Weird Americans, weird Brits
There’s been a bit of America-bashing going on over the Interweb recently.
Articles like this one*, where the writer, when amusing herself with the fact that some Brits are only ‘somewhat proud’ of our country, reflects that she will ‘leave the bolshie, bragging ‘very proud’ to Americans [and North Koreans].’
*Although, the funny bit about this survey is that’somewhat proud’ was actually an option for us Brits. Of course it was!
I was also tickled by the paragraph where the writer states that she is proud of the following British attributes: ‘…the British way of mourning (badly, ineffectually but with dignity), the British way of weddings (with a punch-up and a bridesmaid getting pregnant), and the British way of Ladies’ Day at Aintree (short skirts, fake tan, drunk by 11am).’ Hahahaha, yes to all of the above! 😉
The other article is this one, where someone (I don’t know who) goes on about all the ‘weird’ stuff that Americans do and that exists in the USA.
Several Americans were offended by this some references on this list, and I get that. But, I find this article interesting.
I’m not really offended by the word ‘weird’. The word ‘weird’, as I interpret it, means kind of ‘fantastical’ or ‘bizarre’ – and different. I see ‘weird’ as good. We all seem ‘weird’ to each other at times, because we are different and those differences – which are generally things that are unlike those that we are used to as part of our own culture, standards or behaviours – should be celebrated (as I’ve said sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many times before).
If someone said I was weird, that would be cool with me, because it means they see me as being different (my dress sense if often described as ‘weird’!). Sure, sometimes those differences scare people, or they just don’t get it, or maybe they might find it intriguing. Let’s not forget Austin, Texas, whose people live by the mantra: Let’s keep Austin weird. Personally, I like Austin because it is weird and different and unusual.
So, this article, whilst it might offend some Americans, is simply pointing out some of the things that an outsider to America would find as different, odd, or weird once they were here. Sure, a better choice of word maybe should have been used, because not everyone sees weird as positive. And I bet someone could write a very similar article about the UK (if they haven’t already!).
So, let’s look at some of these points made and see why they have been chosen and try to rationalise this in a tongue-in-cheek Desperate English Housewife way….
1. Portion size – yes, things are sometimes bigger in the States. Like a size ‘small’ soda at a theme park is big enough to fill a the tank of a lorry, but things are changing in restaurants and places. And let’s not forget those British Sunday Roast Carveries where you can pile 6 types of meat and 300+ vegetables on your plate… 😉
2. Flags – everywhere. I like this about the States – seeing those stars and stripes riding high in the wind. It makes me remember I’m in the USA. Why is this weird to an outsider, and possibly a Brit? Because until recently the Union flag was not particularly flown much, and the England flag – the St George Cross – had fascist connotations attached to it. But the Union flag has become more and more obvious, as people in the UK have become more proud – just think about the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee! Streets were awash with Union Jacks! Before the Jubilee the Royal Family was probably liked more outside the UK than inside it, but I think people might be swayed, what with Prince Georgie-Porgie and maybe another one on the way (just a RUMOUR!!).
The thing is, to refer back to earlier – I think we still have an issue with shouting about how openly proud (read as ‘somewhat proud’) we are about the UK sometimes – just sometimes – because we have got a terrible history of crusading and invading and wotnot and it belies the stiff upper lip to be overly-proud. Although, I have seen a huge increase in British pride with my parents’ generation with British nostalgia being central to that. Even in my generation where we’re like ‘Yeah, we’re British and it’s ace, and we’re cool, and our music and fashion and pubs are fab’ and there is nothing more to it than that. We’re just well chuffed to be Brits, in a good way.
3. I’m skipping to Tipping, because I am still crap at this. It just isn’t a massive part of our British culture, although to be fair I seem to be using the Common Core maths equations to get there, so it has benefits. I understand why we tip (cos the wages can suck), but it does take some getting used to as a Brit in the USA.
4. Toilet doors, number 10. Yes, I have issue with the gaps between the door and the frame. Though it appears my six-year-old son does not, and he finds it quite amusing to have a nose in at whoever is in there doing their business (‘They call it potty and pee’), though he won’t be doing that again soon after seeing an old woman pull down her entire swimming costume to have a wee last time we were at the pool…. 😉 For some reason, the gaps exist in the loos, and I’m not sure why that is, especially when I’ve encountered such prudishness about nudity in the USA, but that’s a whole other blog! It’s a funny old world!
