I lived in England for a couple of years, and as my husband so Britishly puts it, life there “didn’t suit me.” It may have been an easier adjustment if we’d been in London … truly one of my favorite cities, and as much a city as a city must be to be interestingly livable … but we were in Bournemouth, which isn’t.

One good thing, however, about having lived in the UK for a spell is that it prepared me for life on a tiny rock in the middle of nowhere, the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, better than anything could have. I learned what education and medical care look like in developing nations, how poor service is no matter to anyone, the results of spotty dental care, and what the world looks like from a vantage point that relies on shoulder chips and wannabes.

By comparison, Seychelles seemed progressive, lavish and open-minded … but there’s not all that we-used-to-be-an-Empire thing going on here.

Lest anyone think I went into English life prepared to rebel — until I moved there I was as Anglophilic as most Americans. All my impressions had come from encounters with the original Potter (Beatrix), Beatlemania, and London vacations that had me shopping at Harrods and hanging at Stringfellows, which was much tamer, but no less trendy, at the time.

I was convinced that life in the British Isles was bound to be a combination of quaint and literary, with overtones of historic significance.

What I too often encountered was a rude population of cold fish with thought patterns I assumed had been left far behind in Western cultures. Racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, sexism, were all alive and well in Southern England in 1994.

One need only look at television programs like “Father Ted” to get an idea of how easily the British ‘take the mickey’ out of their Irish neighbors, and although the show cracked me up I was always aware of how offensive it must have been to practicing Catholics.

As another example, the one that inspires this post, I’ll point you toward an article from the Telegraph that reminds me today of the backwardness of the UK that drove me up a wall while I was there. (This, in conjunction with summer day after summer day that saw the weather in Moscow 20 degrees warmer than the drizzly, damp and dreary days in Bournemouth.)

“How to … be a girl: 10 Things Every Girl Should Know” is the title of the piece that begs the question, “What year is this?”

According to the review for “The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls”, it’s all sugar and spice and everything vomit-inducing … and almost 40 bucks!

Some of the ten things?
1. How To Deal With Boys
2. How To Have A Best Friend
3. How To Cope When Your Best Friend Gets A New Best Friend
6. How To Keep A Secret
7. How To Tell If An Egg Is Fresh
8. How To Sulk

And some of the advice?

The main difference between boys and girls is that boys like doing things – driving cars, playing football, throwing stuff, eating, farting – and girls like feeling things, such as love, friendship, happiness and excitement.

Boys are very physical; girls are very emotional.

Boys are often spoilt by their mothers, so they have a tendency to think girls should do all the boring things in life, such as cleaning, cooking and ironing their T-shirts, while they do all the exciting things: jet-skiing, playing in rock bands, being spies.

The best approach is to put on a smiling public face. Be charming, be polite. Soon the horrible feelings of rejection will pass and you will be able to look back with gratitude that you behaved with dignity.

Excellent elements of sulking are the Black Look, the Deep Sigh and the No One Ever Understands a Single Thing I’m Going Through Shrug.

A sulk should be short and intense.

Thankfully, I’m raising my daughter on this island, not that one.

Sandra Hanks Benoiton writes the News Blog, on International Adoption and adopting as an Older Parent for Adoption.com, and on everything under the sun on Paradise Preoccupied from her sun-drenched veranda on the island of Mahé in the Indian Ocean.

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