Things I find confusing about British people #1 – soapy dish water

I once had a conversation about how the British do their dishes at my dentist in Jakobstad. After everyone was done scraping plaque off my teeth the dental nurse asked me. “Is it really true what they show you in the TV shows?”. She sounded concerned. “Do they really do their dishes in the same soapy water and then just put them to the side to dry?”

I told her that unfortunately, this is true. After that we had a long discussion about how the Brits clearly don’t know how to do their dishes properly, which everyone of course knows is all about keeping the water running and splashing it everywhere. I admit it’s not the greenest or most economical way to do your dishes and that the lower part of my top tends to be soaked with water after I’ve done the washing up, but dammit if the pans aren’t clean when I’m done.

So. This is something I still find a little bit confusing. Where does this actually quite frugal way of doing your dishes come from? How come it’s acceptable to not clean the soap off the dishes? And why hasn’t anyone thought about importing those clever Finnish drying cabinets to this country?

Apparently even British people find this confusing.

Image via Jon Bolden.

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Journalist, writer and coffee lover in London.

7 thoughts on “Things I find confusing about British people #1 – soapy dish water”

  1. When I first moved to London 4 months ago, I was temporarily living with my friend’s grandmother, who quite literally scolded me for my dish-washing methods. My offences included using the sponge; soaping the sponge; running the water and scrubbing off the bits of food. At the time the sole thought running through my head was “What on earth…?”.

    I was not formerly aware of this stereotype so thank you for enlightening me (as your blog does on frequent occasions)! Actually, I really enjoyed your article on “How to become a freelance journalist” and was wondering if you could offer me some additional career advice. Please send me an email when you have a moment!

    1. Hehe, that’s really funny. It’s interesting how there seems to be a lot of strong opinions about how to do the dishes. And on that subject… I’m still not that used to the British sponge, I prefer the good old dish brush 🙂

      I’m glad you liked the post! I’ll drop you a line about freelancing.

  2. I’ve always had the same question, thinking how unhygienic the method is. Oh well, each to their own.

    Btw, I’m moving to London in April this year and your guide to London was really helpful. I’ll be documenting my life in London, including the preparation stages, on my blog with the aim to help others just as your wonderful blog has assisted me. Thanks again!

    1. Hey Hanna. Glad to hear you found my post helpful! I’ll keep an eye on your blog and follow your progress. I’m sure the posts will be popular. There seems to be a lot of people out there interested in hearing more about how to move to this lovely city. Maybe we could do a cross-post thingy at some point? I could send you a couple of questions about your move, write a post and link to your blog… Good luck with the move! x

    1. Thanks for letting me use the photo! It’s the perfect soapy dish photo 🙂

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