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Best of the worst: some awful, must-do British experiences

October 21, 2009

Englishman Adam Richardson gives some insight on things to do whilst in the UK.


A note to all you culture-assimilating expats out there: admirable as your cause may be, it’s not all high tea, fish n chips and West End Musicals on this sceptred isle. I’m frankly getting a little worried for you lot, you see, that you’re getting this rose-tinted idea of the place and some day you’ll bore your grandkids with tales of a picture-postcard Britain, all scenery and politeness. That just wouldn’t be fair; there are plenty of banal, awful experiences that deserve some of your precious time over here. Yes, this country can be every bit as breathtakingly rubbish as it is awesome and it’s with this in mind that I compile the following list of truly awful things to do before you go home.


The former fast food giants now cling to a diminishing number of locations through the UK – as a rule, if you see one, you’re off the beaten track (or on a motorway; they’re service station specialists). I’m told Wimpy used to be the place to be, now pay a visit if you can find one and have yourself an eating experience of unparalleled shoddiness. To paint a picture: my last visit – somewhere along the M6 – was notable for a strong smell of ammonia in the restaurant (which I prayed was only urine), cold burgers, frankly odd-tasting milkshakes and a furious stomach condition the next day. Better still, it cost me the best part of a tenner for the privilege.


A stark contrast to the many idyllic seaside towns we have and an impressive affront to civic pride, Grimsby in Lincolnshire could be the capital of the Daily Mail’s “broken Britain”. Once known as “Europe’s Food Town”, the prodigious cod hauls the area once prospered on are long gone, along with more or less everything else. Boarded up shops, frightening locals, it’s all there to behold, just get out before sundown.

Car Boot Sales

Not necessarily a British phenomenon, but we do them pretty well; no childhood weekend was complete for me without being dragged out of bed at sunrise on a Sunday to inhale second-hand budget cigarette smoke in a big field somewhere, dodging dog shit and gazing bleary-eyed on tables and tables stacked with useless tat. There’s broken tat, stolen tat, tat that will never conceivably be sold but sits there hopefully and heartbreakingly anyway.

Cheap white cider

The easiest to achieve on this list, just go to any major budget-to-mid-range supermarket with two quid and expect a headache. Popularly dubbed “tramp fuel”, it’s also a hit with students mid-term (once the overdraft’s bottomed out), and comes under a variety of naff monikers like “white lightning”, “ice dragon”, “frosty jack”, you get the picture. In my uni days a three-litre bottle of this cost less than a pint down the pub and will get you out of your trolley in a decidedly awful way. In fact, there’s little to discern a cheap cider drunkenness from a cheap cider hangover, both of which feel somewhere between bipolar disorder and flu.

This post was written by guest writer Adam Richardson.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Gail H permalink
    October 22, 2009 9:24 am

    Haha, this is a great post! I laughed from start to finish. Really well written. These are very unique things to do in the UK, think my favourite is the Wimpy eating experience.

  2. October 22, 2009 9:27 am

    Ouch. Those are truly some horrible things. White Lightning? *shudders*

  3. Lynette permalink
    October 22, 2009 8:18 pm

    Oh, darling, darling. Of course we expats know about these tedious things but we’ve got to keep ourselves cheerful – otherwise we turn into whinging expats

  4. Adam permalink
    October 24, 2009 2:08 am

    Thanks very much, glad you liked it, I’d steer clear of the cider in all honesty, bad stuff, but do visit a Wimpy, did some research and there are actually a couple in New Zealand.


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