Seems to me there are some pretty weak links in this piece (via Sully) given how many valid criticisms of American culture are ever so ripe for the taking. But each to her own. I’m still giving it a spin here because as a former expat now living back in the States, I have a great appreciation for the cross-cultural appreciations/annoyances/misunderstandings that are the stuff of living abroad– and the stuff of coming back to one’s native country as well. Also, “Mind the Gap” is a brilliant name for a blog on Brits dealing with America. Well done, whoever came up with it (author or some Beeb editor). My lil’ commentary on the top ten:
1. Well yes, we do generally love your lot’s accent (in its ever so many variations). I’m sorry if that’s tiring for you to hear. I do go a bit weak in the knees for it but try not make mention of the fact lest it a) be annoying or b) go to your head.
2. I find this a nonstarter because I’ve rarely run into people with surname (that’s a last name to you clueless Yanks!) as first name. But you know what? Anderson Cooper– dreamy. Totally works for me. I could go for the silly British names jugular but shall refrain because really, they tend to be delightfully charming.
3. Completely agree– plates are whisked away too soon. I wish we had a more Euro dining culture, where lingering over meals and conversation was the norm, rather than the sort of perfunctory eat-and-move-along thing that passes for breaking bread together.
4. Again, I totally agree. Overly cheerful store clerks (or any other variety of hyper happy homo sapiens) make me want to swat them.
5. Ah, yes. That patriotism problem. Giant flags hanging in the front yard creep me out too. You’ll find oodles of Americans (mostly on the coasts, I daresay) who likewise flinch at the stars & stripes overkill. It’s not really patriotism so much as nationalism run rampant that diminishes this country. [Update: Sully has a thread on diverse reader responses to the flag here.] I have never understood that “my country, right or wrong” sentiment. Even though I’d been back in the States a few years, I experienced a new round of culture shock when I went to college in the Midwest and discovered that many of my classmates had never even seen the ocean, much less a foreign country. Americans seem uniquely predisposed to see their country as existing independently of the rest of the world (except when we need some oil or want to take out a troublesome foreign ruler), beholden to no one but within rights to bully others at will. Mercifully, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both have demonstrated foreign policy styles more subtle than the “Because I said so” technique of their predecessors. Here’s hoping we won’t have another return to the dark ages come November. The world really can’t afford it.
6. Whatever. Dogs in buggies is weird, I grant you. Moms hogging sidewalks and store aisles with double-wide strollers are a far greater irritant in my book.
7. I’m a vegetarian, so I agree with not liking turkey but I’m in no position to defend the bird’s cuilinary potentials. Tho’ I always thought it worked well in its Thanksgiving role as vehicle for cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes & gravy.
8. Do you have to conform on spelling? Don’t you think you’d get a big ol’ British pass on that one? Anyway, I was never a fan of the -ise and happily came back to the land of -ize, and I always found -re far less aesthetically pleasing than the -er construction. But I did love the u’s. Colour is so much more pleasing to the eye (or to mine, at any rate) than color. More elegant. So I’ve stubbornly held on to that favourite spelling ever since I came back here. This little quirk is rarely commented upon, and if it is, I simply explain that it’s a holdover from my years Down Under and I’m not giving it up. Can’t make me.
9. Pretentious pronounciation: really? going there?? The first time I heard my British ex say “penchant” as something like pawnchawn I almost choked. Yeah, I get that it’s the French pronunciation, but since we Yanks all grow up with saying penchant with a hard t, it sounds bloody pretentious to our ears. So don’t be getting on our case about herb and fillet, people. Then again, when said ex and I were watching Downton Abbey and I asked her about the “valet” pronunciation (hard t), she was at a loss to explain it. So somewhere along the line the Frenchified version crept back in for y’all, I take it…
10. I don’t say those words ever. There are workarounds for the most part. (Fortunately I don’t have bangs; I guess I’d have to use the term otherwise.) Here’s a few back at ya: swimming suit = togs (very confusing conversation with a classmate about that on my first day of school), eraser = rubber (pity the poor kids coming this way who ask to borrow one), cigarettes = fags (I trust you all know enough about U.S. culture these days to adapt on that one posthaste). Oh, I almost forgot– this one is particular to the Brits; at least, I never heard it in Australia or New Zealand: dessert = pudding. What the hell?? Pudding is pudding. Cake is not pudding. A tart is not pudding. When you talk about pudding as one option amongst your desserts, whatever do you say?? I’m not even going to mention the decidedly unappealling names of some of your native dishes, Brits. Just explain yourselves on the pudding front and we’ll call it a day.
UPDATE: I love Sully’s “Ask Me Anything” video response to the question “What does patriotism mean to you?” Now that Vodpod is gone, I don’t know of a way to embed Flash videos on Word Press, alas (please tell me if you do!), but check out his video here.