I can’t sound THAT American anymore because English people freely tell me how much they hate the American accent

When I first moved to the UK, I met a lot of people that loved American accents, American culture and all things stars-and-stripes.  But after being here for 8 years, it’s more common to hear Brits talk about how awful they think the American accent is.

It’s never malicious.  No intentional insult.  They just casually chat about how harsh and unappealing it sounds.  They talk about how loud it is.  They talk about how distracting they find it.

And they talk about it, right to my face, like I don’t have one.

I can honestly say that I’m not insulted because I can tell that they don’t mean any harm.  After finding out that I’ve lived in the UK for so many years, I wonder if people put me into the ‘Other’ category rather than the ‘American’ one.  They chat freely to me about my mamma-land because they feel like I’m on their team now (I hope?).  Either that or their being arseholes and I’m too nice to notice.

But I don’t think that’s it.  I’m a nice woman, not a nice eejit.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the case that every English person hates the Yankee twang, but it’s become a 60/40 split in terms of Brits telling me they hate/love it.  And I’m sure all you lovely expats will agree that when the words ‘hate’ and ‘America(n)’ drop-it-like-it’s-hot into a conversation, your ears perk up a bit so I can’t help but notice the shift.

I have no plans to try and stop this trend since no one directly involved seems to find it upsetting.  If the convo DOES turn to accent-hating, I toss around my own opinions about types of British accents that I’m not super-fond-of and I don’t think I’ve annoyed anyone.  But I maintain the right to become She-Ra, Outraged Princess of Power, if anyone attacks my precious home land with malicious intent!

What do you guys think?  Am I being too lax in the defence of my people?

‘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…

Why do British women wear hats to weddings and what is their secret for looking so stylish in them?

peacefulyorkshire

One of our long time blog readers (who calls herself ‘I love this blog)’ wrote us last week. She asks us a question which I am hoping our smart-as -a-whip readers, (like you, my lovely!) will help answer:

I’ve just clicked through a friend’s photo album where she attended a wedding in the Welsh countryside… What’s the deal with women and hats? They look fantastic!

Kraft bought Cadbury – now everyone is telling me how shite American chocolate is…

Lordy!!  You’d think that I was the CEO of Kraft and that I’d just negotiated the take over of Cadbury.  I didn’t do it, I swear… Kraft didn’t even ask me first…

Here’s the news, in case you’ve been buried under a mountain of Cadbury Creme Eggs (you lucky lucky sod).  Today Cadbury (UK-all-the-way)  agreed to a takeover bid from Kraft (USA-a-ok).  This means, in a chocolate-covered nutshell, that the Americans have bought an English institution.  Cadbury is about to become Yankee-fied…

Does this worry me?  Yeah, a little… mostly because it will mean job-losses in the UK and that’s the last thing we need.

But the most recent development is that it’s causing people to tell me about how SHITE American chocolate is.  Sigh…

The thing is, I GET that Cadbury’s is probably technically better and I like Cadbury’s chocolate.  But then, I like most chocolate that I come across.  My favourite kind is the kind that’s about to be inserted into my face.

What I don’t like is people telling me the things they hate about America – let’s face it, it’s not exactly the friendliest conversation starter.  Hershey’s chocolate isn’t for everyone, I get it, I get it… but neither are Marmite, breakfast beans, or monarchies and I’m not going to bring up my strong opinions about them the first time I meet someone.  At least not unless they tell me their feelings about chocolate first ;)

Here’s hoping Kraft don’t change the recipe for Cadbury’s chocolate or I’ll really be in for it… :D

How do the British celebrate Halloween? One hairdresser gives her opinion

peacefulyorkshire

peacefulyorkshire

So tell our lovely readers a bit about yourself?

Ok… my name is Libby, I am 26 years old, grew up in Haxby and have been cutting hair now for 4 years, like. I trained in London at ‘Toni&Guy’ but am glad to be back in Yorkshire where me family is.

Any plans for Halloween, then?

