September 17, 2019

The Many Ways To Travel Around Britain - Podcast 79

A GWR Train stands at the platform in Newport, Wales. Photo: Robin Drayton

Britain is a small island and you might think London is the only city that you can visit and safely navigate but the truth is, there is so much more to Britain than London and there are many ways that you can travel to see it. Dominic and Erica absolutely LOVE the train; It's fast, direct and you get to see the British countryside as it whizzes past and also marvel at the 'little man running' exit signs that tickle Erica every time she sees them. You can also rent a car and travel on the motorways like the one above, or even the bus (or coach as they like to call them in Britain).

What would your preferred method of transport be around Britain? Would you prefer the train, bus, car or plane? Or perhaps you'd like to take it slow and cruise the canals of England, Scotland and Wales? Let us know!

September 12, 2019

The September 11th Terrorist Attacks - Podcast 78

The Bell of Hope in St. Paul's Chapel Grounds. Photo: Tea And A Butty
On the morning of September 11th, 2001 in New York City, the United States was subjected to a terrorist attack when two commercial passenger planes bound for Los Angeles were hijacked by Saudi Arabian terrorists, working for the terrorist group Al Qaeda, crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, causing their collapse. Two other planes were hijacked that day, one of which, United Airlines Flight 93, was believed to have been meant to destroy the US Capitol building but that attack was thwarted when passengers revolted and attempted to gain control of the plane and it crashed in a field killing all on board in Pennsylvania.

The attacks killed close to 3,000 people, injured over 6,000 others. In this podcast, Dominic and Erica discuss what they were doing on that fateful day and also their visit to ground zero during their honeymoon in December 2010. They visited St. Paul's Chapel and took the above picture of the Bell of Hope, which is rung on every anniversary. The Bell was given to New York City by the City of London in recognition of the enduring links between the two cities. Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the attacks.

Where were you during September 11th 2001?

September 10, 2019

British and American Cars - Podcast 77

A 1992 Rover Metro, similar to the one Dominic's parents owned in the 1990s. Photo: Paula Ham
British and American Cars.  Are they so different?  Are they actually smaller in Britain?  Are they really bigger in America, and if so, why is that?  And do cup holders exist in British cars?  Where do people put their drinks?!  Also, Dominic wonders why there are so many trucks in Texas?  In this podcast, Dominic and Erica discuss the various differences between cars in Britain and America.  Did we leave any major differences off the list?  Are you British and happen to drive a pick up truck?  Let us know!

September 5, 2019

School Series, Episode 6: American High School and British Secondary School, Part 2 - Podcast 76

Guess who's back.  Back again.  Tea and a Butty Podcast's back.  Tell a friend.  Yeah, that didn't really work out the way I intended.  Also, yes, I'm aware such references show my age.  Your point?  Anyway... we're back with the final (yes, really) episode in our School Series, where we're going to wrap up the High School portion of the program by talking about Dominic's seemingly favorite subject, GCSEs!  Personally, I'm thrilled.  No, really, you need GCSEs to get a job?  And, they don't have a graduation ceremony in Britain?  What's that all about?  Join us as we finish our series comparing American and British schools and then let us know if you went to your High School prom or Graduation, or if you're British, whether you had a party or did anything to mark the end of school?

September 4, 2019

Living In America: Sales Tax or VAT?

Which Tax system would you prefer? Photo: Flickr

I should note here that this post and the ones I will be making are observations from my point of view as one of them damn foreigners who that wall will keep out. So if any of you get offended by my views, feel free to let me know! This is going to be a twice monthly post from me, detailing my observations about living in America as a British Expat.

The USA is a very strange place for a foreigner. You might think, coming from Britain, that life in the USA isn't all that different from that small little island that once ruled 23% of the Earth's population. We speak the same language (after a fashion) and our two countries have cultures that we can both understand....

....or can we?

Today I want to talk about sales tax. Now, for those who've never been to the United States, sales tax is similar to the British VAT (Value Added Tax), only it isn't really. When I first visited the USA back in those heady days of 2008, Democrat Barack Obama had just been elected President, ending the 8 year term of Republican George W Bush and I was stepping on a Continental Airlines flight to Texas. (I'll leave it to you to decide which was the more important event in American history).

