Monday, February 2, 2009

In light of your expat experience, do Brits and Americans like each other?

Toni Hargis:

As a Brit in the US, I can honestly say I have rarely felt insulted or disliked by Americans just because of my nationality. (Other things, yes.) In fact, I sometimes try not to talk when in shops/stores and other public places as some people feel compelled to come up and tell me they love my accent and my country. And not that I'm a big potty mouth, but on the occasion that I do swear, it usually causes great mirth among my Americans friends, who tell me it "sounds so much better" with an English accent. I am also credited with a far higher IQ than I actually possess, again because of my accent. What's not to like?

Americans do generalize about the Brits (uptight, restrained, and unemotional) based on television portrayals and ignorance, like many generalizations. However, as soon as they meet a real, live Brit they realize the error of their impressions.

Brits in the States, for the most part, seem to tolerate Americans in general but really like their American friends. Again, they have a generalization that quickly evaporates with personal experiences. I'm on record as saying it's like living with 350 million Labrador puppies, such is the unbridled enthusiasm most Americans have for life, the universe and contact sports. As cynical Brits, it can sometimes be rather wearing, but we have to admire their positivity.

Given that over four million Brits vacation in the US each year, and about thirty thousand relocate here annually, there must be some affection there, even if the Brits try their best to hide it.

Mike Harling:

It's a shame to start off this debate without a controversy, but I agree with most everything Toni said.

The love/hate relationship between the UK and the US is a lot like our collective love/hate relationship with France: en mass, we can be critical of each other, but on a personal level, at least in my experience, we get along just fine.

Not once in the seven years I have lived here has anyone said to me, "I don't like you because you're a Yank." They may say, "I don't like America because of what they are doing in ..." (Pick a country/issue/music genre), but they have never had an issue with me, personally. Nor have I with them. And this is a good thing, because it allows us to quickly get past our national differences and get on with the business of not liking each other because I'm an insufferable twit and me not liking them because they're pompous prats. (Just kidding, I'm very fond of the British people I know, and they tolerate me well, even though I can be an insufferable twit at times.)

So, clearly, the answer is, "Yes." On a personal level, we genuinely like each other. And on a national level, as long as we can join together to slag off the French, we'll get along just fine.


  1. First of all, I must congratulate you on this post. It is going to be really good fun!
    I personally think we are more linked to America here, than to mainland Europe.
    On the whole, I think "we" think that Americans are louder and more confident....... but we do love them.
    Of course they "rescued " us from the Second World War! They kept us alive by sending egg powder, that my mum made into delicious omlettes. Bet you didn't think of that!

  2. I quite like the French - can we pick on the Italians instead?

  3. Great idea! And a great question.
    I have lived and worked in America and in fact I even got married there. But I still don't know if I would like to move there... I can't explain it. I sold books door-to-door and my accent got me into houses a lot more often than my products. I played up to it and made up some super stories about tea with the Queen and made sure I sounded like Joan Collins at all times.

    I have to say one thing that puts me off Americans is the way they throw in big words during a conversation, as though they swallowed the dictionary for breakfast. Then they go and spoil it all by abusing the word 'like' instead of choosing a proper verb 'I was like totally mad' 'and she was like 'calm down, man''. My children are doing it now and I DON'T LIKE IT!

    By the way, having lived in France too I can tell you that the French hate the Americans more than they hate the English. We Brits are stuck in the middle. Just look at a map if you don't believe me. French towns are all star-shaped round a central point. American towns are all grid shaped/arranged in blocks. You couldn't get more different. And England? Spaghetti Junction and a worrying obsession with roundabouts.

    So I agree with everything you both say but I am comfy on the fence...

  4. Often, using robust verbiage is the only was to elucidate an issue so, like, lighten up, okay?

  5. I really like Americans - it's impossible not to. Oh, except Ann Coulter, but then I think she's an alien.

  6. Toni, I agree that Americans equate a higher IQ with an English accent. Personally, I enjoy the irony of a Brit who is as dumb as a box of rocks but still sounds more educated than some Americans. Sick ain'it?
    And you could do worse than compare us lot to a litter of Labradors. I'll take that.

  7. I have only holiday'd in USA... but have always been amazed by how kind and friendly everyone is... Everyone! Once I stayed in a lakeside town off Lake Michegan... and the postman found me, in a house, because my mother needed to get hold of me urgently... all she had was a street name! He knocked on the door and asked if I was Me. I was Me. Amazingly enough.
    And....if you go for a walk in San Francisco, everyone says hi, how are you doing. Go for a walk in Hyde Park ,London. Silence. Only weirdoes say hi.

