Gag gifts for person emigrating to the UK
May 31, 2005 8:39 AM   Subscribe

A co-worker is moving from the US to Britain and we'd like to give her some gag gifts to prepare her for the move. We'll serve curry at her goodbye lunch.

So far we've come up with
* Colossal jar of mayonnaise and the Hellman's Mayo Cookbook
* Gift basket of dental items (toothbrush, whitening strips, floss)

And that's about it. Any other suggestions for a soon to be expat?
posted by Atom12 to Travel & Transportation (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Run up a quick guide to field spotting Royals.
A "speak slowly, I'm an American" button.
A translation guide...things like Bangers and Mash and Spotted Dick on the menu need some explanation.
Someone ambitious could make Scottish eggs.
posted by dejah420 at 8:59 AM on May 31, 2005

Gift basket of dental items
Oh that is funny. Continuing the foreigner ha ha ha theme, how about:
* Weightwatchers membership
* Some kind of vocal attentuator (a megaphone wired in reverse?)
* Decent clothes and matching shoes
* A pass for public transport
(and can someone please explain the mayonnaise?)

The umbrella is a good idea, though. As would be an A-Z of London and/or a map of the underground, if that's where they're going. Not sure if they're "amusing" enough, though.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:07 AM on May 31, 2005

I think your friend needs an inflatable Jesus, or at least a couple of action-figures.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:08 AM on May 31, 2005

for puddingdesert - why not stewed rhubarb in custard?
posted by andrew cooke at 9:09 AM on May 31, 2005

For some reason that is not clear to me, I have come across several USasians who pined after angel food cake mix while living in Britain. You may want to add a few boxes of said mix to your gift basket to forestall this weird craving, should it seem likely to occur.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:14 AM on May 31, 2005

A friend of mine, who was living in the UK at the time, once gave me a bottle of English wine as a gag gift. I know next to nothing about wine but it was pretty bad. Maybe a local wine shop could sell you a bottle.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:22 AM on May 31, 2005

Jokey: An ill-fitting baseball cap
Anything related to George Bush

London A to Z (mini sized)
posted by cushie at 9:29 AM on May 31, 2005

Why the Mayo? They have Mayo in the UK
posted by daveirl at 9:35 AM on May 31, 2005

A knife, an ASBO and a copy of Axel F by the Crazy Frog.
posted by fire&wings at 9:40 AM on May 31, 2005

Debrett's Guide to Etiquette and Manners

Also confused by the mayo...
posted by blag at 9:45 AM on May 31, 2005

London A to Z (mini sized)

Do you think she'll fancy going to the next feeble attempt at a UK MeFi meet-up?

Please bear in mind that London is not the whole of the UK. Ordnance Survey can provide superior maps of the whole place at a range of scales.

Don't forget to give her a slap in the face whilst filming her on your mobile phone. Have you considered gathering up printouts of the horror stories occasionally linked to from MeFi about the collapse of society in the UK?
posted by biffa at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2005

The UK'rs put mayo on everything so I've heard.
posted by geoff. at 10:28 AM on May 31, 2005

Why the Mayo? They have Mayo in the UK

You're missing the point. It's not so much to give the co-worker things she'll find useful as much as to amuse the group with patently stereotypical items as gifts. (The mayo is funny because the English are well-known for their lack of cuisine, and over-use of mayonnaise.)

That said, how about a framed picture of the royal family?
posted by Specklet at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2005

Black Pudding, although that's Scottish really.
A nerdy anorak and a train spotting guide (to pander to the stereotypes further).
posted by darsh at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2005

Why the mayo? I take it you've never been to a sandwich shop over there. Egg salad. Salmon salad. Tuna salad. Ham get the idea.

They won't be living in London. It'll be scenic Watford.

Thanks for all the great suggestions!
posted by Atom12 at 10:51 AM on May 31, 2005

How about the Fawlty Towers DVD?

I'd like some bread and salad cream.
Well, there's the bread, and there's the mayonnaise.
I said *salad cream*, stupid.
We don't *have* any salad cream.
What a *dump*.
...The chef made that mayonnaise fresh this morning.
That's *puke*, that is.
Well, at least it's *fresh* puke!

Waldorf Salad is a must.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:02 AM on May 31, 2005

A hoodie
posted by darsh at 11:05 AM on May 31, 2005

Hm.. I think you'll find we put ketchup on everything, not mayo - you may be getting confused with some other nationality?

