The British cake obsession - and other musings - from an American perspective

Amanda Ulrich is an American journalist working at the EDP. Picture: James Bass

Amanda Ulrich is an American journalist working at the EDP. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

After my last column, published roughly a month ago, I've started to see American connections come out of the woodwork in Norwich.

A lot of those links began with reader comments, which informed me that Norwich does, in fact, have a lengthy history of engaging with Americans in one way or another. I've especially appreciated the tales I've heard of American servicemen in the 1940s coming down from airbases like Horsham St Faith, drinking pints at the pubs and eating fish and chips with the locals.

So in the spirit of cross-Atlantic unity, my first point or two in this column is dedicated to observed commonalities, not differences, between my culture and yours.

Something I find familiar is an obsession with buying local – local produce, local beer, local anything. In the States, this behaviour would be a sure mark of a hipster, but is nevertheless widely practised.

The same goes for the variety of food available. I was pleasantly surprised that Norwich is not just a purveyor of Sunday roast and Yorkshire pudding, but of a decent selection of Thai and Latin and Caribbean restaurants, too (though I'm told this is a recent phenomenon).


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But naturally, this leads me to a difference, which also happens to be food-related. Cake. It's everywhere.

The most banal of cafeteria lunches will undoubtedly offer a slice of cake, afternoon tea will include the dessert in many varieties; cake is served almost as a snack between meals. Don't get me wrong, I really love this kind of lifestyle, I'm just not accustomed to it.

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Behaviour at the beach has me stumped as well. Considering the sheer amount of coastline in England, it's unfortunate that the weather just won't hold up for long.

I've witnessed a family jumping into the sea on a cold, windy day in Great Yarmouth with the same enthusiasm of swimmers at Wells on a sweltering, clear-sky weekend. That being said, you hate it when it's overcast and then grumble when it's hot. The weather can't win.

On a grander scale, the issue of work/life balance in the UK is one of those things that I should be directing squarely at the National Labor Relations Board in the US, not in an EDP column, because it's very serious. You typically have 25 days of vacation a year, I have 15. It's an injustice on epic proportions.

Finally, as the icing on the cake (which you actually might need, considering the mass amount of cake produced in England), here are some of my favourite British/Norfolk phrases of the month: 'top it up', 'took the mick out of me', 'brill', 'knees up', 'like I say', and 'whinge about it'.

Stay tuned – next month I'll try to tackle what you've all been waiting for: American politics.

• Amanda Ulrich is an American journalist currently working at the EDP.

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