Disclaimer: this article contains wild stereotyping.
I spend so much time talking about the differences between Britain and the United States that I sometimes forget that, underneath all of the national pride, there are, in fact, a welcome – if surprising – number of similarities.
Until I relocated to the United States in 2008, America – and indeed, Americans – seemed so vastly different from the country and countrymen I was shortly about to leave.
The image we Brits often have of the New World is one of glitz, glamo(u)r and swimming pools. We think of excessive wealth and confident, go-getting people; we think of perfectly aligned white teeth and equally perfect skin complexions; we think of an isolated people with little knowledge of any country except their own.
Conversely, Americans view the British as stand-offish intellects who spend their day consuming tea and decrying the weather. To them, we are the perennial apologists, especially over matters for which we are not at fault; our teeth are as crooked as a lawyer; we are on personal terms with the Royal Family.
But opposing stereotypes aside, when you’ve spent multiple years living in both countries, you’ll occasionally find that the two are not (always) so dissimilar. Sometimes, we are united in a common way of life rather than divided by our differences.
And so, here are 5 unexpected similarities between Britain and the United States.
1. Dumb citizens
Before you start shaking your fists in my direction, I’m not talking about ALL citizens here. However, while the United States is often given a bad rap – both by British people and some of its own – for being a so-called dumb nation, Britain is not exactly devoid of stupidity itself. Believe me, I have encountered an unfathomably high number of Brits who believe that Africa is a country, that the word “there” is a possessive pronoun, and that the sun revolves around the Earth. But if you still need proof, check out this video.
Another thing Americans get a bad rap for is their perceived lack of manners, while Brits are noted for precisely the opposite. In my experience, however, your average, honest American can be just as polite as his or her British equivalent. In both countries, it is not unheard of for a person to hold the door open for someone, or for individuals to use the word “sorry” in a situation that doesn’t require it. On the other hand, both countries – like any other nation on Earth – have the odd (sometimes very odd) citizen who is, shall we say, not attuned to the rules of etiquette and good grace. But when you assess Britain and America holistically, these people are actually in the minority.
3. Class system
When the British think of the U.S., the American working class is not a term that typically springs to mind. Nor, for that matter, is the idea of class in general. We assume that the American population is drowning in money, expensive houses and luxurious cars. Though it is denied among some people, America does have a class system. In fact, while the gap between rich and poor is verifiably larger in the United States, it is nonetheless agreed on a political level that, in its simplest terms, America – like Britain – is comprised of an upper class, middle class and working class.
4. Grasp of irony
My fellow compatriots often charge that Americans don’t have a sophisticated sense of humo(u)r, that they don’t understand basic comedic devices such as sarcasm and irony. While this is certainly true of some of the population (just as it is in England), one has to remember the enduring appeal of The Onion, The Daily Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm and other such American comedic heavyweights.
5. Moaning about the weather
Believe it or not, the British don’t have a monopoly on moaning about the weather. Here in the Midwest at least, the climate sometimes feels like the number one conversation topic, with residents routinely lamenting the harsh winters and overwhelming summers. Having lived here for the best part of 5 years, I can hardly say I blame them. Fluctuations of -10° in winter to 100° in summer offer quite the culture shock for this Brit. It’ll be just as well when autumn arrives.