A tin of Heinz baked beans though, you'll need one of those.
Fake Burberry cap.
England (football) shirt (too expensive, probably).
posted by cell at 11:22 AM on May 31, 2005

Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island would be a good introduction to British from a US ex-pat's perspective.
Having worked in the UK with a US ex-pat, and often dealt with Americans visiting the UK office - a book that explains the cultural differences between the British and US work places would be cool (Bryson's book does that in a round about way). I know it is a cliche to say this, but without exception, all the Americans I've dealt with are utterely bewildered at first by the way that so much spoken is drenched in irony and dry sarcasm. The fact that someone can say something to you, with a completely straight face, and yet mean something completely different can cause problems and has caused me problems. It seems it does take some getting used to! There's someone in the US office that I am sure to this day thinks that we have a festival in Britain where we celebrate the burning of Catholics, which is kind of unfortunate.

It always amuses me how Americans have this thing about British cuisine being bad. I mean, a lot of it is bad and if you were say Italian or French, you'd be absolutley in your right to critisise it, but an American mocking British cuisine is a bit pot-kettle-black.
posted by chill at 11:57 AM on May 31, 2005 [1 favorite]

Actually, what they put on all sandwiches in the UK is butter..
posted by gfrobe at 11:58 AM on May 31, 2005

oh, ok. i understand the sandwich filling thing, but mayonaisse itself isn't used that much at home. at least, when i grew up, it was one of those funny foreign foods that you didn't eat (some context - i was probably a teenager before i had spaghetti that didn't come out of can, and pizza, and i don't think my parents ate even indian food until a few years ago...).

chips (french fries) is what my partner noticed - we eat chips with everything. at the canteen where we worked (although this was in scotland, which isn't england - you can think of it something like a backyard where we keep the stuff that won't be damaged by the rain) you got chips with eveything. even curry and rice (so it was curry, rice and chips).

so i'd suggest chips (french fries), and spaghetti in a can.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:23 PM on May 31, 2005

As a practical gift, give them a cups/tablespoons/teaspoons to milliliters converter so they can take their favorite recipes with them.

When I lived in London, my crude volume approximations ruined many a batch of pancakes.
posted by nyterrant at 12:25 PM on May 31, 2005

yea - we're not known for mayo: what an odd stereotype. You may have us confused with the Dutch, who serve fries with mayo as opposed to ketchup. HP Sauce is what you really want to give (HP stands for Houses of Parliament btw) - you can get it in any specialist British store, and you get a list of specialist British stores from your local consulate - here's the link to the one for the southwest.
Heinz beans are another British institution, along with of course toast, marmalade and tea. As are full English breakfasts, so maybe a frying pan would be useful?
I think the funniest thing would perhaps be some sort of ice tray for your friends' fridge - Britain is notorious for serving warm drinks. Some Charles and Diana kitsch would be good too - there's plenty on ebay.

And FWIW, Hellman's Mayonnaise is freely available in the US - it's just marketed as Real mayonnaise. Also you might want to check customs on that colossal jar; I believe - like liquor - there may well be UK import restrictions on mayonnaise ;-)
posted by forallmankind at 12:36 PM on May 31, 2005

Ha ha ha - Waldorf Salad is definitely a must: the scene where Basil offers the irate American guest a letter of apology from the chef encapsulates cultural differences between the US and UK to absolute perfection.
posted by forallmankind at 12:39 PM on May 31, 2005

Perhaps some things to introduce her to British humor, like Coupling, The Office, or Monty Python on DVD?
posted by geeky at 1:41 PM on May 31, 2005

Ha ha ha No2

andrew cooke: how about moussaka & chips?
posted by forallmankind at 1:49 PM on May 31, 2005

"we're not known for mayo: what an odd stereotype."

Trust me. You guys like mayo. A lot.
posted by interrupt at 1:50 PM on May 31, 2005

how about moussaka & chips?
sounds good to me
posted by andrew cooke at 1:55 PM on May 31, 2005

Ha ha ha No3

interrupt: Trust you? I should trust an American to tell me what the British like? Sheesh - you guys!!! Next you'll have the cheek to tell us we're well-known for our lack of cuisine....
posted by forallmankind at 2:03 PM on May 31, 2005

Coal? As in taking coal to Newcastle. Geddit? (Ha! I kill myself!)

I don't recollect any overdose of mayo when I visited, but the bacon is weird. It's more like ham than anything else.
posted by deborah at 2:26 PM on May 31, 2005

forallmankind: Apology accepted.
posted by interrupt at 2:44 PM on May 31, 2005

I lived in England a year, and I missed two things that seemed really strange to miss:

1. Hershey bars. This is absurd because the chocolate in England is (generally) soooo much better. But after a year of super-rich milk chocolate I was absolutely CRAVING a waxy old hershey with almonds.

