Using a US Dollar cash card to purchase a bottle of HP brown sauce may seem like a bizarre scenario, but such is Britain’s continuous cultural influence around the world it’s the kind of thing that happens every day.
The idea of British culture being represented abroad is one that can generate mixed feelings among both Brits and overseas hosts. It can, perhaps unfairly, conjure up images of football fans causing a palaver in continental cities or of Spanish streets lined with signs promoting full English breakfasts and EastEnders on TV.
But that’s just a small part of it. Little bits of Britain can be found in a diverse range of locations across the globe and guess what – the locals love them. Some of these outposts are more subtle than others, some are there as home comforts for the expats and some go some way to satisfying the needs of overseas Anglophiles who just can’t get enough of “Cool Britannia”.
Take Ye Olde King’s Head British Pub, Restaurant & Gift Shoppe (yes, that is the full name) in the upmarket Santa Monica district of Los Angeles for example. The restaurant’s menu includes bangers & mash, shepherds pie and liver & onions.
Los Angeles is of course a magnet for many Brits, with a number of top actors and other film types from these shores settling down there. Do these Hollywood A-listers pop into Ye Olde King’s Head to sit down for Welsh Rarebit? Who knows… but if they’ve had a rough day and want some home comforts they will almost certainly head to the “shoppe” for a selection that includes PG Tips, Walkers crisps and tins of Quality Street.
In another glittering metropolis – the booming city of Dubai – you will find that another British institution is delighting both native residents and newly arrived expats in the Emirate.
Marks & Spencer is a big name there and this is not simply a small concession store giving people a flavour of the trusted store brand. A wide range of fashion, lingerie, beauty, food and homeware products – basically all the things M&S is well known for – can be found. What’s more, this selection can be found at an impressive six stores throughout Dubai and its huge shopping malls.
Next time you are overseas look out for a slice of Britain abroad – it’s not always going to be signalled by flags and bunting, and may well be full of locals enjoying the culture. Just remember you are making international payments though – not all of these places will accept pounds and pence!
Image: Mmm… Forbidden crisps by Dan Taylor on Flickr’s Creative Commons.