Thanksgiving in England: How to not to die of homesickness

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  This time of year, we always get a LOT of emails from fellow expats that are trying to distract themselves from HHH (Heinous Holiday Homesickness).  I hold my arms open wide and give you all big, non-creepy hugs…

Because so many of your are hurtin’, I thought I’d write down my personal and extra-special check-list that I’ve developed to to kick HHH’s arse.

1 – PARTY!

We’re American and we are used to celebrating this day – don’t stop now just because of the tiny, insignificant fact that you don’t ACTUALLY LIVE THERE ANY MORE   Invite people over – heck, invite PERSON over and channel your inner pilgrim.  Drink ’til you’re merry then eat ’til you’re comatose.

Don’t worry about everyone being American, Brits go MENTAL of Thanksgiving.  There have been years that friends that live on the other side of the UK call me up 6 MONTHS IN ADVANCE to ‘reserve’ their seats at Thanksgiving.  Once a friend even flew over from Spain just to be part of our Thanks-mania.

2 – Take the day off

It took me two years to realise that the single thing that pissed me off the most about missing American Thanksgiving was not getting any time off.  From the minute my alarm clock would go off on Thanksgiving morning, I felt like I wanted to throw things and burst into tears.

But the third year in, I took Thanksgiving day off from work and spent the whole day prepping for party-central and watching the original Miracle on 34th Street on constant loop.  BLOODY HELL, it made me feel SOOOOO much better.

Can’t recommend it highly enough.

3 – Do something REALLY American

I’ll give you three guesses about what I do on Thanksgiving Day every year (and have done since my first expat Thanksgiving all the way back in 2005).

Give up?

I GO TO STARBUCKS.

I swear I’m not paid to constantly talk about Starbucks – I don’t even go there all that often.  I just write about it on here a lot because it’s my go-to-screw-you-HHH solution.

Anyway – this is pretty much the first thing I do every Thanksgiving.  I take myself out for a giant eggnog latte and an enormous pastry.  I bring a book and I just sit, read, and soak in all that glorious caffeine and sugar.  I soak it up and I wear it like a sweater / armour all day long. HHH can’t touch me when I’ve got my American buzz on.

4 – Don’t try to EXACTLY duplicate your childhood Thanksgiving

This is another thing I tried to do for the first two years and I can hold my head up high and tell you that it TANKED.  BIG TIME.

Duplicating my American Thanksgiving caused all KINDS of trouble.  For example:

  • Trying to find certain ingredients was a nightmare (Canned pumpkin, fried onions, the right kind of stuffing mix)
  • Asking everyone around the table to say one thing they’re thankful for went down  like a lead balloon.  On the whole, everyone was TOTALLY embarrassed about it.  We didn’t even get all the way around the table.  The Brits staged a kind of silent revolt and gave up half-way through.  For an English twist, why not ask everyone to make a comment about the weather instead?  (Kidding kidding… that was kinda mean, sorry. Clearly I’m still bitter.)
  • Some of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes gave my English guest the heebies.  They’re weren’t a big fan of green bean casserole.  They were sceptical about candied yams and they were surprised (although not horrified) about the stuffing because it was so different to what they’re used to.
  • It’s worth noting that I’m a vegetarian and we also had quorn roast instead of turkey.  You’ll be SHOCKED to know that it didn’t go down that well. :)

5 – Talk to your family

This is both the absolute best and the super-most-difficult part every year – but it’s an absolute essential.  I always want to have a little tear-session after I talk to my fam, but I also know that I’d feel like a big ol’ pile of shite if I didn’t catch up with them.

———-

And that’s it!  I do these 5 things every year and really REALLY helps.

Does anyone have any tips or traditions that you’ve started since you’ve been an expat?  There’s freakin’ LOADS of room on my list for more traditions, so bring it on.

British TV: Penises. Penises everywhere. And balls.

I have just witnessed a well-spoken doctor squeezing a man’s ball sack on English TV.  They were chatting easily as she casually dug around down there.  There was chirpy music playing in the background.  Xylophone, I think.

Before that I watched a woman take a dump while getting an X-Ray.

And again!  Another scrotum!  This ones being injected with something.  I won’t go into detail.

