Since moving to Vienna, being offered a cup of tea now sets off a series of alarm bells for me. Have you ever heard all British people being labelled as tea-fanatics? Well, ever since I arrived in Austria, I’ve been proving that this stereotype is alive and thriving.
Over in Britain, we take tea very seriously. It’s a staple part of our culture and much more than just a drink. To us, it can be a way to start your day, a way to offer comfort to others or a go-to peace offering after an argument with a loved one. In the UK, we tend to find an excuse to drink tea whenever and wherever we possibly can. Back home, I can be found surrounded by a tower of used mugs at any point throughout the day.
So now you’re probably wondering what the big deal about drinking tea abroad is, am I right?
As you may already know, to the majority of British people, a cup of tea means something very specific: it means black tea with milk. Some like their tea stronger than others, some like it milkier, some people may even choose to add a spoonful of sugar or two. There is variety within reason, but the principle remains the same and you can relax knowing no major surprises or disappointments are coming your way. Once you have stepped foot off the British Isles however, these perfectly reasonable expectations surrounding your ‘cuppa’ are alien to the natives!
I am here to tell you that the world of hot drinks is a daily struggle for us Brits abroad: tea elsewhere in the world seems to be open to interpretation and it is hard to adjust to. I’ve accepted one too many cups of tea, only to discover a moment too late that I’ve agreed to a fruit tea. But accepting an unexpected cup of fruit tea is nothing compared to the nightmare of being offered a mug of black tea when there is not a single drop of milk to be found anywhere in the entire building. I've realised that it’s going to take me a while to trust people around kettles and teabags again!
Do you like drinking tea? Is tea popular in the country you are from? What stereotypes exist about the food in your culture?