Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 184

Biker Beach Bar in the Caribbean….

Actually, read that as Biker Beach Bar in Glen Burnie, MD, just 30 minutes from Columbia. But holy smokes, it sure felt like the Caribbean, and there’s proof:

Caribbean or Maryland?

Caribbean or Maryland?

Collecting coconuts

Collecting coconuts

Mini beach

Mini beach

Me and H on the beach :)

Me and H on the beach 🙂

Seriously, I loved this place – it’s called Reckless Ric’s and it’s predominantly a biker bar. But bikers, they like to hang out at the beach and drink beer too you know!

As much as I love living in Columbia, I had a need – a yearning – to get out of the suburbia. I wanted to go a little more rustic, a little less ‘mall’. Reckless Ric’s was perfect. And bikers are so very, very friendly (I guess the English accent always helps). Boats and jet skis pulled up at the dock to stop by for a beer and some fish tacos. Now that’s the life.

Where else in Maryland can you wade in the super-warm water of a creek, collect coconuts on the beach, listen to my FAVOURITE type of music – ROCK! – and hang out talking to a lovely bunch of tattooed men who just rocked up on a bunch of amazeballs Harleys? Hell, Reckless Ric’s – I’m back for more soon! 🙂

So what do Americans think of America?

I’m running my interview series over the next month, which, whilst it looks at Brit views of America and American views of the UK, it also focuses on American’s views of their own country. With this in mind, this has caught my attention as it does the social media rounds…… It’s Ten Things American’s Don’t Know About America. And whilst the piece itself is fascinating, if a little aggressive, the comments are even more fascinating!

The piece in the main article which really struck me was this one:

5. THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS NOT THAT GREAT

If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

In my adventures so far, I’ve only tasted a small slice of the American pie, and only a couple of momentary glimpses at how poverty in the USA really affects people, but I am fully aware of its existence and that is troubling in a country that promises such dreams for everyone…..

He was a clever clogs, that Mr Steinbeck

He was a clever clogs, that Mr Steinbeck

Melissa’s Musings

So, Melissa from Smitten by Britain and I have been communicating, as is much the way for us bloggers, by email and Facebook – and hallelujah for technology and the InterWeb! 😉

So we decided to meet in real life and have a natter, and we sure did that! We could have chinwagged for yonks!

Melissa’s interview is from her Anglophile perspective – read on to hear her musings on why she is smitten by all things Britain.

Me and Mel hang out and talk Brit and USA stuff

Me and Mel hang out and talk Brit and USA stuff

Melissa is an Anglophile who used to live in England and was married to a Scotsman. She continues to blog about her love of all things British at Smitten by Britain in between trips back to the UK.

What fascinates you most about the UK / what do you love about it?
I think there are a lot of things about Great Britain that appeals to Americans; because our history is so short, we are intrigued by yours. Some of us feel like we need an anchor or deeper roots to attach to and since the English settled America, and many of us descend from those settlers, where else should we look? I think because our country is so young, we are fascinated by a nation like Great Britain that has managed to hold on to so many of its customs and traditions. That’s why many of us are enamored with the monarchy.

Then there are the more obvious appeals like the ancient castles and beautiful scenery. Some of the world’s greatest literature comes from England, so for some, this is where the interest starts. We want to visit the settings of Jane Austen’s novels or Shakespeare’s plays. For me personally, there is so much more. I am fascinated by the variety of accents and dialects in such a small area (compared to the States) and I love British humo(u)r. This leads me to all the great British comedies and dramas that have been made for television and film. The history buff in me is fascinated by all the contributions that the English, Welsh and Scottish people have made to the world in the last two thousand years – more combined than any other nation. I could go on, but I’m gagging for a cup of tea.

A right and proper cuppa

A right and proper cuppa

Having lived in the UK what are your favorite areas to visit?
What an amazingly difficult question for someone like me to answer. I will always suggest to my friends travelling to the UK to take the train to Scotland. I suggest this because it gives you the opportunity to visit a different country with a different culture and set of customs but on the way there, you get to see quite a bit of the English countryside. Two pleasures in one! See Edinburgh or Glasgow and if you can manage it take a bus trip through Glencoe and the Highlands. It’s an experience you will never forget. I can recommend both the east coast and west coast lines from London to Scotland, as I’ve taken both and each have the benefit of beautiful scenery.

Now, if you’re talking about choosing just one place in England, it really is an impossible task for me. I think many people will say visit Devon or Cornwall and indeed, they are beautiful, but so are many other parts of England. It all depends on your tastes really. I am particularly drawn to the northeast and places like York, Durham and Newcastle. And don’t forget Wales. Cripes, what a dilemma! See, I really need to move to Britain.

My general advice to people is to just do it! Get on a plane and go to England. No matter where you visit, you won’t be disappointed but I will encourage travelers to take at least one day trip outside of London because England is so much more than just London.

There are lots of sheep in Wales....

There are lots of sheep in Wales….

What differences do you think really exist between our cultures?
The most important difference I feel between our cultures is in our general outlook on life. Americans tend to be more optimistic while the British tend to be more cynical (although I’m seeing a change with younger generation, thanks to influences such as the internet, social media and US TV shows.)