I’m talking about the TV Show, Embarrassing Bodies on that classiest of English TV channels – Channel 4.  People come on this show to talk through their most embarrassing medical conditions and then they’re filmed while they’re being treated.  Let’s ignore the fact that this is a crazy idea for a TV show (and, naturally, let’s ignore the fact that I’m admitting to watching it :-D ).  Instead, let’s focus on the deeply rooted confusion I’m feeling.  Did I fall asleep and wake up in America?  Through the haze, I think I can see something… HBO?  Is that you?

These lovely English people go on TELEVISION to talk about these things. They drop trou, women casually whip out their boobs, men present their penises. And while all their flesh flashes in super-close-up, they’re chatting away like they’re having a fully-clothed-cuppa in the local caf.

Are these the same people who are uncomfortable when I ask what they’re name is too early in a conversation?? The very same Brits that think it’s hilariously inappropriate that Americans swap medical histories with strangers they meet on the bus?  I MUST be missing something.

I know Americans have a built-in personal freedom when it comes to discussing their lives. Medical problems, money, relationship issues – it’s ALLLLLL open season in America, baby. The other day, someone in my family posted an update on Facebook that said, ‘Hi ho, hi ho, off to my colonoscopy I go’.

But she didn’t film it and put it on YouTube.

Don’t get me wrong, I friggin’ love that this show exists. It shows that Brits can have a stiff upper lip even when they’re bare-arse to the breeze.  A lot of them don’t seem even remotely nervous, either.  I don’t get it.  SERIOUSLY.

But I’m not 100% shocked because it’s not the first time I’ve had a run in with genitalia on prime time British TV.  And I know it isn’t the last…

Anyone else seen this show?  Will anyone else admit to it? :-D

10 things that still annoy me about England after living here for 8 years

I dearly love the UK and I feel more and more English with every passing year.  But there are a few things about living in England that still rub me the wrong way.


1 – Parking

I walk and ride my bike as much as I possibly can, but sometimes you have to go grocery shopping, or pick up something bulky from Argos, or go to the Bristol Cider Shop ( I just got back from there and parking was a bit of an adventure – and so this post is born).

Every time I get in my car, before I even start the engine, I’m worried about parking.  Will there be any?  If there IS, will it be full?  If it ISN’T, will the spaces actually be big enough for me to fit my car in?  If they ARE, will I have to pay to park?  If I DO, do I have any change to pay with?  If I DON’T, will I be able to pay with my phone/debit card?  If I CAN’T, them I’m scuppered and I should just bloody stay home.

By this point in my thought process, I’m always tempted to either check bus schedules, or order whatever I was going to pick up online.

Part of me longs for the days when I could just get in the car and drive to Target.  A) They have EVERYTHING there and B) you could land a plane in the average Target parking lot – and they wouldn’t even charge you for it.

2 – Customer Service (or lack of)

Sometimes I need help when I’m in a shop.  Sometimes I’d like to ask about a product or service.  Sometimes I need help finding something.  Sometimes I’d just like a second opinion.

But I NEVER-TIMES want a shop assistant to act like I’m asking them to climb Everest in their undies when all I’m asking them to do is THEIR JOB.  I don’t want to be ignored.  I don’t want to wait while they finish writing a text message.  I don’t want them to cop an attitude if I ask a simple question.

Iota, a fellow Expat blogger that I’ve followed for a long-arse time, puts it perfectly in her post called Further Woes of a Returning Brit.  Check it out and know that you’re not alone when you despair about English customer service.

3 – Negativity (or as the Brits call it ‘Realism’)

To give you an example, let’s pretend a team of Americans and a team of English people were both asked to build a really tall tower out of straws and scotch tape / sello tape.

The Americans would approach the project with excitement.  They would intrinsically believe that they are super-capable, that they’re ready for this challenge, and probably (absolutely) that they’re going to win.

The Brits would start off by discussing why it’s impossible to build a really tall tower out of only straws and sello tape.  There aren’t enough straws, the straws are the wrong size, the sello tape is old and fragile, there’s not enough time, they also need toothpicks and Blu-tak but they haven’t got any, etc.  But after the we-can’t-possibly-and-this-is-pointless-let’s-just-go-to-pub barrage of negativity / realism – they would knuckle down and do it.  And they’d do it well.

The thing that REALLY bugs me about the instant negative / realist English reaction is that NOW I DO IT, TOO.  DESPAIR!  I want my built-in, sometimes foolish optimism back!

