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The Daily Tar Heel

When Traveling to England, Leave the Mullet Home

After reading some of the pretty ignorant articles about Europe in this newspaper in the past weeks, I thought it was about time someone put the record straight. So for any of you with a sense of humor who are planning to pack your bags and cross the "Irony Curtain," read on.

An American tourist going to England suffers from several disadvantages. Previous travelers from these shores have won Americans a reputation for ignorance, arrogance and a lack of manners.

As we all know, this is completely undeserved. It is up to you intelligent people to set the record straight.

To achieve this aim, you might wish to avoid statements such as, "We bailed you out in two wars." Apart from the glaring historical inaccuracies in this statement, you might be questioned about the two-year "time-out" America took before entering the fray. You might wish instead to emphasize our skills at working together, etc. and pretend that Britain is still a global power of note. This will be a blatant lie but will ensure a better reception.

Contrary to popular opinion, British people are not completely dominated by American trends when it comes to fashion. Yes, you make good films, but that doesn't mean we all slavishly follow the fashions in them. This is the case for the majority of nations with the possible exception of some Eastern European states and various South American lands still obsessed with jeans and the shape of a Coke bottle.

There are certain fashion differences a seasoned traveler might already be aware of. A sun visor worn backward is hugely offensive to the average Brit and only permissible on a golf course. This will be particularly relevant if this ridiculous garment is worn in a nightclub. The average British nightclub is a place for drinking, dancing and fighting. Most self-respecting soccer hooligans will see it as an affront to their manhood if you venture onto their "patch" with such millenary, so for your own safety do not wear it.

The hairstyle known as the "bowl cut" will be viewed with equal animosity. The fact that UNC Student Body President Brad Matthews sports such a vicious example of this fashion hari-kari should not influence you. If you are currently cursed with this affliction, especially if it is dyed blonde, shave it off.

You also will need to be aware of an obscure London law. It is illegal to wear socks with sandals. This is an ancient law dating back to the Battle of Agincourt when French mercenaries used to favor this dress. Last year, a German tourist was convicted for the first time with "offending public decency" by wearing socks and sandals in Trafalgar Square. He is currently in the Tower of London, serving a 10-year stretch. There now is a special division of the Metropolitan Police who speed around the city on specially converted scooters looking out for offenders.

They might also prosecute if they see the infamous "mullet haircut." You have been warned: There is no excuse.

The windbreaker is another article of clothing popular in America that has slightly different connotations over in the UK. This waterproof jacket seems here to be a key component of the American wardrobe. However, in Britain this odious item of clothing is worn only by trainspotters (sad men who spend their life noting down the serial numbers of locomotives) and child molesters. Unless you wish to fall into either of these categories, please steer clear of the anorak. The white tennis shoes, book bag over two shoulders and a slightly lost look is guaranteed to get you mugged, so avoid this if at all possible.

If the tourist survives these traps, he or she is well on the way to a great holiday. There are just a couple more things to be wary of.

You might be alarmed by the size of the cars. They have not shrunk. Cars in Britain are meant to be that size. This is partially due to the ridiculous cost of gasoline and a concern for the environment. They also will definitely not have the wood on the side of them that can be seen on the roads of North Carolina. I never have heard anything more ridiculous than a car made out of wood. These sort of antics should be kept in the Flintstones.

In London people of different racial groups actually do mix. This might be odd after years spent in the unofficial apartheid of Chapel Hill. Do not be alarmed. If you are thinking about complaining about this statement, don't bother. Just take a moment to look around the environment you live in before you try to justify this situation with protestations about how "multiracial" your social group is.

Ben Lewis is an international student from Edinburgh University. Reach him at beejlewis@hotmail.com.

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