Oh yeah, me mates and I are going down the pubs and whatnot– since its on a Saturday this year York will be busy. Lots of me mates are having fancy dress parties but I told them all that I was going down to York to be with everyone else who is out. Everyone should be out.

And will you wear a costume?

Yeah we are going as Zombie Nurses– me mate Sarah already gots our costume. We will use fish net stockings that are ripped with fake blood. A nurses apron and a hat and I am frizzin my hair out big style.

Wow, that is creative, are all your mates going as Zombie nurses also hairdressers by day?

No, in me crowd we have a solicitor, a driving instructor, oh and me sister is pregnant, did I tell you?! But I don’t tell people I am a hairdresser when I am out, like because everyone wants me to tell them what to do with their hair, I get tired of it. Last week we were out and this bloke wanted to know how to bleach his chest hair. It was right nasty!

Yeah, I can imagine!!

Umm. In your opinion how do you think that the Brits celebrate Halloween?

Well, its gottin more over the years but it used to be more for kids. But now I think that adults are gettin more into it though. Last year I went as a witch and we got loads of attention, like. I wore this huge black hat and yellow neon suit underneath my cape. It was smashing, like. I met me current boyfriend, Charlie, on Halloween, he’s such a sweetie.

And what was he dressed as?

A baby. He had a dummy and all kinds.

Awww…

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The part where your Shamerican self feels spooked on Halloween? Click here

For more in our ‘Interview Series’ with informative Brits ( pub managers to tennis coaches to Scotsmen!) click here

What do you say to a British person who’s bashing England?

yankeebean

yankeebean

I went to a ‘networking-of-doom’ event the other day and an English guy walked up me and said, “Oh my God, I just HAVE to find out where you’re from in America, I can’t take it anymore.”  (I guess he’d heard my joyful, thunderous hard-R’s from across the room or something…)

So I smiled and gave my standard where-I-came-from speech (I could do it in my sleep, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I DO say it my sleep…)

He was a complete America-lover, but he didn’t talk so much about loving America – instead he kept going on about how much he HATED England.

I was like a deer in the headlights… I didn’t know WHAT to do in order to escape the situation with everyone’s feelings in tact.  I quickly scanned through the options, much like the Terminator when in a situation of danger.  I could:

  1. Agree with every thing he said and use the opportunity to have a good ol’ rant about every thing that annoys me.  But I didn’t want to risk taking it too far and turning his gung-ho attitude into an ‘I-think-you’re-a-ho’ attitude.  I know we’re all familiar with that defensiveness that creeps in even if it’s only a bunch of English people talking about how much they hate CSI Miami.
  2. Smile and laugh and say nothing (yeah, right… saying nothing isn’t exactly my strong point.  I’d get hungry if my foot wasn’t constantly in my mouth)
  3. Disagree with him and defend my nation 2.0, trying to come up with the positive side to everything that seemed to make him clutch his moobs in dispair.

In the end, I opted for a kind of combination of 1 and 3.  Laughing and smiling like a loon, agreeing with him while also trying to point out anything positive I could.  It ended up feeling very aren’t-we-all-just-amazing-and-blameless-and-innocent-as-fresh-snowfall.

I don’t think he noticed my inner Terminator calculations - he seemed perfectly happy… phew!

When random British people (that you’ve only just met) tell you what is wrong with America

yahooavatar15Imagine meeting a British person for the first time. Imagine introducing yourself, answering all the questions that you get asked as a foreigner– like having to tell your “America to England” story for the zillionth time. Now, imagine randomly saying to this British person that you have only just met that people in Britain have  bad teeth. Real, real, bad teeth.That you have never been to a country where people have such bad teeth. That you saw this one 15 year old kid on the train and you COULDN”T believe he had such BAD TEETH. Now I am sure you are horrified about doing that, right? No, that would be so rude!  Plus could you imagine the wrath? It is hard enough making female friends in Britain!