4 – No free refills

I can’t think of a single time in England when I’ve bought a drink that comes with free refills.  I always get my Hope on if I go to an American-diner-style café in the UK.  In the back of mind I’m thinking, “Maybe they’ve done more than embrace 1950′s greasy spoon interior decor.  Maybe they’ve embraced the beverage ethos of my nation.

I’ve yet to see it happen, but I remain hopeful.  It seems like more Americans are showing up in the UK every day – here’s hoping we’re wearing ‘em down. :)

5 – Roundabouts with traffic lights in them

I love roundabouts and I think they work like a freakin’ charm.  Once I figured out how to not-die while using one, I was instantly on board.

But some roundabouts are so huge, that there are traffic lights IN THEM – embedded in as you’re driving AROUND them.  I rarely end up in the right lane on these massive road-swines.  I shake my fist!

6 – ‘Proper coffee’ means ‘instant coffee’

Just as many Americans can’t make a good cuppa tea, many many (dear God, TOO MANY) English people refer to instant coffee as ‘proper coffee’.  I’ve also heard it said, “I’d like a strong coffee – 3 scoops”.  *shudder*

Every time someone says it out loud, I inwardly vom a little and somewhere, in a land far far away, a fair trade, single-estate, organic coffee farmer dies.

7 – ‘OH!  The Windy City…’

My accent hasn’t deserted me – YAY!  I don’t sound completely English (although I don’t always sound American either) so I always get asked that famous question, “Where abouts are you from, then?”.  I say, “Chicago” to which, 98% of the time they reply, “OH!  The Windy City!”

I know I know, they’re being nice – they mean well.  It’s just something that I’ve heard so many times it’s like the spoken equivalent of a scratchy bra that’s rubbing your side-boob raw.

8 – Talking about football

I don’t want to talk about it.

9 – The cost of going out to dinner

I freaking love going out to dinner and it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Give me my local pizza place and a pint of my favourite beer any day.    But it seems like going out to dinner in the States can be done for a LOT less and a LOT more easily.  There are plenty of cheap, one-off, local restaurants in the States that serve awesome food for teeny tiny (or at least reasonable) prices.

There are some outstanding restaurants here, but it always feels expensive compared to my Native Land.

10 – ‘Mexican food’

I put ‘Mexican’ in quotes because what most Brits call Mexican food would cause Mex-enthusiasts to weep uncontrollably into their guacamole.  I have been to many a UK Mexican restaurant in hopes of finding a tasty burrito, but I’m always met with tasteless beans, from-a-tin-and-processed avocado and lack-lustre salsa.  I PINE for good Mexican food – but I have to make it myself.

Having said that – anyone that lives in or near York should check out Fiesta Mehicana because it’s the only place I’ve been that even comes close.


In summary, I love love love living in the UK and there are many things about this cracking country that I wouldn’t trade for a fist-full of Benjamins.  But I guess there’s always going to be things about it that rub me the wrong way and get me itching for my American days.

Come on, expats – have I forgotten anything?

Especially the parking.  MY GOD, THE PARKING.

English candy bars – a quick translation

With Halloween upon us, there’s fancy-dress, ghosts and candy everywhere.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself having familiar conversations about what candy is like in the US verse the UK.  Questions like, “Do you have _________ in America?”, “Is __________ the same in America?”, “What’s your favo(u)rite American candy?  And your favo(u)rite English candy?”

So let’s take some time to look at English candy because ALL HELL can break loose if you’re an American living in England and you don’t know what you’re doing.  Some candies look similar, but underneath that layer of familiarity lurks a world of confusion.  Some candy bars have the same name, but don’t have the same sweet shenanigans inside.

So here’s a list of some of the candy that drops into my expat conversations the most often:

Smarties

Closest US equivalent:

M&M’s (although they have M&M’s in the UK, too)

How are they different?:

They’re brighter colours, each colour is a different flavour (they’re different flavours for realsies, though – I know some of you M&M enthusiasts insist that all M&M’s don’t  taste the same, but I refuse to believe it) .  Also, they’re colouring is all-natural and doesn’t contain any of those frisky E-numbers – and they come in a cardboard tube (which I think is awesome).

The verdict:

I come down hard in favour of M&M’s because I don’t actually like the flavours that Smarties use. It’s a shame though, cos I love that they don’t use E-nums.


Milky Way (UK)

Closest US Equivalent:

Three Musketeers

How are they different?

The UK Milky Way is teeny tiny (about a third of the size of an American 3 Musketeers) and it has a thinner layer of milk chocolate than the 3 Musketeers does.