I heard it put like this recently, which I think hits the nail on the head: “When you ask an American ‘How are you?’ they answer ‘Fine!’ or ‘Good!’ Ask a Briton and they reply, ‘Musn’t grumble!’ “

And while I think things have improved in the last few decades, an emphasis on class still exists in Great Britain. One can easily be put down or judged for where they came from, where they were schooled and which class they were born into. One’s accent is often used to judge any of these and results in certain assumptions being made about the person. Likewise, if a Briton works to improve their lot in life and aspires to move up in class, they catch a lot of grief from their family, friends and neighbors.

In the US, we’re almost expected to do better and be better. We don’t really discuss class amongst ourselves and you really only hear about it in the media – mostly as part of political discussions. If we talk about anything it’s generally about the huge gap between the rich and the poor and that these have become the two dominate classes, as the middle class continues to shrink.

Unfortunately, if you watch our media and celebrity driven culture, it seems the primary message these days is if you’re not rich and famous, you don’t matter. This is a huge downside to our “do better, be better” culture. Where do you draw the line? When is enough, enough?

About the USA: which myths, stereotypes and preconceptions about the USA and its citizens do you think really exist or are just a load of nonsense?!
There are quite a few but I’ll address my top three here:

1. We don’t have a sense of humor. If not, then why do so many countries around the world, including the U.K., import our television comedies like Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Frasier and the Big Bang Theory?

US TV shows....

US TV shows….

2. Americans don’t understand irony or British humor. Again, if that were the case then British comedies would not be successful here and you wouldn’t have Anglophiles like me.

3. Xenophobia is not the reason why only 40% of Americans own passports. Keep believing that if it makes you feel superior but it’s simply not the truth. There are three primary reasons why Americans don’t own passports and they are:

a. We have limited vacation time. It’s still considered a ‘great’ benefit if you find a job that will give you two weeks of vacation. That is considered the norm here. But some people don’t have vacation time at all! If you don’t have vacation time, and can’t go abroad, then when do you have a need for a passport? But let’s say you do have two weeks of vacation – once you go visit your family members that you haven’t seen all year (because they live out-of-state), you don’t have any time left for travelling abroad. I don’t think people outside the US realize how big our country is and how spread out our families are. And let’s remember that before 9/11 we didn’t need a passport to visit Mexico or Canada so we could indeed visit another country without needing a passport!

b. Money, money, money! Do you know how much it costs an American to travel to the UK? Let me explain: In 2010 I took my family of three to the UK for a fortnight’s holiday. Even before I left my doorstep I had spent nearly $6000 on three roundtrip airline tickets and two weeks flat rental (letting a flat many times is cheaper than hotels especially when you have access to a kitchen.) By the end of our holiday, once we added in cost of train tickets and various day trips (because Britons all want us to get out of London right?), groceries and eating out, our trip cost us nearly $8500. Now I ask you, how many British families can afford a £5000 holiday? They’re lucky if they can do that in ONE lifetime, let alone every few years. It’s the same for Americans, and by the way, I was flying from the East Coast. Imagine the cost for a family flying from Middle America or the West Coast? And that’s just for a family of three!

An English friend of mine put it this way: “If Great Britain had lovely weather and amazing beaches most of us wouldn’t need passports either.” I agree. We have it all here in the U.S.: great weather, beautiful beaches, gorgeous mountains and countryside and yes, even culture! And it’s a good thing as well because we don’t have Europe on our doorstep.

Paris, France, Europe

Paris, France, Europe

c. We want to see our own country! The US is so dang big; many of us would actually like to see some of it! What’s wrong with that? When you consider this with the outrageous cost of traveling abroad and the little time we have for vacation, it’s no wonder many us don’t have passports.

Sure, you’ll find the odd xenophobe here but I will add that on my last trip to the Scotland, a taxi driver told me he had never been to London, had never even been outside of Glasgow and indeed had no desire to. So xenophobes are everywhere and we by no means corner the market on them.

Bonny Scotland!

Bonny Scotland!

When I tell my friends I’m going back to the UK the most common response I get is “You’re so lucky! I wish I could go with you but I just can’t afford it. My dream is to go to [insert country.]” The reply is never “Ugh! Why would you want to go there?”

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9 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 184

  1. You find the best stuff Claire. Had no idea that was in Glen Burnie.

    As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

    Bill Maher often says on his show that the reason why so many poor Americans vote for Republicans (who tend to favor laws that benefit the rich) is that they continually live under this illusion that one day they will be rich too. While it’s possible, and it’s one of the great things about the land of opportunity, it’s not very likely to happen.

  2. Excellent, Claire and Melissa! I would so love another trip to the home of my heart, England, but it may not happen for a good while. Meantime, I keep my English heritage alive in my home through things like my cooking, literature, blue and white china, and continual tea drinking!

  3. pak152 says:

    “The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.” and there is something wrong with that? you want to reward the slackers while hampering the folks who have drive?

    • Mais non! Not that bit! This is the bit which I feel is of issue within the piece: The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

      And whether he is right or wrong, I can’t help thinking that, if some people were asked, they would say that they feel they are entitled to it – the same problem is occuring in the UK – some people don’t want to work for it, they just expect it to happen or they have a sense of entitlement or belief that they should be owed something….

      It’s the X Factor / TOWIE syndrome….

  4. Which is also why every kid gets a trophy even when they haven’t done anything worthy.

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