Well, for whatever reason, some British people love to point out America’s flaws to me during our first meeting. Like today–a 6o-ish woman from Harrogate decided to tell me that she had NEVER SEEN so much obesity in her life as when she went to America. That she was on this train where she saw this 15 year old kid and he was SO FAT! That she couldn’t believe how many obese people were in America. That she couldn’t imagine how unhealthy THOSE FAT PEOPLE OVER IN AMERICA are.

Running through my head as Mrs. Harrogate ranted at me: Hello? have you seen all the white muffin tops pouring out of jeans in Leeds City Centre  lately, honey? There are fat people here too, and it seems its getting worse according to obesity reports!”

I wish I were brave enough to say that!  But instead, while smiling politely I said “It is just a different lifestyle there, isn’t it? You must excuse me while I go get some milk for my tea…”

Now then, lovely readers! Why would someone decide to tell me this to me, an American? Am I responsible for America’s obesity? Do I even LIVE IN AMERICA anymore? How would I be an expert about America’s weight issues? (I have enough of my own!). Sometimes I think that I have to defend America all the time, and I am so tired of it. Please tell me that you have to take the ‘blame bullet’ too?

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P.S.  I don’t really think that all British people have bad teeth. That was used for example purposes only, and is used to represent a silly stereotype that people have of other countries.

P.S.S. I forgot to say that the afore mentioned lady from Harrogate had only visited Florida. And that was it!

P.S.S.S. On a ‘let’s blame America!’ related topic: Why are dinner parties with your British friends so much nicer now that Obama is in the White house? Click here

Causing A Scene: The ultimate weapon

yankeebeanAs Americans in Britain we have the ultimate weapon at our disposal…  the ability to cause a scene.  Grown men fear it, children run in terror.

I am, obviously, exaggerating wildly (one of my favourite things!) – but there’s definitely something to be said for this.  Many English people I know will put up with discomfort, incorrect orders, and social awkwardness to avoid causing a scene.  I’ve heard mums say in a hushed whisper to their kids, “Be quite this INSTANT, you’re causing a scene”.  I’ve heard people utter it as an intense threat or warning (yes, seriously), “You’d better do as I ask or I’ll cause a scene”

I’ve had this blog rolling around in my head for aaaaaages, now, but it’s never become fully formed enough to write.  That is, until this weekend (cue suspenseful music).

Let me set the scene for you:

I was in Oxford with Mr Nice Guy, we were visiting some friends and staying with them in their gorgeous mid-terrace just outside of Oxford city centre.  We’d just had an awesome dinner and were standing around in the kitchen, leaning on the counter tops,  sipping wine and chatting.  This kitchen is bee-YOO-tiful (I mean movie-style-instant-tourist-making European perfection).  Antique wood furnishings with large cracked ceramic handles, double french doors that open into the perfect wild garden, exposed wood floors that look ancient in-a-good-way.  You get the idea…

Anyway, so we’re all standing around and I notice Mr Nice Guy is shuffling his feet around.  Not in a way anyone would notice, it wasn’t like James Brown or anything, just a little shuffle…

I glance down at his feet and see what looks like a fried onion on top of his right foot.

I look at him and smile cos I thought he’d dropped some onion on his sock during dinner and didn’t know what to do about it – but I was met by his alarming expression.  As if he was trying to wordlessly say to me, ‘Oh my God, what should I do??’

The conversation goes on as normal for a few seconds while I’m glancing at Mr Nice Guys foot and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  Mr NG still continues to chat with us all, but glances back at me again with the same wordless appeal for help.

No one else has noticed this mini-silent-exchange…

So I bend down mid-chat (no big deal) to take the onion of his foot, intending to throw it in the bin – when the onion moved…

It was a slug!  A SLUG!!

I

died

laughing

Mr Nice Guy had had a slug on his foot for God knows how long and had just continued to chat.

Why, you ask?

When I asked him later before we went to bed he said that he “didn’t want to cause a scene”. :D

Bless him…

13 Little Reasons to love Britain

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