Granted, my research about the USA was sparse. I was going off what I'd seen on TV and movies and from the various Americans I'd spoken to online. Those Americans, including the one who is now my wife, had failed in their duty to tell me about things which would shock and horrify me. One of those shocking things was sales tax. I had walked into a grocery store called HEB, a major supermarket chain in Texas and decided, very boldly, to purchase something. That something was a chocolate bar. (An Emergency Twix, for you Peep Show fans out there).  Now, the price on the shelf said 78c and I had change on me so I counted out two quarters, two dimes, a nickel and three pennies as the girl scanned it through. Then I looked up and she put her pinky finger to the side of her mouth and announced


Or maybe it was $1.08. It was a long time ago.

I stood there with a confused look on my face, wondering where this number had come from. Had the Twix gone up in value in the time it took me to take it off the shelf and place it on the conveyor belt? I pointed back to the shelf and mumbled something about it saying 78 cents on the shelf. Perhaps I'd mistaken this Twix for another item that cost only 78 cents? No! I saw the label clearly and it said 'Twix' and in big bold font the number 78 and the small 'c' above it. Maybe this girl was jesting with me? Maybe she was a highwayman in disguise as a checkout girl? Maybe she embezzled all who came through her line and pocketed the difference and laughed secretly to herself when she was alone in the break room. Maybe she was still bitter about the revolutionary war. I looked hard at her teenage face and wondered if she'd been there at Lexington and Concord. Perhaps she had fired the first shot?

Sensing my confusion on the subject, the girl too looked confused. She muttered the word "Tax" at me. It was then I understood. I quickly fished in my wallet for a dollar bill and kept the nickel and three pennies and handed them to her. She smiled as I gingerly took my Twix, my mind working feverishly to figure if this was a trap as she cheerily said "Have a nice day!" and turned to serve the next customer. I backed away slowly, out of the store into the hot sun where my twix melted in my hand. It was later explained to me about adding the sales tax on at the register. Every state's sales tax is different and five states don't have it at all. They are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, in case you were wondering.

In Britain, the tax is added into the price you see. So if you go into a shop and see something for £1.50, it will actually be that price when you check out. Amazing, isn't it? I remember when Erica paid for something by herself she came up to me and said "It really was only a pound!"

So why does this system exist? Indeed, it forces people to do maths (or math with out the 's' as it's known here) and that can be incredibly exhausting for people who don't think much like me. The last thought I had was in 2014! Wouldn't it be easier to do it the British way? I'd love to know what you think! Tell me if you think it's easier the American way or the British way.

-Dominic Williams

September 3, 2019

School Series, Episode 5: American High School and British Secondary School, Part 1 - Podcast 75

Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography [CC BY 2.0]

And now we've come to the end of the road... well, not really, because in case you haven't noticed by now, Dominic and I like to talk, so we didn't quite fit everything about high school into this podcast.  That's okay though.  Part 2 to come next time.  In this episode, the penultimate podcast in our School Series, we're discussing all the highs and lows of being in High School, Secondary School to our British listeners.  Dominic demands to know what Homecoming actually is, and what exactly are the purpose of cheerleaders?  Erica's fascinated that school in Britain stops (or at least did) at age 16, with students the ages of 17 and 18 having the choice to carry on with "college", which isn't the same thing as college in the states (confused yet?).  Also, what the heck is a Prefect?  (Seriously, we Americans thought that was only something that existed in Harry Potter.)  If you're still reading, it's time to stop.  Listen to this episode and then regale us with stories about your high school days on Facebook or Instagram or wherever you so choose.

August 29, 2019

School Series, Episode 4: School Electives and Extra Curriculars - Podcast 74

People590 [CC BY-SA 3.0]

School marching bands like the one pictured, according to Dominic, don't exist in Britain, so what exactly is on offer in the form of school electives and extra curricular activities for school students in the U.K.?  And, will Dominic ever understand what I actually mean by "School Electives"?  Find out the answers to these questions and more in our latest installment of our School Series.  Have a listen to our new episode and then let us know what kinds of "fun" classes you took in school, or what clubs or sports you were involved in outside of school hours.  Is band actually a thing in Britain?  Do schools have their own sports teams?  We want to know!

