I am not flirting with you. I am just American.

Hello friendly coffee shop man, I’d like latte, please.

Yes, I’ll have a friendly chat with you.  It’s nice to shoot-the-shizzle while I’m waiting for my glorious latte.

Wait.

Waitwaitwait.  No, now you’re flirting with me.

Nono.

Crap.

When did ‘chat’ become ‘flirt’?  Now I have to cool off so you don’t think I’m flirting back.  I’ll put my wedding ring frosted hand on the counter for good measure.

———————————————————————————————————

Does this happen to anyone else??  My friendly Americanness keeps backfiring and innocent chats turn into weird hot-potato situations where I start trying to throw people’s flirtation back at them without having to touch it.

Dating a working class Englishman

Behold!  One of the most popular search terms that people are using to find us at the moment – ‘Dating a working class Englishman’.  This must mean two things:

  1. There are a lot of working class English men out there getting some action
  2. There are a lot of confused women out there dating them and Googling them

I’m sorry to say that I’ve never dated a working class Englishman.  In fact, I tried to date mostly gay men until I was 17, so I’m probably the opposite of an expert.

HOWEVER!  I bet we have some readers that can provide some hints and tips that can come in handy when you’re dating your lovely working class Brit.

Consider this an invitation.  I’d love to hear about any of the following from all you lovely readers:

  • What are quirky things that your working class Englishman does?
  • What are his friends like?  How do they get along?
  • What does he do for fun?
  • How is he in the bedroom? (ooOOOOOOooooo!)
  • Is he a good kisser?
  • How did you meet your working class Englishman?
  • What was the first thing you thought when you met him?
  • What made you decided that he was the guy for you?

I can honestly say – I’m freaking EXCITED to hear what you have to say.  And I can promise that you’re not alone because people are searching for this information.  You’ll be donating your knowledge to a good cause. :)

How do you connect with your English man’s friends? VERY SLOWLY.

I read an email from one of our fab-oo-luss readers and it’s definitely worth sharing.  I’ve been through this, and I know from past comments and emails that some of our readers have, too.

The question is:

How do you connect with your English man’s friends?

Here’s the email in it’s entirety:

Dear Yankeebean and all you lovely ladies from SNFY,

I’m having a slight problem with English culture I was hoping you might help me with over a blog post.

I’m an American doing my MA in London, and met a really great English guy shortly after I arrived. We’ve been dating 9 months now. He’s from London and doing his MA here as well, although at a different uni. My question for you is how to connect with his English friends. I’ll tell you more back-story so you can better understand my predicament.

My boyfriend’s close friends are mainly from his undergrad time, and although they all live in London, they don’t see each other very often, but when they do, they all get together for a huge gathering of about 15 people. They are all really close and more than half of them are actually dating each other. I’ve come along to about four of these gatherings now, and I’m having a hard time getting to know them, as they don’t make much effort to get to know me, and I’m quite shy as it is. Usually what happens is that they arrive, ask me the obligatory ‘How are you? How’s uni?” questions and then all talk together in a group about English topics I know nothing about, or reminisce about old university times. Other significant others who come along don’t seem to have this problem, as they aren’t afraid to chime in on the topics about England, whereas I have no idea what they are talking about. Even when I’ve spoken to a few of them one-on-one, which is usually easier, I’m the one doing all the effort, asking them all the questions about themselves (Although I must say, this is usually more true for my conversations with the women than with the men.) I guess my question is, is there some sort of unspoken English rule about how to actually converse in large groups in England? Any advice on how to get past the “How are you?” stage? I realize that it’s always hard being the newcomer at a gathering of old friends, but I thought that by the fourth time meeting them and 9 months into dating him, his friends would be making more of an effort to get to know the girl he’s crazy about. It wasn’t even until last time that one thought to ask where I’m from in the States!

Since I’m a student in London, most of the people I’ve met are actually foreigners as well, so I really haven’t had much experience with English social norms. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now whenever I miss home, and always laugh at your insight into English behaviour. I’ve even just bought “Watching the English” on your recommendation. I was hoping it would arrive in time for me to prepare for the last get together (it was yesterday), but it didn’t :( I did start reading it today, though, and already found that I’ve been going about talking about the weather all wrong this whole time! :)

Thanks again for the great blog. Love it!

Cheers,
NotLongInLondon

And here it is again – that age old question, “How the FLIPPING HECK am I supposed to talk to new English acquaintances??”.  I feel for you, NotLongInLondon, I really do.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m tempted to buy property there since I visit so often…

There’s a post by one of our guest authors, Redilocks, about just this topic – How to Make Friends and Influence People (English Style).  It’s a step-by-step guide about how to meet English people without scaring the shite out of them with your natural American-ness.  In fact, it was after I read this post that I started complimenting English women when I first met them.  IT TOTALLY WORKS.  I still get the odd alien laser death glare, but they’re much less common these days…

But if you want proof that you’re already doing a grand job of working your way in to your boyfee’s UK crowd, read this comment from a past post.  One of our readers, Michelle, remains the victim of the rudest and most unbelievable encounter that I’ve ever heard of between an American and an English woman.  After you read Michelle’s experience, I know you’ll feel better about your attempts, because it sounds like it’s actually going pretty well for you.