2. Sam Adams Boston Ale (or Lager). Also strange since there is an absolute cornucopia of amazing beer in England. Somehow, though I missed good old Sam toward the end. (Now, of course, I would kill for a hand-drawn pint).
posted by Yellowbeard at 2:48 PM on May 31, 2005

It always amuses me how Americans have this thing about British cuisine being bad. I mean, a lot of it is bad and if you were say Italian or French, you'd be absolutley in your right to critisise it, but an American mocking British cuisine is a bit pot-kettle-black.

Actually, many Americans don't eat what you think of as American food at home. They eat the food of their ancestors. So Americans of British and Irish extraction eat bad food. Americans of Italian extraction (like my family) eat good food.

posted by dame at 3:10 PM on May 31, 2005

I would get them a can of Murphy's Irish Stout because all of the native brews of England are CRAP.
posted by Livewire Confusion at 3:26 PM on May 31, 2005

A beer chiller/cozy
Self-tanning lotion

California cuisine is actually highly praised. "American" food must be something they eat in the flyover states. ; )
posted by cali at 3:32 PM on May 31, 2005

You have to get your friend Marmite. I just looked up the product's official web site and even it breaks the issue down to this: "Love It" - "Hate It". Most British people love it. Most foreigners think it tastes like dirty socks. Which it does. Open a can at the going away party and make everybody have some on slices of bread. This ensures the party won't go late into the night.

As for useful gifts, the American exchange students I knew when I was in England had their parents send them things like Triscuits, pepperoni sticks, and Cheez Whiz. I'm not sure if these items are (or ever were) rare in the UK or not.
posted by Jaybo at 5:27 PM on May 31, 2005

You can complement the Marmite (which I was going to suggest) with Bovril--an equally inexplicable substance--and mushy peas. For breakfast a bowl of wheatabix. My heart belongs to the UK and I go there as often as possible
posted by rmhsinc at 5:54 PM on May 31, 2005

geeky: Coupling? Pleeease nooooo, worst, unfunniest BritSitCom ever, they just try sooo harrrd to be funny it hurts (and not in a side splitting way). I was thinking of The Office too, though.
Marmite: Good choice, the love/hate split is about 50:50, me I hate it.
Mayonnaise: This made me shake my head in utter bafflement too. I love it, but get funny looks from my countrymen when overusing it in public. Mayonnaise is French, Salad Cream (eughhh) is British, and should be served with a salad made of warm lettuce, cucumber and radishes.
Umbrella: Yes, or wellies.
HP sauce: Yes
Self tanning lotion: Don't worry about it, these days every other doorway in Britain is a tanning shop.

Americans: you guys don't get spaghetti in a can, or Weetabix? Awww. And to think we went and let you run the world.

Well, as I now live in one of the former Colonies and am supposed to be more British than Earl Grey, I'm off to watch an episode of Coupling while eating a marmite and salad cream sandwich. Toodle pip, chaps.
posted by penguin pie at 6:14 PM on May 31, 2005

rmhsinc/ penguin pie: you can get bizarrely get Weetabix at Trader Joe's
posted by forallmankind at 7:29 PM on May 31, 2005

Yup, definitely marmite :) My American roommate has forbidden me to open the bottle when she is in the house.
posted by jb at 8:03 PM on May 31, 2005

Marmite? Heh, that'll make the party swing.

From b3ta:
"Got a bloke drunk and bet him that he couldn't
get both his bollocks into a standard Marmite
jar. This is an easy feat: one simply pops
them in, one at a time. Unfortunately there
isn't room for both a plum and a digit,
negating the chances of removing said testicles.
Nothing makes Lord Manley happier than watching
a grown man's face as he holds a claw hammer
and contemplates smashing the glass jar which
houses his gonads."
posted by bonaldi at 8:36 PM on May 31, 2005

Atom12, Watford is just about in London. At least, it's so much connected to London that you'd have a hard time spotting the boundary. And that means London driving rules apply. Most Americans have a hard time handling that, at first.

Livewire Confusion, get thee to a Samuel Smith's pub, and then report back on our native brews being crap.

To answer the original question, apparently us Brits don't do pancakes very well. So, your friend might appreciate some USian pancake mix.

I'd also go with the Marmite suggestion, although, at a pinch, Twiglets will do. Original flavour, mind, not those new-fangled spicey ones.

Note the use of 'u' in flavour. Your friend is going to have to learn to read and write properly.
posted by veedubya at 10:56 PM on May 31, 2005

i can't believe that no one has mentioned a guide to queueing! - look at the respect section.

and how about some good old fashioned union flag clothing?
posted by triv at 4:34 AM on June 1, 2005

« Older flies   |   Measuring average download speed Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.