Everybody stay calm – there’s a candy bar called Milky Way in the States and it has nougat, CARAMEL and milk chocolate. So don’t lose your rag if you buy a Milky Way over here and it seems suspicious.  They’re not discriminating against you because you’re American by shrinking your choccy bar and witholding your caramel.

The verdict:

My Lord, I LOVE the UK Milky Way. It’s the right size, the right amount of sweetness, and it’s a bit lower calorie than your average candy bar which can never hurt. My loyalties lie with the UK version.


Mars (UK)

Closest US Equivalent:

Milky Way  (I know, I know – I’m confused, too)

How are they different?

These are super super similar – I crave them interchangeably.

The verdict:

The US version of the Milky Way was a major fave when I was a kid, so I’d vote for it just for ol’ times sake.

Horrifying yet amazing fact:

They deep fry Mars bars in Scottish chip shops.


Bounty

Closest US Equivalent:

Mounds

How are they different?

Bounty has coconut in the middle and MILK CHOCOLATE on the outside.  Mounds has the same type of coconut, but DARK CHOCOLATE on the outside.

The verdict:

Since coconut was invented by God to be paired with dark chocolate – I’ve gotta go Mounds on this one.


This post is starting to make me feel like all I do is eat chocolate.  Or maybe it’s making me WISH that all I do is eat chocolate.

Actually, as I’m typing this there’s a Halloween candy bowl in front of me filled with mini UK Milky Ways and Mars bars.

YES!

Do we tip bartenders here?

SO!  My brother (Leonard) and his wife (Ella) flew into London from Chicago (they get in to Bristol this afternoon!) and this means one thing.  Seeing the UK a-fresh through Yankee eyes!

I can already tell that hanging out with them in England is going to:

a)  Be amazing

b)  Give me major flashbacks about what life was like when I first moved to the UK

For example, I got a text from Len last night – all is said was:

Do we tip bartenders here?

I texted back a quick ‘Nope!’.  But that one text opened the flood gates and I remembered my days of uk-mystery-tipping.  I had no idea who to tip, so I tipped everyone – an extra quid every time I bought a drink, 2 or 3 quid for taxi drivers, a tenner for my hair dresser (TEN QUID!  I can’t believe I did that – no wonder she cried when I moved away!).  Oh, the memories!

Does this happen to you guys?  Someone comes to visit and every time they marvel at a Zebra Crossing, you’re hurtled though a quantum wormhole back to your early days in the UK?

Makes me smile. :)

One of the best English to American translations I’ve ever seen…

I’ve never seen such an excellent translation guide between England-English and American-English.  ‘Quite good’ still catches me out sometimes after 8 years! And ‘That’s not bad’ was one of my biggest peeves when I first moved over.

Anyone considering moving across the pond – read and learn.  :)

British people are fascinated by American high school cliques – “What group would I have been in?”

yankeebean

Ok, it’s happened enough times now that it warrants a blog post.  I was a choir practice at my church the other day, sitting next to a girl who’s in her final year of GCSE’s (the equivalent of being a sophomore in high school).  During the break she came up and said,

“Y’know high school?  Do people really separate into groups like in the movies?”  She said this with a giddy excitement, clearly dying for me to say ‘yes’.

Well she was in luck, cos I did say ‘yes’, and she got really excited (well, as excited as a 16 year old girls lets herself get).  I also told her that the best description of the different cliques I’d seen was in the movie Mean Girls – it was the only movie that went into such specific detail about how niche they can be.  It’s by no means a complete list, but it hints at it…

I said all this while she smiled and flapped quietly and 16-excitedly.  And then she dropped the bomb…

“What group do you think I would have been in?”

CRAP, I knew this was going to happen… do any of you lovely American expats get this?  It’s like being instantly transported back to high school for a moment.  You have to remember all the secret rules and socialla warefare involved in just surviving.  And then you have to judge a person by those bollock-y rules that don’t matter (at least as much) any more.  Tttthhhbpbpbpbpttttt…

But let’s face it.  There can only be one answer to this question when you’re talking to a 16 year girl who’s nice and sits next to you in choir.

I told her she’d probably be a popular kid because she was cute and friendly (and English, can’t get enough of that accent over there).  She was very very very happy…

So I guess it ended well, but this is the third time someone has asked me about the cliques in high school and then asked what they would’ve been.  I’m starting to wonder if I need a standard answer that I can whip out without having to think or have high school flashbacks.  Something witty and ironic… the Brits would like that : ).  Any ideas?

