The English conundrum

When I travel, I prefer actually settling down in a place for a week or six rather than camping out in hotels. Yes, hotels are nice for providing services like hot and cold running meal delivery, after which one heaves the tray into the hallway rather than dealing with dirty dishes, but one misses so much.
Such as the eternal questions of life. Questions such as, Why do British supermarkets use trolleys with wheels that turn 360 degrees instead of those that go in a straight line? One would think full-turn wheels are better–until one launches into the car park and has to wrestle a hundredweight of freewheeling groceries that want nothing but to follow the slope into the nearest bit of polished metal door or wooden post. Every shopper in the country must have back problems.
My theory is, the carts were designed for tight navigation of the shops themselves, and overlooked the growing number of individuals who might a) want to transfer groceries to a motorcar and b) lacked servants to do the task.

Okay, that’s a hypothesis for the shopping trolleys. But what about the English brooms? Why do British brooms all resemble those that Americans only employ when faced with a broad expanse of driveway? Why do Brits put up with clunky objects impossible to navigate into the corners of kitchens or under the edges of refrigerators? A tool guaranteed to endanger anyone trying to use it on a set of stairs? An implement that would be just as useful if it lacked a handle entirely?
It’s certainly not because the standard British kitchen and stairs resemble a broad expanse of driveway.
So, my British compatriots: any elightenment here?



  1. bani on August 1, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Well, we use those brooms in Sweden too. What other kind is it you prefer? The ones that are like genuine BROOMSTICKS FOR WITCHES? They do have that in their favour, I admit.

    (Cynically I would say that perhaps we never sweep under the fridge in Europe….)

  2. Sue Cox on August 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Traveling in the opposite direction I always wondered why those flat American brooms were so stiff that the dust and little bits weren’t captured. English brooms were intended to be part of a group of brooms, each one designed for a different purpose. I remember, for example,my grandmother’s fat, stiff, short hand broom whose only purpose was to sweep the stair carpet and another, much narrower one with bi-level, soft bristles, used for (I kid you not) dusting the tops of books in the library. Luckily those pesky servants kept track of them all 😉

  3. Amy Perry on August 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I have a number of brooms too! Not sure why…my mom did, my nan did, that’s why I suppose! As for shopping trolleys, no idea! They are the work of the devil and totally pointless, especially when shopping with a six month old :-s

  4. Christine on August 1, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I think the overall question is here is: “Why do the Brits put up with _____ (insert various odd inconveniences here)?” The number of things that Brits put up with are confounding, even as they are slightly charming in their foreign-ness. Shopping trolley wheels, awkward brooms, ancient directly-overhead shower fixtures that assault your scalp-top and cause you to twist and contort to get the waters to flow everywhere else, warm “cold” drinks, really long post office lines, salad cream…the list goes on. But, well…it’s nice because…it’s England!

  5. Chris on August 1, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    The trolleys at my local store wouldn’t DARE do that to me on a Friday evening. Really. They wouldn’t…

  6. Erin on August 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Don’t all shopping carts have 360 degree swivel casters? So the wheels will always point in the direction that you are pushing/pulling? All the shopping carts I’ve ever used in the US have swivel casters (not that they all work correctly, but that’s the design).

  7. Marty Meyer-Gad on August 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Could it be that trolleys or shopping carts were designed by men who did no shopping? At first it sounded like Bristish trolleys have a ball (caster) rather than a wheel. But checking with google, we have the same kind. Do we need to design brakes (of course, inexpensive breaks) for them?

  8. Elizabeth Nunn on August 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    IBrooms are overcompensation for every appliance being built for dwarfs.
    Shopping carts are the way they are because “We’ve always done it this way.”

  9. Kath on August 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I have other questions. What is brown sauce? Why is a country that is fully metric still have miles per hour instead of kilometers? Why does the food all taste the same? What in the heck is a “weak subway”?

  10. Chris on August 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Oh – and my California wine was a snip at under £5.00 in the supermarket today. And my trolley behaved impecably!

  11. Carina on August 5, 2013 at 2:17 am

    I agree with several contributers above. You do need different brushes/brooms for different uses. And the bookshelves are among the greatest dustcollecting areas, alas! As a avid reader/collector i know to my grief.- And the trolley wheels do need to be able to swivel for being able to push at all, round a supermarket. But why they make all parking lots outside the malls so uneven/sloping is a greater mystery yet. They know we all are coming out with loaded trolleys to the cars which need to stand still in order to be unloaded, and we aren’t octopuses to.hold both the trolley and pack into the car, with or without toddlers.

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