How long does it take to become truly British?

I've lived in London for 23 years. Twenty-five, if you count my art student days back in the late 70s. I often imagine a parallel foreigner (say, a Swede, Korean or Kenyan) living in New York City for twenty-five years. That newcomer would be shlepping down to Zabars for bagels, kvelling over bargains, sending iced tea back for being too warm -- all within days. Said foreigner would be transformed into an instant New Yorker by dint of being in New York, armed with nothing more than an enthusiasm for the city and an intent to stay.

Not so, London.

Here are a few of the things that keep me forever foreign:

  1. Apologising when someone else steps on your foot. (I do it too, of course I do. But why?)

  2. Muttering. Musn't grumble. Must merely mutter. Mutter mutter mutter. Like resentful schoolchildren or inmates of an asylum.

  3. Expecting the worst. See, Brits say mournfully at around 7pm each night. I told you the sun wouldn't last.

  4. Cricket (gimme a shout when you get to rule 42)

  5. 'Sorry, we haven't got that thing you want.' 'Yes you do, I can see it right there.' 'Except for that one.'

  6. All the TV murders that happen in one sleepy village.

  7. Cross-dressing.

  8. Royal Weddings, funerals, jubilees; commemorative mugs, plates, paper hats; Union Jack bras, socks, bus pass holders, loo paper.

There are more, of course. Another twenty five years and we'll tackle pantomimes.