**PS**

I was telling Mr Nice Guy about this and he said, “I know exactly what I would’ve been.  I would’ve been a Scrabble Jock.”  :D  I said he would’ve been the only one, but that I would’ve fancied him for it…

She said in a whispered hush ‘Do Americans really only get two weeks holiday?’

yankeebean

That’s the question I was asked this holiday season.

When she asked, the boisterous chatting around the full table stopped and everyone turned to look at me.

I thought I could hear a cricket chirping in the distance….

A tumble weed made up of Twiglets and Quality Street wrappers rolled by…

I paused (you’ve got to revel in these moments.  Information is power yada yada…)

‘Yup’, I said, ‘Two weeks is standard in the States.’

Everyone started talking at once, outraged on my behalf even though I don’t live there any more :) .  People were genuinely flabbergasted…  Everyone threw in their opinions on why that’s rubbish and that 4 weeks holiday is only JUST enough to feel rested in a year.

Then I threw in the information about the major lack of bank holidays and that REALLY got ‘em going…

All the standard follow-up questions were close behind, but I’m not sure I had all the right answers – maybe you guys can help?

The primary questions were:

  1. Is it possible to earn more holiday (To which I answered ‘yes)
  2. How? (To which I said, by working somewhere for a long time or some higher positions come ‘built in’ with more holiday as a perk)
  3. How long do you have to work somewhere to earn more holiday (To which I said, ‘I have no idea’)

The truth is, my work in the USA was mostly small-time retail jobs so I was able to have time off whenever.  Now I’m self employed, so as long as it doesn’t put me out of business, I can have time off whenevs.  I know some of your gorgeous ladies are Brits that have moved to the States – how do you cope??  I have a table full of friends that are dying to know… :)

‘It should be remembered that American women are, from the European view, men’ and other great one liners to cherish.

‘American Women Are Rude’, ‘Visiting Englishmen Are No Roses’

By MALCOLM BRADBURY and GLORIA STEINEM
This article is  from ‘The New York times on The Web’ and can be seen by clicking here

Herewith an English novelist and recent visitor to the United States, Malcolm Bradbury, offers his opinion of American women. It is followed by a riposte from an American woman who has lived in England, Gloria Steinem, freelance and editor of “The Beach Book.”

March 29, 1964

American Women Are Rude by Malcolm Bradbury

One of the deepest traumas experienced by every Englishman who comes to America-and, these days, that’s almost every Englishman-is that of encountering, for the first time, in quantity and in her own native habitat, the American woman. Blind terror, a desire to learn judo, and a willingness to marry any girl who’ll sit at home of nights and sew are some of the symptoms usually associated with this confrontation.

“American women are generally rude,” said one visiting Englishman, still shaking from a recent encounter in a New York drugstore in which he had been hoicked off his stool by one of the breed. Another found American women fickle (“You don’t really know how well you’re doing,” he said).

Others are likely to brood over an age-old mystery that Europeans have never really been able to solve. They will observe that, though they are, properly enough, fascinated by the American girl, they are disturbed to discover that she grows up into the American woman. On the one hand, you have the young American girl, trim, smart, apparently just unwrapped from Cellophane packing, looking as fresh as a Daisy Miller. And on the other, you have the middle-aged American woman, with her shrieking voice and parchment skin, growing money-trees, doing plant-prayer, gossiping about her neighbors and scouring through genealogies for a regal connection.

All these comments are, of course, classical symptoms of the cultural divide that still separates the two English-speaking peoples, and I propose to take this occasion, on the authority of several years’ research, to try to clear up some of the confusions associated with the Anglo-American male-female relationship:

(1) It should be remembered that American women are, from the European view, men. A European visitor is likely, in the early days of his visit, to forget this. Yet, of course, years of emancipation have given American womenfolk personalities, opinions, leisure, money, careers and all the other characteristics of male power. At the same time, male authority has been diminished, male spending power has been reduced, and all fathers have been symbolically slaughtered. Thus the female has a rare charismatic power.

I remember once taking a frightened, hasty walk through the New York offices of Vogue, a central shrine of American womanhood. All over the building, career girls sat at their desks, typing and correcting proofs, smart, svelte, each one wearing a hat. I realized afterward that the hats were like those skulls medieval philosophers kept in their studies; they were momento mori to remind them what they really were.