5. The Pledge of Allegiance. Now, I found it odd to hear Harry say this when he first started school, but now it’s just part of what he does on a Friday. And when the American National Anthem plays before a game or a race or at an event, Harry’s operatic hand and voice come in to full swing and he loves belting it out. The thing is, why this might appear a strange phenomenon for us Brits is that, whilst of course we do have a national anthem, many of us have spent the occasions when we are supposed to sing it simply muttering the first two lines and then stumbling over the rest, because, believe me, we have no idea what the rest of the words are. So it’s a new-fangled thing, to see this sung with hand on heart, and with passion and meaning. When you see people do it it’s quite overwhelming at first, but I can’t help tear up because it obviously holds dear in America’s heart. You know, I’m sure hearing ‘God Save the Queen’ at the Proms or at Hyde Park in the UK is equally as thrilling; it’s just not an everyday, natural part of our British culture to perform it.
And thus, my rationalisation is complete. We Brits are weird too, you know, if you look at us from an outsider’s perspective. Queuing, Sunday walks with wellies on, little terrace houses, drinking endless cups of tea, Page 3 boobs on the kitchen table (odd-weird), streaking at football matches, parking on the opposite side of the road, saying sorry all the time etc.
Many of these things on this USA list I’ve noted in this blog because of the differences they highlight between our British and American cultures and lifestyles, and I never think ‘I dislike that’ (apart from the frigging awful squirty cheese crap), but I do think, ‘ooh, that’s different’. I love America and my American cousins/friends because of those differences and that is all part of the experience of being a Brit over here in the sometimes weird, sometimes funny, sometimes charming, sometimes quirky, and always surprising, USofA.
But, as I said. Weird, different, unusual is good and sometimes very, very cool. Everyone is weird, different or unusual in some way – let’s embrace it, not disrespect that, folks.
#4. We could reverse it and ask why Britons, who put a topless girl on page 3 of The Sun every day, gave us Benny Hill and enjoy a bit of streaking (where did I read that?), are suddenly shy about a gap in a toilet stall? Trust me, no one is watching you “wee” or “poo” through the gap.
As far as cheese in a can goes, how about Haggis in a can, or just Haggis?
I think, and here’s another difference, that the use of the word ‘weird’ is the issue for many Americans. “Weird” carries a negative connotation (you get bullied for being “weird”), and I think the author of that article knew it and enjoyed using it.
Yes, Page 3. Sigh. Bad weird!
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My issue with the pledge in the former post was that author implied that we Americans simply recite our pledge as robots with no meaning behind it. That is not true. There is heartfelt meaning behind it, especially to someone of my generation, raised during the Vietnam era with a Brother away at war. Patriotism is not something to be mocked. Thank you for your follow up piece. I love your blog xx
Thanks Marci. I see much passion behind the pledge, and there is always a reason behind such thing 🙂 x
I wonder who the author was….?
I do take the point that someone here temporarily, such as young Harry, having to say the pledge is a bit awkward. Even if the teacher was diplomatic enough to say to him that he is not obligated, he may do it anyway so as to not feel left out. When our national anthem is played I don’t put my hand on my heart – still think that’s optional – and if I were back in the UK, I would stand up (and knowing me, sing the anthem at the top of my lungs!) 🙂
He’s cool with it now, and it’s a good learning experience for him; after all, he wouldn’t get it in the UK! A life lesson 🙂
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Great article, thanks! You know, even cousins can have their squabbles at times 😉
Tis true! 🙂
Yes, and many many Americans find the squirt cheese in a can crap too! I think it’s like plastic silly string? Just saying… 🙂
Bet ya could find in Tesco’s back in the UK aswell! 😉
Nice article Claire, well written. My son’s teacher pulled him aside on his first week and told him she didn’t see a need for him to pledge allegiance to the US flag because he is Australian. I fully rate her for that because she understands and thinks outside the box. Fortunately for him being Australian is rockstar status at school so everyone gets it. It’s a shame weird has a negative connotation because like you I think it’s all good. We use the word all the time here–not necessarily because we think something’s weird but because it’s different to the way we do things. What I like though is that we get it because we’re learning to appreciate how it can and is done differently sometimes. The best bit about being exposed to another way of life and the best bit about being an expat.
It sure is 🙂
Germany also has one of the most terrible, if not THE worst history, but I’ve noticed more flags in Germany again. It really picked up after the World Cup in 2006, which is great. Everybody should be proud of their country, just like the Americans, because newer generations have nothing to do with our horrible past.