there are no smells of feces and urine. While I think Cities in general smell horrific, the older cities smell even much worse since everything in them has an odor adding to it. The rotting under ground permeates everything around you. You probably are immune to the smell since you live there, for me it was so overwhelming the smell alone actually made me vomit repeatedly and I had to take ondansetron to make it stop to be able to make it through my conference.
 

Brownie80

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Culture shock is real, documented, and predictable. The good news is that we evolved to adapt, and we do very quickly. The shock results from trading the familiar that you can fully utilize, for the unfamiliar you're forced to struggle with.
 

Flames66

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Lil devils x said:
Oh don't get me wrong, there are plenty of foods in the US that I have the same sentiments about, but being in Texas, we have a bit of a higher bar when it comes to flavor and spice. I use black pepper, white pepper, jalapenos, onions, garlic, cumin, thyme, red and green bell peppers and Adobo leaves among many others when cooking. Not smoking meat with mesquite, hickory and pecan wood is sacrilege here. We still use in ground pit cooking and I get my vegetables straight from the farm and they actually taste fresh. I do not eat anything that has been processed, frozen, canned or microwaved and my meat comes straight from the butcher shop from the ranch where the cattle was raised so you can imagine my shock when eating what is served there. Of some of the things I attempted to eat that were the most repulsive that I think I can remember the names of: shepherd's pie, meatballs, cornish pastry, rumplehumps, steak that could break your teeth, even the mashed potatoes were terrible.. Where is the pepper? Where is the spice? Do they ever use pepper on anything? LOL
Interesting. I take it you do not live in or near a city? I grew up in a small village near farms and could frequently smell flowers, plants and other natural fragrances, along with manure and unwashed animals. I prefer those smells to inner city piss stained street corners and pollution. I now live on the edge of a relatively small city, so can experience both within easy walking distance.

Many Brits do prefer fresh meat and veg. Local super markets often have a butchers counter and fresh fruit and veg section within them. My local shop has a very fine bakery as well which produces freshly made bread and pies daily. All this is in the same shop as the frozen, processed stuff with very little flavour. In the rural area I grew up there was a chap with a chilled van who would deliver fresh vegetables called Les the Veg.

I agree about the lack of spices. Most British cooks I have encountered do not use very many. Salt and pepper are the staples, and these are often not added during cooking, but left on the table to be sprinkled on later.

One thing I must disagree with you on is the Cornish Pasty. It is one of the best foods going, both nutritious and tasty, and is a proud cultural export of my area. If you continue your anti pasty crusade I will be forced to beat you within an inch of your life with a tin of corned beef (I joke, but seriously don't dis the pasty).
 

Barbas

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Flames66 said:
Evening chaps. As an Englishman, I am wondering what what disastrous morsels of food you have been fed? Are there any specific foods you can't stand or is it the general way food is prepared? It would be wonderful to converse on this issue as I have also heard some horror stories about food from across the pond (meat being pumped full of sugar, visitors almost ending up with scurvy due to lack of vitamins, that sort of thing).
I don't know if they still put a lot of corn syrup in darn near everything in the US, but that was a horror story I was told. In the UK, a lot of the food I came across was just prepared as if by someone who had a near-primitive understanding of cooking and gave next-to-no tosses whatsoever as to the quality of their food. The breakfasts and similar fried food in hotels and service stations were hideous to try and keep down, but the overpowering smell of fats, oils and greases was the worst part.

In Scotland, you have to ask for a roll (doesn't matter what's going in it) not to be buttered, or it's not uncommon to get a knob of the stuff slathered all over the filling. A bit of a shame when it overpowers the taste of everything else in there.

All that being said, though, it's gotten a lot better. My parents have come up with much worse stories in their time, particularly when it comes to shortages.

Lil devils x said:
One of the things that made me most sick about much of Europe, not just the UK though was the smell. It smelled like rotting corpses in oil, rats and sewage to me and made me feel as though I was suffocating just trying to go about town. I could not get home to the clean air of the country fast enough. The rotting old smells made me have to hold my breath or pull a scarf over my mouth and nose and wish I had a gas mask to walk about town. The old buildings and architecture were amazing, however the smell of them was not. Just thinking about it still turns my stomach.
Shit. Is that a joke about the dark ages? I can't say I ever noticed anything that bad in my time here. o_o

Lil devils x said:
Barbas said:
The people could make you throw up, too, just by talking. I remember that was really something. Just standing there listening to some unshaven lout in tracksuit bottoms detailing his latest sexual escapade - "phwoar, I was lookin' at f**kin' wall-to-wall minge, c*nt" - was usually enough. Hygiene and a lot of personal habits horrified me.
Lil devils x said:
OHH yes, the people... " I think I have to drop an f bomb every other word so I do not sound posh" when it just makes them sound like idiots with diarrhea spewing out of their mouths. Many people think Americans are sexist, racist and rude.. I have to wonder if they ever listened to Brits at a pub.
Yes. Unfortunately I went to school with many such people. They generally came from quite deprived backgrounds in the inner city. Some of them were quite pleasant once you got to know them, others were just as nasty as their vernacular implied. There were a few fairly nasty racist incidents while I was growing up due to anger over council houses being given to immigrants instead of the people whose homes had been demolished to make way for them. Fortunately I was able to avoid most of it, thanks in part to not understanding it and being fairly oblivious a lot of the time.
Some dicey stuff a little like what you're describing (the racial tension bit) was something I noticed when I visited parts of London in the 90s, though I didn't understand it at the time. I remember not going anywhere without a relative due to some doubts about the safety of the neighbourhoods we were travelling through. As far as language goes, I don't think anyone really knows what "potty mouth" means until they've visited Britain - though I have learnt some hilarious phrases, blue jokes and expletives from a relative who joined the army there.