Hollywood dream or gun crime crazy?

Posted on January 27, 2009 by pacificyorkshirebird

avt_kapyork_large115In a comment for Peaceful’s recent post about feminism, I wrote about my future mother-in-law’s impressions of America prior to her first visit.

She had a manicure before her visit and had the most beautiful fake nails applied. She had never had fake nails before but she got them for her trip because she thought all American women would have them. At first I thought that was odd. Didn’t she know we are relaxed and casual and all “hang loose” etc… I mean the Pacific NW is known for being a hippie haven.  Her nails were gorgeous but no one would have thought any different of her if she didn’t have them.  Nor does one have to have perfectly white and perfectly straight teeth.  Nor does one have to wear perfect designer labels or even think about whether they must wear shoes rather than trainers for a night out.  I don’t even iron… pretty much ever. 

People often have this impression of America though - of a perfect hollywood life with perfect big houses, cars, and huge refrigerators – it just happened to be my M-I-L who first brought it to my attention. 

OR people completely have the opposite reaction.  “Oh you are American?  Have you ever seen anyone get shot?”  What??? Are you serious?  OH – you think America is a massive gang land. 

I spend a lot of time telling people that my American life was actually really similar to my British life.  Even the weather in my home town is almost identical to Yorkshire weather.  No really!

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Cinda January 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I live in a small town in rural Florida, everytime someone calls the police not just 1 car shows up but 3 or more, so I can understand why other people can get the impression we are riddled with crime and everyone carries guns on their hip.

    When I ask silly questions of my British BF, he will very emphatically almost to the point of irritation say “we are normal, just like you” so that is a big hint that we are all the same for the most part.

    I have a customer who lives in Yorkshire and I saw the funniest thing…she was showing me photos of her children, ages 40 to 50 and some of them had uniforms on…I said “oh are they in the military”, she said no they are part of an american re-enactment group (world war 1ish, I think)….for some reason it makes me laugh everytime of think about it….the world is small and we know so little about each other.

  2. pacificyorkshirebird January 27, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Iota – that’s a great story! Except for the crime victims of course. Perfect example though. I hope I overhear the story at some point in passing. I’ll let you know!

    Thanks to all of you for the comments above. I have definitely learned not to let first impressions leave such a big impression.

  3. It was just the American in me..... January 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Another good story….when the owner of our “letting” learned that the American wife had arrived, she needed to come over to discuss the garden work that needed attended to…..and yes, she asked me if we had a gun……the Brits have seen way too many old western movies and CSI type shows…..

  4. Iota January 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I should say, though, that when my parents-in-law came to visit us, their very first morning, we were at the breakfast table, and armed police were running across our front lawn. There had been a break-in two houses up the street. By the time the drama was over, there were a bunch of police, and 2 or 3 police cars.

    Of course we’d been explaining to them how the whole image that Brits have of the US and guns is totally overblown, and the result of too many detective shows, and how of course it wasn’t like that at all in reality.

    I think they loved it, actually, and can you imagine how many times they must have dined out on the story? They live in Yorkshire, by the way, so if you hear someone chip into a conversation on the subject “well, I have some friends who went to visit their son’s family, and the VERY FIRST morning, they saw an armed raid, and in a really safe neighborhood”, then you’ll know where the story comes from.

  5. Iota January 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Your m-i-l should have come to my part of the midwest. Her nails would have fitted right in.

    I suppose that’s exactly the point, isn’t it? How can you have one impression of a country the size of a continent?

  6. peacefulyorkshire January 27, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I liked you post. It made me think that in the same way Americans generalise about Brits :Rain, red phone booths, London, Double decker buses
    Brits do the same about the USA– and I loved that your Mother in Law got fake nails! Hilarious!
    The funny thing is that I once got a french manicure because I was going to Paris. How silly is that? Its embarrassing.

    When I teach at the private schools here, the students often ask me if high schools in America are like High School Musical. Ummm… no! But I did actually have a high gang population that made up my HS population.

  7. pacificyorkshirebird January 27, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Yes it is way too hard to generalize about Americans. People ask me “What is it like there?” I don’t have any idea how to answer this question to satisfy the enquirer’s curiosity. So, like you, I try to explain to people that it varies a lot depending on where you go. Then I usually try to make a connection with the British person by pointing out that you can find a different accent in Britain just by taking a train to the next town. Sometimes that helps. Maybe I will start asking if they saw Stephen Fry’s recent trip through all 50 states.

  8. notfromaroundhere January 27, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I know I’ve been called out for generalizing about “Brits” on my blog since the locals are such a heterogeneous group, but it’s like that and so much the more so with America–such a big country, so many totally different people. When I try to explain life as an American midwesterner and how different this is from, say, life as a New Yorker I’m not sure people here in the UK get it! But I agree, with a few notable exceptions (mostly to do with the hundreds of years old buildings and narrow streets in my ‘hood) I can easily forget where I am.

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