Random British Facts (Part the First)

In which I state gross generalizations and simplifications of things I’ve discovered in the UK that differ from things in the US. See also: part the second.
# Scotland has a major problem with knife crime (guns are very difficult to get ahold of around here) and so are upping the penalties for knife possession. If someone who has been previously convicted of a violent crime is found carrying a blade, the prosecutor will now take the remarkable step of asking the judge not to grant bail prior to trial. And they consider this to be a major enforcement step. And expect it to make a difference.
# In restaurants, they never, ever bring you your check. You have to ask for it. Two Scots who were behind me on the shuttle to Heathrow were complaining about the American behavior on this, to the effect of: “I was terribly insulted when they brought me the check before I asked for it. I asked the waitress if they have a problem with lots of people leaving with not paying, and she said no.” She thought that the reason we bring people checks when the meal is finished is because otherwise they might forget to pay?
# In restaurants, they don’t refill your drinks. They just don’t. Not even water. When I ask for more water, they always seem very confused, and bring me a new glass. Apparently the invention we call a “pitcher” does not exist here. (Edit: Actually, in fancy restaurants they do top up your glasses when you’ve purchased things by the bottle, but the point still stands.)
# In Scotland, and I suspect England as well, Chip and PIN has huge penetration. It is a system utilizing SmartCards(tm) and keypads for entering a PIN before a transaction can be validated. To support this, most restaurants now use portable wireless credit card readers that they bring to your table, use to process your transaction, and immediately give you an accurate receipt (including gratuity). This is awesome.
# London has moved entirely to a type of taxi cab that is advertised as the “most accessible in the world.” It includes a wheelchair ramp and restraints, two jump seats in addition to the regular seats, doors that automatically lock when the vehicle is in motion, bright yellow handles and seat covers for the visually impaired, and an induction loop audio system to communicate with the driver, which is especially useful for people with hearing aids. In order to fit all this sophistication, the vehicles have no boot (trunk), so luggage is placed in the passenger compartment.

More to come…

One reply on “Random British Facts (Part the First)”

  1. Chip and PIN is awesome! Over here, those wireless (RFID?) payments seem to be the rage, but I like the security of a PIN with my purchases – so much more secure than a signature!

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