Geographically Challenged Americans

Now, let me preface this entire entry by stating that I know for a fact that a lot of my American friends totally understand that London is a city in England and that although I don't live there, they accidentally refer to me living there due to the fact I go there a lot and/or they have never really heard of the city where I really do live. This entry is not about those of you in that category...this entry is about the people who seriously have no clue about the United Kingdom's geography in general. Here are some gems that I have encountered with fellow Americans in the recent past. Certain names are not being mentioned as I want to protect the awkwardly innocent. And some of the conversations are being drastically shortened, as you guys can google for yourself.

Example #1:

While home on holiday this month, I had the following conversation:

Anon: "So, how is life in London?"

Julie (laughing): "I'm sure it's great, but I don't live in London."

Anon (confused): "But I thought you moved to England?"

Julie: "Yes, I did. But I don't live in London, I live in Durham."

Anon (silent & confused looking, most likely trying to figure out why I am talking about a city in North Carolina): "Oh."

Julie: "It's in the Northeast of England, 5 hours drive from London."

Anon: "Oh, I guess I didn't realise England was that big."

Julie: "Hmm"

Example #2:

Conversation with a different person, prior to moving to England in November:

Anon: "So, are you going to live in England or the United Kingdom?"

Julie: "Both"

Anon "What does that mean?"

Julie: "It's a long story.... look them both up on google."

Example #3

Yet another conversation of this genre...

Anon: "So where exactly is Durham anyway?"

Julie: "Well, it's in the Northeast. It's actually pretty close to the Scotland border."

Anon: "Oh, really, I didn't know the UK bordered Scotland?"

Julie: "It doesn't. Scotland is PART of the UK. So is England. And they border eachother."

Anon: "Okay I'm really confused now. Where is London then?"

Julie: Long explanation of the nuances of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland

Anon: "You don't know what you are talking about, Ireland is NOT part of the United Kingdom."

Julie: "Ireland and Northern Ireland are different countries."

Anon: "Whatever."

Example #4:

So, about a month ago I rang up TRowePrice the other day to change my address to my Durham flat. Their system didn't accomodate international addresses easily, so I had to go over it with the lady about 4 times to make sure she got it right. She even repeated it back to me one last time so we could ensure the mail would get to me, as frequently Americans incorrectly address mail to me and it takes longer than normal for the Royal Mail to sort it out and get it to me. This week I received a confirmation letter from TRP saying they had changed my address. Here is how the new address read:

Julie Hicks
24 Monument Court
Durham, London

Um... seriously? London is NOT a country people !! Luckily the dear old Royal Mail figured it out by the post code and the letter was delivered anyway. Really looking forward to calling TRP to correct it - can't wait to explain why London shouldn't be on the address at all. :)

Example #5:

Not the last of the stories I could tell, but it seems silly to belabour this any futher so I'll only give one more example. This took place on a conference call recently, and one of the participants was himself a Brit living in the US. He chose to stay completely silent during the entire conversation though.

Julie: "We're taking the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam this weekend, I can't wait."

Anon #1: "Ooh, so you're crossing the English Channel by boat?"

Julie: "Um, no... I'm pretty sure it's the North Sea we're crossing."

Anon #2: "No, I'm pretty sure you have to cross the English Channel to get to Amsterdam."

Anon #1: "Yeah, I crossed it once to get to France and I got SO seasick. I can't believe people actually swim across it!!"

Julie (feeling doubtful now): "Well, I am pretty sure we're not crossing the English Channel. The English Channel is not anywhere near Newcastle. That said, I'm no expert on geography, so maybe I'm confused?"

Now, I'm not saying that I myself was an expert on the structure & geography of the United Kingdom before I met Will, but I was a little more knowledgeable than these folks - and none of these folks are stupid or uneducated at all! They just suffer from the stereotypical American syndrome of geographical naivete. I myself suffer from it, and since moving here, I find myself regularly hearing the name of a country or city I never knew existed. I have to ask Will to explain where it is, or I google it if I'm too embarassed to even ask, usually when with stranger. And so far I have found wikipedia & my iphone to be my lifesavers. Thank God for both!

BTW check this out if you are interested in the real scoop on the UK:



  1. The "UK" is the shortened name people generally use. It's full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Where "Great Britain" comprises of England, Scotland, and Wales. The British Isles are a collection of some 6,000 islands, where Great Britain and Ireland are the two largest.

    Simple !

  2. So what's the British Empire, then? Oh wait, I know. It's history ;)