My final word of advice, and my own person attack in situations where I can’t seem to turn the tide in my favour is this.  Channel your inner  ninja, sit, and listen.  Don’t worry about talking or chiming in, just sit back and observe what’s going on.  If you have something to say, go for it, but don’t stress about it.  I think the ultimate key to hanging out with an already-established group of Brits is time, time, and more time.  Just keep going back, be patient, and you’ll wear ‘em down soon enough.  :)

Them: Where are you from in Ireland? Me: Chicago.

So it’s cropped up a couple of times now.  No, more than a couple – it’s happened so many times that I’ve lost count.  I meet someone new and have the standard can-you-believe-this-weather-it’s-far-too-hot/cold/wet/dry chat.

Then there’s a brief pause… and they USED to say, ‘So where in the States are you from, then?’

Me: ‘Chicago’

Them: ‘Ahhh, the WINDY CITY!’ (always said with a certain aire of satisfied expertise, like Stephen Fry reading the correct answer on QI)

But the conversation trend has taken a worrying turn – people have started asking me if I’m Irish.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Irish people.  They are SO. Freaking. Nice.  And they love Americans, which helps :)  I’m just a little freaked out because I love my A-mur-cun twang and I’m determined to cling to it, white-knuckled, until my hard R’s and flat A’s relent and settle back into my head.

Does anyone else get this?  I’ve lived in the UK for eight years now, so it makes sense that my accent is fading from shiny-new-American to shabby-expat-mid-atlantic.

I still cringe sometimes when I hear the half-arsed Ameri-English-love-child accent that comes out of my mouth.  But, hey ho, you can’t win ‘em all!

Call Me Geordie, Maybe

(Watch on YouTube)

I couldn’t resist sharing this one.  The ever-catchy ‘Call Me Maybe’ has officially been translated into Geordie.

I can proudly say I didn’t even need subtitles to know what they were on about!  Another right of passage achieved…

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…

Emotional Americans in England look no further…

 

Yeah, we know us 3 gals don’t always keep a steady stream of posts, and we will raise our SURE underarms to be the first to know we’ve been sporadic lately. But, our goal of SNFY even after 2 years  is still the same– we’re always trying to connect and help and  our fellow Americans living in England. We joyously came across this letter to us the other day in our in-box. So, if you are an expat yourself and are interested in meetin’ a lurvely sounding  American laydeh in Sheffield, do get in touch and we will forward her your email.

Hi! After the the most frustrating Christmas ever wherein my husband, new baby, and I ended up without anywhere to go for Christmas dinner because my Yorkshire in-laws didn’t want to “impose” by offering an invitation, I Googled “emotional Americans in England” to see if anyone else could validate my bafflement. I was taken to your blog! Hurrah! Anyway, I am a 38 year old American woman married to a Yorkshireman and living in Sheffield. I’ve just had a baby here in Sheffield. Anyway, are there any American women living in Sheffield who want to go for a drink? I am dying for American company! I don’t know anybody here and whenever I am frustrated by English culture, my husband looks at me as though I am insane. I am starting to believe him. I need some American commiseration in a major way. By the way, before I became imprisoned in Yorkshire, I was an international teacher. I have lived in several other countries and never have I felt so “foreign.”

‘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.

American Women’s Clubs in Britain: Do they just eat cake?

peacefulyorkshire

Ok so the blog post title is unfair. I’ve seen pictures of women’s clubs in ‘American in Britain Magazine’* also wearing some pretty adorable fashionable feather-infused hats. Oh, and also daintily drinking tea. You can see what I mean here,where there are some stylin’ laydehs.

Have you ever been tempted to join one as a newcomer, my fellow Americans in Britain?

Have you ever considered shelling out your dough for some ‘instant’ Expat American friends?

I set out to do a little mission to see what it would cost to join. I counted 21 American Women’s clubs listed on this fair island, and two examples:

1)The Chilterns American Women’s Club- “CAWC is a network of friendly faces, all of whom were ready to help with my adjustment to the expatriate lifestyle.” (This will cost you £50 a year). 

  • Newcomer Coffees
  • Holiday Charity Bazaar
  • Trunk or Treat
  • Winter Luncheon
  • Spring English Morning Tea
  • Charity Cheque Presentation
  • Summer Luncheon Cruise on the Thames

2) For a whopping £105 a year you can join the American Women’s Club of London whose previous programs include:

  • Bridging the cultural gap- two lands separated by a common language
  • Christie’s Auction House – Famous women and their jewellery collections
  • Flower arranging ideas for the Fall and Holiday season
  • Chocolate tasting with the official chocolate taster of Fortnum & Mason

But cost aside, and if you can afford this type of thing in these Aldi-lovin’ Credit Crunch times, does being an Expat automatically make you bond foreveh with other Americans? I can honestly say from experience that it is NO for me personally. I mean, although it is nice to chit chat about how damn annoying American tourists can be when they talk loudly and wear fanny packs, and how the weather can suck, and of course raising money for charity is thoughtful. But after that….well,  there needs to be some kind of other connection, right?

    What are your thoughts, ladies? Are you in any paid  ‘American Women in Britain’ clubs? If so, what have your experiences been? Please share so I can stop being so sceptical…


    * One of the benefits of running SNFY with PacificBird and Yankeebean are the perks, like this magazine we get complimentary, thank you very much.