  8. Lobby, you mean the quotative use of the word "like"?

    There aren't many verbs that adequately sum up the meaning of "like" in that situation. I suppose there's "say", but overuse of that verb will be just as annoying, and anyway, it has a different feel to it.

  9. As a Canadian who lived in England for 4 years (and came back again for more!), I can tell you that when I'm asked if I'm American, and answer that I'm Canadian, there is a visible sigh of relief and a nearly immediate bashing of the States. A lot of it seems like envy though, and that English people would move there in droves, if only there were less sunshine.

  10. So the Americans rescued us from World War Two? Many Britons of my grandparents generation still hate the Yanks because they sat on the fence while Britain and the Commonwealth fought Hitler
    and made us run up debts for war material it took decades to pay back. Meanwhile, millions of jews died because the US did nothing. I wonder if they would ever have entered the war at all had it not been for Pearl Harbour?

  11. Great idea for a blog and by this first piost i can see a great forum for debates.
    I too like the fact living in the US makes my IQ shoot up merely because of my accent. i am no big-brain, but my US friends tell me everythinbg I say sounds more authoratitive in my accent than theres.
    I decline to reply that obviously that's because I don't use the word 'awesome' in every sentence and tell them to 'Have a nice day' even when it's 11pm, but hey - who am I to argue??!!

  12. Excuse the terrible spelling in that comment. Time to recharge my big brain methinks.

  13. I've no idea how I found this blog but I do love this idea for a blog and already I can see a great forum for debates...
    I'm going to link here, if that's OK with you..:)

  14. Link away! And welcome everyone to our new blog. (Toni)

  15. I am a Brit, living in California with my German husband and two small American children. I love the 'can-do' spirit of the US and I really like the convenience of the 24 hour society.
    I get the "Where are you from? I love your accent!" thing ALL THE TIME which is flattering but does get a bit old. The things that really do my head in, though, are general poor spelling/grammar and just how little the average American seems to know about anything outside this country. I've (shamelessly!) linked to a post of mine that tells how I ran into both of those in one short shopping trip.
    Great blog idea, BTW. I'll be back!

  16. Grrr is probably right, the US wouldn't've entered the war without Pearl Harbor.

    However, WWII notwithstanding, I think in general we all would have been better off if the US had kept to the old policy of not interfering in other people's wars. I'm just *saying*.

  17. great first post!!! and I too having lived on both sides of the pond a few times as child and young adult...feel that in the main, the americans always treated me with great respect and even reverence! I was blown away by them in fact. It wasnt just in upstate NY where I went to school, but also Pennslyvannia , N. Carolina, CAilfornia and Texas, where we stayed on different occasions...

    The Brits in uk, make sweeping statements, and I get quite annoyed with people making claims about the americans,when they've only heard a passing tourist...we have all been tourists havent we!!

    I think the brits have a had a short sharp shock in the last half a decade and have had to open borders and let former empire and colonies countries into the uk....they take longer to open up and dont like change...nuff said..
    great first post, never mind its a wide on to start with, gets the grey matter flowing, whether Brit or american...

    great stuff!!

  18. btw I meant half century not decade, I should check before Is end..bad habit..

    shhh..don't mention the war(s)..keep it safe!!

  19. There used to be a rather snooty British attitude to Americans (the stereotype of the tourist, the accent, the lack of centuries-old history), but I think that has pretty much died out. Perhaps it had to do with slowly recognising that Britain was no longer the dominant world power, and that America was becoming so.

    I think we rub along pretty happily as nations.

  20. I too have lived in both countries and have found the Americans one to one to be great people, salt of the earth, very friendly. And I agree 'the US" as an entity I have a bit of a problem with for some of the reasons stated. It is frustrating how little Americans know about what is going on in the rest of the world considering the actual impact their policies have and little scary I must say. Also I wish they would extend their vocabulary to include a few more adjectives than nice and neat! Great beginning - looking forward to much more :)

  21. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. I am an American whose ancestry has been traced back to Wales to a home built around 1100 called Edwards Hall in Glen Morganshire, near Cardiff. I have only visited England once back in the 80's. I loved it! The people were very nice and the countryside was beautiful!I hope to visit again one day. A great contrast to France, where the people I met were quite rude. I think many Americans like me think of the Brits as their long lost relatives. Yes, when you speak the English language it sounds so beautiful. We envy your accent! P.S. We also love Hugh Laurie...thanks for loaning him to us. Do you watch "House" in the UK?


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