(2) It should also be remembered that American girls are the product of enormous capital investment. Every country has something that it particularly likes to spend money on. Thus, in Germany it is veal; in England it is dogs; in the United States it is the young American girl. Such girls are a form of conspicuous consumption, like Christmas trees outside office buildings.

Because they are the products of such attention, young American girls can be very selective indeed about their standards, their clothese and their boy friends. In the Middle West, this selectivity is ritualized into something called rating dating; this means that a girl dates with men who bring her more and more prestige until finally, as with a thermometer, the mercury settles and she knows who she really is. This is a form of arranged marriage, in fact, in which the girl herself does the arranging; it would be considered old-fashioned in Europe, where marriage is supposedly for love. This period of choosing is the most important period in any girl’s life, and marriage is a necessary comedown.

Thus all those middle-aged ladies who, fresh from scavenging through Europe, sit in the bars on ocean liners, tipping waiters and apparently grinding their diamonds between their teeth, are really looking sadly into their drinks and wishing they were girls again. And thus it is that whenever you speak to some women’s club-the Daughters of Benedict Arnold, or whatever it may be-on “Africa-Wither?” Madam Chairman will rise, put on her diamond-encrusted glasses and say, “Hi, gals.” To any European woman in the audience, coming from a location where it is more prestigious to be old than to be young, this would be rude. It is, of course, simply politeness.

(3) It should further be remembered that American women have little sense of difficulty. “Very demanding” is what American women are often said to be. But as an English friend of mine, with an American wife, put it to me behind some vine plants at a party, “The thing about American women is they don’t understand what’s meant by ‘difficult.’ For instance, my wife keeps having these ideas. She’ll get up in the morning and say, ‘I’ve had this great idea; I’m going to have my legs plated with gold.’ That kind of thing. I tell her I can’t afford it; it’s too difficult, and she says, ‘But money is a means and not an end.’ I keep saying to her, ‘Do you realize our relationship is an ulcer-syndrome?”

The high expectations of the American women devolve particularly upon her menfolk, of whom the greatest courtesy is expected. A man shows his interest in a girl by performing innumerable ritual politeness-opening car doors for her, carrying such small packages as she has about her, presenting her regularly with gifts, and the like.

(4) It should be remembered, finally, that one nation’s rudeness is another nation’s manners. And so the foreigner is never quite sure whether Americans, generally, are being rude or not. I remember once a New York cabbie said to me, while I was waiting for him to open the taxi door and let me descend, “Whatsa matter, Mac, no legs?” It is quite possible, and even likely, that he was being, in his own way, perfectly amiable. As my English friend pointed out, “The thing about Americans is that they’re so nice. But sometimes it sounds so like other peoples’ being nasty that you have to be very careful indeed.”

Thus it is that the American woman who, at a party, analyzes your psychological make-up, questions all your standards, doubts your virility and accuses you of moral corruption-leaving you finally in a discarded heap by the wall-is not in any way trying to be rude. Quite the contrary: She is being very polite and social, because she is creating a relationship. As an American femme fatale once said to me, “I always think hostility is so much more friendly than total indifference.”

The curious mixture of toughness and hospitality that has the Englishman rocking on his feet is characteristic. My English friend summed it up by saying, “They want you to know they’re hospitable, but on the other hand, they don’t want you to think you can take them for a ride.”

Hence Americans have to be very rude before they are actually being rude. So often they are simply being nice. The interesting problem is that of discovering how to know when they are really, actually being rude, personally rude, to you. The trouble for an Englishman is that finding out means watching, questioning, prying-and that is, after all, very rude indeed.

Visiting Englishmen Are No Roses by Gloria Steinem

I have read Mr. Bradbury’s article with admiration and dismay. My first impulse was to put on something frilly, retire to the kitchen and stop all mental processes, in order to avoid those accusations of rudeness and regain, in his eyes, my femininity. But, on second thought, I cannot believe that a man, even an Englishman, really enjoys being admired by women with no taste. According to his witty novel “Eating People Is Wrong,” Mr. Bradbury doesn’t believe it either: One of his most sympathetic characters turns out to be a young girl with spirit, intelligence and a graduate degree.

So I have some hope Mr. Bradbury will understand that I am not trying to pay him back for 1776, or discourage English tourism, or upset the NATO alliance or, worst of all, be unfeminine when I say that visiting Englishmen are no roses either.

