When threatened with a knife during a store robbery, the British employee requested to finish her tea. Although taken back, the burglar denied her the pleasure of finishing her hot drink and was promptly scared off by the woman who grabbed her own craft knife in response (The Telegraph). Clearly tea plays a large role in British culture and modern lifestyle, and though I’ve been a tea drinker for years, it has only been recreational in comparison to the hot drink diehards over here.
Tea as a Coping Mechanism
In England, drinking tea seems to be an official coping mechanism. The act is pacifying. As you would microwave a bottle of milk for a finicky infant, you can offer to put the kettle on boil for an adult Brit. As I came into work upset after some lowlife stole my backpack on the train, I was flanked and marched upstairs to the break room where they immediately offered to make me a hot cuppa. Although a nice gesture, I declined. But when my workmate insisted we head to the cafe during lunch in the midst of my 3 day “expat life is really fucking hard sometimes” pity party, I reticently accepted.
A Tea Date with my Co-worker
Sitting at a tiny table with a chai latte, hot chocolate and jumbo cookie between us, she listened to my frustrations. Londoners are hard to befriend; they’re so apathetic that only 12 out of a few million showed up at a demonstration about the poor Southern train service; spouse friends are nice but remain spouse friends and partners already have their own life and amigos; the erratic commute is probably making my hair fall out; I miss my parents and we have no plan to move Stateside – ever; “friends” from home don’t return messages despite my efforts and making Skype appointments is absolutely grating with aforementioned lack of even the most basic text communication, and they always send me their availability in USA time zones. Rawr!!
My workmate is so nice – or so “lovely” as the English would say. She is a great listener, which is extra appreciated since my country people generally lack this skill, and a good sense of humor. I would moan, and she would agree. The intermittent slurps of liquid chocolate and deep breaths made life just seemed more manageable. I would pause to cup my hands around the giant saucer, warming my palms, as she she offered her sympathy and two cents in a kind and lighthearted way.
Is Tea a Miracle Worker or What?
I left feeling calmer and the warmth of the hot drink spread pleasantly throughout my body. And I came to realize that everything I had left behind had already closed up behind me; even if I want back to any given chapter of my old life, it wouldn’t resemble what I do actually miss. Being away from my parents is the hardest part, but at least I can generally reach them on a daily basis, and I did win the jackpot with my married life and in-laws. Settling takes an awful long time despite the fact that round 2 of expat life allows me to speak my native language. But the hot chocolate break and dose of empathy helped me to calm down and find clarity, as it does for thousands of Londoners on a daily basis.
If you have been to the UK, have you noticed the prevalence of tea drinking? What about in other countries? Share in the comments below!