I can’t help but feel a little smug at what my daughter Anna Grace told me today. And at the same time, I feel a bit guilty and wonder if this is going to cause more problems for my children in the future. This morning she was excited about the day and was taking some money to school saying they were selling milkshakes during break time. I didn’t really give it much thought other than to make sure she had enough money.

However, when I collected her from school she told me she didn’t get a milkshake in the end. When I asked her why not she replied, “because they weren’t milkshakes. I was expecting a real milkshake, you know, American style.” I chuckled at this and said that the concept of milkshakes in Britain was slightly different and that you are not guaranteed a real milkshake unless you go to an American style restaurant here. She told me they were basically just selling flavored milk. This did not surprise me. I remember ordering a milkshake in a cafe here once and getting a glass of flavored milk. I stopped expecting cafes to have real milkshakes here in Britain years ago and just treat myself to one whenever we go to an American style place which is not often as there are no American style restaurants in our town. My expectations have changed. But now I realize that by making real milkshakes at home and talking about American style milkshakes, I’m influencing the expectations my children have. And it’s clear to me now that it’s not just their expectations of what a milkshake is that I’m influencing either. Perhaps this is good? Perhaps not? Perhaps it’s bittersweet. I’m opening them up to the world I grew up in but by doing so I’m creating expectations that are unfair to have growing up in Britain where things are not the same as they are in the States. My expectations of good customer service is an example. I am forever appalled by the lack of good customer service here and my children see this and they either think “Gosh, people in shops here in Britain are not very helpful or friendly.” or they think “why does mum get so crazy when she talks about customer service? What’s the big deal?” So am I setting them up to have unrealistic expectations?

Just want to mention that customer service has been on my mind a lot over the past few days – there’s a lady in our local shop who constantly has a scowl on her face so severe that I actually feel scared. The way her body language is and the look on her face says “how dare you buy something from this shop. Get out! Get out now!” I’ve seen her interact with other customers so I know it’s not just me. Today there was a customer who didn’t see her and accidentally walked in front of her. The customer said, “oh so sorry” and quickly moved out of the way letting the shop assistant by. The shop assistant actually held up her hands high, sighed a great big sigh and pushed her way through shaking her head all the while. It did not surprise me but I was offended by her treatment of the other customer.

I’ll pause here otherwise I could go off on a much longer rant about customer service! But just to interject – whenever I experience good customer service here in Britain I always mention how wonderful the customer service has been and thank them profusely. It makes such a positive difference. My son says it embarrasses him when I do this. I always tell him that you should expect to be treated in a friendly manner and be friendly back and if you show your appreciation towards people, then it might make them feel good about providing good customer service. Anyways, I’m now craving a milkshake after writing this so here is a good place to get a real American style milkshake in Brighton – which I suppose would be our nearest American style restaurant.

American milkshake
Photo of milkshake at JB’s American Diner is credited to: http://www.thefabuloustimes.com/travel-day-trip-to-beautiful-brighton-the-biba-beyond-exhibition/

Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, White Ochre Design Ltd. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.