Here in the US, the American dream is a common phrase, and defined by Webster's dictionary as "an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity; also: the prosperity or life that is the realization of this ideal".
I'd say there's a lot of it in the UK, too, whether or not is has a name. You know, eyeing up the neighbour's new car, mortgaging yourself up to the hilt to get the bigger house, buying the kids designer duds 'cause all their friends have them. Material possessions mean so much to some people that they'll actually take on far too much debt to get the goods. "All fur coat and no knickers" as my gran used to say, lips pursed and hands clasped firmly on her handbag. Of course, very few Brits actually admit that's what they're doing, even though they're desperate to show off their "stuff".
Over in the States it's more like a kindergarten show and tell. Big houses, big cars (still), earning them a pat on the back from friends and neighbors. None of that "Who do they think they are?" cynicism. The further up the social ladder Americans can haul themselves, the more you'll hear about it. The millionaire who's the son of a truck driver, the music executive who once lived on the streets - they love all that.
Part of the need for material wealth and possessions is that the ancestors of many Americans came to this country literally with the clothes on their back. Financial security became the number one priority for them and this was instilled into future generations. Look at the millions of students who will take on huge debt to get themselves through college thus educating themselves further up the social ladder and usually ensuring financial security.
Much as I hate to use Simon Cowell as a source, this alleged quote is quite apt, I think:
“If you would have asked me what I thought of America before I came over here I would have used the word `corny`. And then you come over here and you find that it`s not corny at all. British people are very cynical, they cannot bear someone else`s success. Americans embrace other people`s success. Everything in America is larger than life.”
Is there a "British Dream"? If you go by strict definition, no. The American Dream is well documented. We talk about, write about it, analyse it, debate it, wonder why our kids don't take it as seriously as we think they ought to, agonize that the immigrates are taking it over. So, yeah, the American Dream is real.
In my own family, my great-grandfather left his native country (England, ironically enough) to find a better life in America. (Or, he was deported, depending on the version of our family history you subscribe to.) At any rate, he was a laborer in Lancashire and, after arriving in America, started a catering business and eventually opened a hotel, thereby ensuring that my children would grow up believing that a three-course dinner consists of a Big Mac, large fries and a hot apple pie. One could say, he achieved the American Dream, and I'm sure he would have gladly admitted to it.
But take my limited experience is Britain. My own family, the recent immigrants as well as those with longer lineages (Britain, like America, is a mongrel nation; they are just loath to admit it), all worked hard to improve their lot and provide a better future for their children. One could argue this is The Dream, it just doesn't have a name. Nor would they, as good Britons, give it one. Proclaiming your rising status and intentions to rise higher would be vulgar and arrogant and, frankly, something you might expect from an American.
But to an American, it is not arrogant; it is confidence, and a belief in an ideal handed down by our forefathers.
In my view, Americans strive for The Dream, feel confident that they will achieve it, become insecure when they do because then they want more and worry that their children won't have the opportunities they had, especially with house prices the way they are, and have you seen how the interest rates are going up, and those (pick a nationality) have moved in next door and that's going to wreak havoc on the local housing market, while the Brits just get on with it.
So is there a British Dream? I believe so; the British just don't bang on about it.
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