Life

Foreigners Share What Shocked Them Most About British Food

"The general lack of spice in British cuisine has always sort of like… repulsed me."
October 15, 2021, 8:15am
Foreigners Non-Brit Food British Gravy Junk
Photo: John Longbottom

British cuisine is… interesting. On the one hand, Great Britain is home to potato smileys, Turkey Twizzlers (sorry, Jamie Oliver) and the entirety of the Greggs menu, which is obviously a huge source of national pride. Sure, it’s a bit 50 shades of beige, but that’s the point.

On the other hand, there are several British delicacies which are objectively not appealing, if going by their ingredient list alone. See: pig’s blood (black pudding), bread sauce (what?), etc, etc. And when you take a step back to consider other more widely accepted combinations – chips and curry sauce, baked beans on toast, tuna mayo and jacket potato – you have to admit that they’re a little odd, too.

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If you’re a non-Brit who has spent some time on these rainy, miserable little isles, it’s likely that the sheer absurdity of our cuisine has been staring you in the face all along. Here’s what eight non-Brits found most shocking about British food.

Toni, 23, Nigeria: ‘I still don’t understand the purpose of gravy’

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Toni

Coming from Nigeria, I just thought that the food didn't have as much spice. And I still don't understand the purpose of gravy. And I think you have so many pies, but they all just taste the same?

And then Sunday roast just felt like all these bland things in one dish, and everyone’s like “this happens every Sunday”. I respect it, but don’t completely understand it. And fish and chips – I get it's a cultural thing, but honestly, the fish could just be fried chicken instead.

Lidia, 28, Spain: ‘People here put curry sauce on everything’

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Lidia

My favourite thing on the planet is Tunnock’s tea cakes – I've not really seen or tasted anything like them. But then there's absolutely gross, disgusting stuff like mushy peas. Like does nobody look at that and question their actions? It looks gross.

I was also really surprised at the concept of gravy. We don't have that in Spain. And I really, really love it - and I love it with chips! Speaking of chippy shops, I was really surprised when I realised that people here put curry sauce on everything. Curry sauce is quite niche and would not be easily found in Spain at all.

Imane, 23, Belgium: ‘You put meat in a lot of pastries’

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Imane

You put meat in pies, like in pastries? That’s the weirdest shit to me. I thought it was just like the shepherd's pie thing, but then I looked it up and apparently you put meat in a lot of pastries, like there's variants of it. That's so weird to me, because I don't get it – is it like a dinner thing? Do you eat it as a full meal? Is it like a dessert? I don't really understand.

Also beans on toast – love that – but I don't get it. I love beans, I love toast, I love the combination – but it gets so soggy! British cuisine is just full of weird combinations. That's really what gets me.

Sofia, 23, Brazil: ‘So much cheddar cheese on everything’

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Sofia

The main thing that surprised and traumatised me was just the sheer amount of cheese on things. It's not that common in Brazil – at least not when I was living there – to just have so much cheddar cheese on everything. Like cheesy pasta, cheese on toast… It’s just a lot of cheese.

I remember as well, when I first went to my first school friend's house to have tea – which is also a random word, why is it called tea? – her mum asked us if we wanted pizza, to which we both said yes. But she gave us one pizza each and I was like, what the hell? Because coming from Brazil from quite a poor family, usually you get like one or two slices of pizza. You share a whole pizza between your family.

Sam, 25, France: ‘It’s normal to have crisps in the morning’

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Sam

I think one of the things that really shocked me was British friends of mine eating crisps at breakfast and telling me that it's normal to have crisps in the morning. I just can't get my head around it. Like, I eat salty stuff in the morning, but for me, eating crisps in the morning is just something else. And if I have family or friends coming here, they say, oh, can we try something traditional, something purely British? And all I can think of is fish and chips, which to me isn't food; it's junk food. It's just part of the culture, I guess.

Vaishnavi, 21, India: ‘The general lack of spice has always repulsed me’

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Vaishnavi

One thing I found particularly interesting about British cuisine was the dish of black pudding. So being an Indian, we don't usually eat meat for breakfast. And on top of that, I found out that it's a blood sausage. Also the general lack of spice in British cuisine has always sort of like… repulsed me. I'm going to use that word, I'm an Indian. I don't blame the British, because each culture to their own, I guess.

Marta, 23, Spain: ‘I find Yorkshire puddings disgusting’

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Marta (middle)

What shocked me most is how little people care about food at lunchtime, like the fact that people just have a meal deal as a regular meal and that's a thing. And the toad in the hole thing – I think it's disgusting because I feel like the sausage would go really mushy? I've never had it because I think it's like sausages on a Yorkshire pudding, and I find Yorkshire puddings disgusting in general. I don't like them because it's like frying a pancake and it just goes mushy.

Also, I absolutely love desserts but I do think that custard is weird because it feels like it's just cream and you're just putting cream in your dessert? And I think it's strange that it's hot.

Ketsuda, 29, Minneapolis: ‘Salad dressings should not be cream’

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Stereotypical foods like beans on toast and haggis get a lot of hate, but they're actually very good. The things that really deserve vitriol are the less well known things. I think the prime example for this is salad cream, which is like a disgusting, extra-vinegary mayo that you're supposed to put on salad as a dressing. Disgusting. And I'm saying this as a person who likes mayo and likes vinegar, but salad dressings should not be cream. I feel very strongly about that.

@serenathesmith