August 27, 2019

School Series, Episode 3: Middle School / Junior High - Podcast 73

Erica's Middle School 7th Grade I.D.

In this episode we're talking about Middle School, or Junior High, depending on where you live in America.  No idea what Middle School is?  Lucky you, because Middle School is the school you go to when you're at your most awkward, during those no-longer-a-little-kid, but also not-yet-a-full-blown-teenager years, also known as the "tween" years.  Yeah, those years.  You remember them.  While we're not sure if Junior High School only exists in America, it apparently doesn't really exist in Britain, but instead is just split between Primary and Secondary schools.  Listen now to learn more about Middle School in the United States and how school in Britain is different, and then let us know what you can remember about your own Middle School years.

August 22, 2019

School Series, Episode 2: British and American School Lunches - Podcast 72

(Photo: US Department of Agriculture. Public Domain.)
Do you remember your school lunch? Whether it was 15 years or 15 hours since you last ate one, we think you'll remember the sights, sounds and, perhaps more importantly, the smells of your school canteen at lunchtime. Dominic discusses packed lunches while Erica reveals an important tidbit of information regarding just what was on offer at her school (Pizza Hut stand, anyone? Or Taco Bell?!)

How did you find your school lunch? Did you take a packed one or eat from the school canteen?

August 20, 2019

School Series, Episode 1: British Primary and American Elementary - Podcast 71

Erica in 1st Grade and Dominic in Year 1

Today we're starting a new series, just in time for back-to-school, where we'll be talking about all things school-related in America and Great Britain.  In this episode, we're starting off with what we in America usually call Elementary School, but what is called Primary School in the UK.  Either way, we're discussing those school years between the ages of 5 and 10/11, talking about the differences between U.S. and British schools, and reminiscing a bit about our elementary school days.  We also have current elementary school student, Addison (our 9-year-old niece) joining us on this podcast episode to tell us what life is like at school nowadays.  It was so long ago for Dominic and I, we can hardly remember!  You can catch Addison and her little brother, Peyton on their YouTube channel, Adventures With A and P.  After listening to our first installment in our new series, please do let us know what you can remember about life in elementary or primary school over on our Facebook group.

August 15, 2019

American Cuisine - Podcast 70

Image: Adoproducciones, Pixbay License

We've known each other a while now, right?  Right, so I feel like I can trust you with the following information.  Lean in.  Ready?  This podcast was supposed to be about American Cuisine, but I wasn't really sure if the foods I thought were American were actually American, so we had to use lists we found on other sites in order to talk to you about American foods.  I mean, even hamburgers like the one pictured above had me second-guessing myself as to whether it was actually American or not, and don't even get me started on apple pie!  Phew.  I feel so much better.  Thanks for listening.  The good news is that we do actually have some foods that are unique to this country.  Have a listen to find out which foods are genuinely American and then feel free to let us know if we got any wrong, or left any important ones off the list!

August 13, 2019

Poldark - Podcast 69

Image: Lara Clemente, Public Domain

If you're a fan, at all, of period dramas, but aren't watching the BBC and Masterpiece drama, Poldark, I have one question for you... Why?  What's gone wrong in your life?  In all seriousness though, Downton Abbey was freakishly popular here in the states, so I'm not really sure why Poldark hasn't seemed to create as much hysteria this side of the Atlantic, what with it's grand estates, breathtaking scenery, beautiful actresses and... ahem... Aiden Turner.  I mean, for the love of God, watch it for Aiden Turner alone, people!  Okay, okay, back to the point.  The fifth and final season of Poldark is currently airing in Britain and will air in American on September 29, 2019 on PBS.  In our latest podcast we'll tell you all about the show and then hopefully you'll want to catch up on episodes you've missed and watch the final season of this terrific British drama.  Do you watch Poldark?  We'd love to know what you think.