(1) Take their dress, for instance. It isn’t always easy to feel feminine and nonrude beside a man who wears slope-shouldered jackets nipped at the waist, speaks with an Oxonian lisp and says he’s “tiddly” when he means he’s drunk.

Of course, we realize that the fault is in the eye of the beholder, that some residue of our frontier tradition makes us feel the difference between men and women should be accentuated. Moreover, postwar Englishman are as tall and sturdy as their vitamin-fed American counterparts, and that’s a blessing. (It is difficult to feel feminine with a man who weighs less than you do and has smaller feet.) But visiting Englishmen-especially those from, or pretending to be from, the upper classes-might bear in mind that the effete English prototype causes just as incredulous a reaction here as does the loud, cigar-smoking American in London.

(2) A stout refusal to go native may have been invaluable to the British Empire, but times change. A British general once said that, had Americans been the colonial power in India, they would have intermarried and disappeared within 50 years. It’s probably true that our melting-pot culture has made us look upon adaptability as a virtue. That explains why, faced with a visitor who clings to his own customs with the same stubbornness that made him wear a dinner jacket in the jungle, we judge him rude. In fact, Englishmen seem to be constantly complaining (in a very genteel way) that no one here knows how to queue properly, or that drinks have ice in them, or that hotel managers just won’t lower room temperatures to a decent 60 degrees (how did they ever survive the tropics?), or that American girls look as if they interchangeable plastic parts (no wonder we’re so rude about their teeth).

Englishmen also tend to import their highly developed class sense intact without considering that, though we are full of status consciousness ourselves, we like to be less obvious (or more hypocritical) about it. We therefore resent the Englishman’s assumption that a working-class background (his or ours) is a disadvantage in “society,” that “no golf green is decent until it’s been rolled for 200 years,” and that it’s uproariously funny to call charwomen cleaning ladies.

(3) Americans don’t necessarily equate passivity with politeness. While I don’t go along with Mr. Bradbury’s American informant who found hostility charming, I do think that the Englishman’s horror of asking questions can make him seem uninterested to the point of rudeness. In 1955, when Americans stationed in England were still competing with Englishmen for the affections of local girls, a London tabloid ran an exposé called “Yank for a Day.” A masquerading reporter discovered that it was partly the Yank’s ready cash that made him attractive, and partly his un-English habit of treating girls “like real people” and acting “interested in us, not like our boys.”

It’s just possible that, had Mr. Bradbury’s bachelor friend asked his American girl a question now and then, she might not have married someone else.

(4) We know we’re difficult, but we love you. All right, so we have some tribal dating customs (every country has peasants; ours have money); and a talent for asking awkward questions (“Aren’t you glad you’re not a first-class power?”) and even, as we try to figure out how to be women and people at the same time, an alarming habit of overplaying our independence.

The thing is, we mean well, and if we react badly to criticism it is only because our basic Anglophilia makes us take English criticism more to heart than any other. But if our affection for the British has withstood the burning of the White House, the sale of buses to Cuba, Richard Burton, and the Beatles, it’s likely to withstand anything, including a fit of pique at being called rude.

My friends have started blaming America again – the honeymoon is over…

yankeebean

It’s happened twice in the last week, and I wonder if it’s only the beginning.

Two of my friends posted properly mean stuff about Americans – two separate but equal mini rants (via Facebook status updates).  The first rant ended with ‘Bloody Americans…’ and the second ended with ‘Stupid Americans…’

Now, I don’t have a stick up my arse or anything, I can take a joke.  But these two rants really weren’t very nice and I was a little bit offended.  In both instances I rallied for the cause and defended my nation!  Using myself as a (hopefully) good example of a real, 3D American that isn’t stupid.

Both of my friends’ reactions were the same, too.  They both said, ‘Oh, I forgot that you’re American!’  Then they both said something like, ‘I’ll make an exception in your case’.

That really got my hackles up…  my complaint is two-fold.

  1. They FORGOT that I’m American??  Is seven years all it takes for people to forget your nationality and start verbally crapping all over your country right in front of you?
  2. They’ll make an exception???  Oh… *bow*… *scrape*… how GENEROUS of you to make an exception and allow me out of the American slum and onto the golden streets of the UK

What a coupla noobs.  I hope everyone I know hasn’t been keeping a tight lip about their real feelings about Americans for the past seven years.  If so, things are going to do downhill fast.

And what will I do about it?  Cup of tea, of course…