It’s strange to be in a country that seems so proud to be British, and yet is chasing the same American dream that – well – Americans chase. We get blamed for a lot, but are copied more.
I’m going to just come out and say it – The Mother country of England wants desperately to be the rebellious teen that is America. (My British friends reading this will probably scream at my audacity, and I understand why. I won’t apologize (or even apologise), but I will say I did not want to come to this conclusion. I was in denial for a long time. And – obviously – it’s nothing personal.)
I’ve never said anything because it wasn’t completely evident at first – at least not to me. I mean, why would it be? When I move to another country, I assume that it will be me doing the assimilating, changing my patterns to fit in with them. I will be the outcast, and yearning to one day be able to soften my vowels. I have assimilated. There are huge differences in our two cultures.
It’s just, England always seemed so sure of itself. So goddamn – well, older and more wise.
I didn’t say anything even when I first began to notice because I was watching, waiting to be sure I wasn’t just seeing things. I’ll admit it: I thought the UK was bigger and badder than it actually is. I was deceived like so many others.
I utterly believed that Simon Cowell and his country knew everything there was to know about life. I mean, if they had a country full of Simon Cowell’s, why on earth would they need us? That’s the irony of it all – they need us. Simon Cowell needs us probably more than we need him.
And, we buy into it. In America, we’re bred to believe the the British are, in some ways, irrevocably more cultured and well-bred than we are. We watch in awe as actors take over our television screens, putting on better American accents than most of us as Americans can do. We are obsessed with the royal family. We giggle when we meet a man or woman with an accent, throwing our hair to one side. We automatically assume they are more intelligent than we are.
Most people think we are full of ourselves. In reality, I think many Americans are insecure about being American. We’ve been hated for so long. It might even be an epidemic.
But, let me let those Americans in on a little secret I’ve found out for myself…many British – not all and maybe not even the majority, but a big enough chunk for me to take notice – they actually wish they were American. (Or, they certainly wish they could live and work there.) Shhhhhhh. Don’t tell them I told you. They will deny it to their graves, and they will curse me to the heavens. But, below are a few things that have led me to this conclusion.
Sure, they complain about us. Sure, they curse us for polluting the Earth just as much as China. Sure, they hate most of our policies. But also, secretly, they love it. Jack Kerouac’s vision of a road trip is still blossoming in the British minds like a prepubescent boy’s first porno mag. Our ability to bear arms is disgusting to them and, at the same time, mesmerizing.
Some examples -
Their election process. It is taking place right now, and is eerily echoing many campaigns I have seen in my own country – more specifically the debates. I am told its because the Lib Dems demanded to have more of a voice against the shadow of the Labour Party and the Conservatives, and for the first time in the UK’s history, they are having staged debates. Actually, it appears that it was the Prime Minister’s idea (and more importantly, Peter Mandelson). The PM realized he needed to jump ahead in the opinion’s poll and therefore realized that a bit of “show biz” might do well for his image. That makes sense. (Ultimately, the UK is even more of a democracy than we are – they have had Question Time and the Prime Minister’s Questions every week since 1979 in which citizens can ask the PM and the people in charge straight forward questions about topics they want answers to. We have nothing of the sort. The most you can hope to question the top decision makers in the US is by writing them a letter, staging a protest (which will get shut down before it starts) or getting petitions signed. I really wish we had a Question Time.)
Normally, the UK’s election process is very different to America’s. (Read more about the differences at the blog, Pond Parleys, here.) However, this year, due to the Lib Dems, they are having American-style interviews and debates in which charisma matters! Its supposed to be all about the policies and yet the candidates and the news programs analyzing the candidates succumb to the pressure of discussing mainly: the candidate’s appearance, their gesticulations and how they eat ice cream with the grannies. (I seem to remember a certain Obama who did that same thing.) It is becoming more about the person, and less about the policies. Just like in good ole USA.
Celebrating the 21st birthday – We are celebrating a 21st birthday coming up, and I’m confused. I am told there are two big birthdays for a British person – their 18th and 21st. OK, I get the 18th one – they become an adult and can legally drink, vote and drive (although not in that order). But, the 21st? I have yet to have someone explain to me why the 21st birthday is a big deal. There was a vague explanation that it marks a British person’s adulthood, but how? What can they do when they turn 21 that is any different from when they were 20? In America, we can drink legally for the first time in our lives. I can only come to one conclusion – and that is, they are celebrating the ability to drink in America.
Celebrities – no matter what anyone says, it is the goal of every British celebrity to “crack America.” I hear it all over the news, in the newspapers and in interviews – “Oh, if only I could crack America.” In terms of profit, I get it, it’s a bigger market and many record labels and agents want their acts to rake in the most amount of money. But, Hollywood still has the same sexy allure it did back when Marilyn Monroe was alive, and Elvis Presley was topping the charts. America is the ultimate end-all for show business to this day.
Proms – I didn’t realize this, but apparently proms are becoming bigger and bigger over here. Mike from Postcards from Across the Pond makes a good point about these. You can read it here.
Halloween – Trick or treating? The appeal is traversing the pond. Dressing up and having big “fancy dress” parties – same. (Watch Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry’s take on this phenomenon sent to me by HBLX: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZITno-8HP9o)
I won’t even go into the effect that McDonald’s, chain stores, clothing stores, etc. has had over here. That happened a while ago, and everyone knows the impact of mass consumerism.
There are many more examples, but I’ll leave it at that.
Perhaps it’s just a mutual respect we have in this “special relationship”. After all, how many Americans wish they could live and work here in the UK? I know Smitten by Britain does for sure ;). I also realize that a big part of my opinion comes from what I see in the media, and the fact that my ears prick up whenever I hear my country being mentioned so perhaps that’s already a biased opinion. I just can’t stop thinking that people feel they are on the wrong side of the pond – on both sides of the pond.
Feel free to shower me with your comments – agreements? Disagreements?