Is Santa Monica Little Britain?

While some areas of Los Angeles are unmistakably pockets of foreign culture, like Chinatown or Little Tokyo, with billboards, posters and shop signs written in languages undecipherable to most, one would be forgiven for not noticing a British settlement. On closer inspection however, lobster-red suntans, a larger concentration of soccer shirts and even the odd Union Jack might give it away. These simple folk can usually be found making the obligatory pilgrimage to one of the English-themed pubs on a Friday evening, enjoying a warm pint of Speckled Sporran and watching the footy on the telly.

With nearly a dozen British stores, pubs and more located in the approximately eight-mile square city of Santa Monica, it is no wonder BBC America named it one of the “Most British Towns in America” and everyone seems to agree on the main attraction of Los Angeles…that would be the beach.

It goes without saying there’s a number of Irish pubs in Santa Monica – but that’s doesn’t mean much. Personally speaking, I’ve lived and worked in the Middle East and in some areas there might be little more than a cave and a goat trail, but somehow you’ll still manage to find an Irish pub nearby. O’Brien’s on Wilshire Blvd is one and McCabe’s Bar & Grill on Santa Monica Blvd is another – despite having a disturbingly accurate replica of a rundown old red telephone box outside, something that’s probably associated more with England than Ireland. This enigmatic method of identification has also been employed by another English pub on Lincoln Blvd called the Cock and Bull.

Having whiled away many long winter evenings in local boozers along the River Thames in London, visiting an American interpretation of an ‘English pub’ always makes me smile. The essence is seldom completely captured and the result is a trans-Atlantic amalgamation that is aimed to appeal just as much to US Anglophiles as it is a visiting Brit.

There might be fewer real ales and more light beers, the buildings themselves certainly won’t be as old or creaky, there’s way too many TV screens and a roaring open fire would be redundant in sunny Southern California.

According to BBC America, around 5,000 British migrants now live in the City of Santa Monica. This Los Angeles locale also offers a number of stores that sell well-known and essential British brands like Marmite, Coleman’s mustard, Maltesers and of course, HP sauce. Ye Olde King’s Head Gift Shoppe is one of the most popular, probably partly to do with its prime location in the Downtown district of the city, but also because it’s attached to the pub of the same name. The Continental Shop on Wilshire Blvd is another. Here you can buy most of the home comforts that might otherwise be a little tricky to track down. Although they do cost a bit more than they would at home.

In addition to a few British-flavoured pubs and shops, there are other reasons why this part of LA forms the first port of call for Brits fresh off the boat. In addition to finding somewhere to live, getting your Social Security number, bank account and all the other hurdles that must be overcome, you’ll need a car, and renting a car week after week will soon drain any savings you might have. Leasing a car, is often an option, but yet again, you’ll struggle without a lengthy bank history and good credit rating, but the Volkswagon garage on Santa Monica Blvd offers what’s called a Foreign Professional Leasing Scheme. So, providing you’re comfortable being tied into a three-year deal – which is standard in this kind of situation, Santa Monica again seems set up to cater for Brits fresh off the boat.

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