07 July, 2013

The Best of British (not America)


It's been the hottest day of the year, what seems like a startling proportion of the population of Britain have been watching the Wimbledon Men's final (either home alone with a cider like me, or outside somewhere catching it on a big screen). As a nation we have a Pimms on the go, we're all in White, we're finding any spot possible on which to sunbathe, we're all pink and burnt, Murray's making History. If any day was ever Best of British, this is it!

That is until we just saw Bradley Cooper on camera 4, spectating casually like he isn't one of Hollywood's most A of A Lister's. The commentator went all giddy upon spying the star (who was sat with his Irish match Gerard Butler), donned an American accent and said 'Hallywood's in Taaan' and I just thought 'oh piss off America!' and willed the camera to pan back to the real man of the moment on court. Because as much as I respect B Coops and as much as I value Hollywood, I am a bit annoyed with America sticking it's oar in everywhere. Taking over our culture. It's gradually sweeping poor little quaint, reserved, sometimes socially retarded Britain under the carpet and sprucing us up with Americanisms all over the shop. Or should I say 'mall'?

This notion was planted in my mind when I was probably about 10. My Dad's then girlfriend reprimanded him for holding his fork with his left hand and eating his meal all casually without a knife 'I hate it when you do that, it's so American!' At the time I thought oh shut up wench (I didn't much like her, but I was too 10 to think of a witty response) but in hindsight it could have been one of the more sensible things the woman ever said. We are turning into America a little bit and it's worrying.

Our fascination with America is undoubtedly linked to some kind of honour we feel we owe them after they supported us in WWII and we owed them money for like 60 years, but also it must be out of some notion that they are somehow bigger, better, 'smarter'. I get that as much as anyone with a minimal understanding of economics or politics can get it. But I don't really get why that means we have to be like them. When your friend lends you money, do you start wearing your hair the same and dressing like them? 'Oh Abbi has that dress Hannah!' 'Yeah she lent me a fiver so...'  When you are in awe of someone who you perceive to be admirable, fair enough to perhaps mimic their behaviour in order to achieve the same, but you don't adopt their vocab and start eating their food off their plate.

But we do do that with America, to the point I no longer know if I am using American or British expressions. We just love to dip our toes in their pond. Extra Big Macs, Apple, words like 'movie', 'smart' and 'recognized' with a 'z' - it's all starting to define our culture. Yes we undeniably sample other cultures too, we love a Thursday night curry, we go Salsa dancing and we participate in Wine of various origins. That's the beauty of how multicultural Britain has become, but sample is the operative word there.

With America we take it too far, actually replacing our stuff with theirs. We're going to 'the movies' instead of the cinema, we're wearing 'pants' instead of jeans , sneakers instead of trainers, our teeth are SiCo white and we're seeing therapists. Ladies, gentlemen, Britain - we have crossed the line. That line between American and British should be massive, the size of the Atlantic, but these days it's very, very fine. We're so insanely excited by New Yorker Bagels and we like to confuse each other by using words like 'pissed' in a totally different (Stateside) context to the one we're used to. You can't start changing the way we use our own words, it's just confusing when we don't know if you're drunk or angry.

I know America has given us a lot of fabulous (I refrain from saying 'ace') opportunities, products and concepts, and we should continue to sample their good stuff, but we need to be careful not to adopt their culture so much that we lose our own. Britain has so much to be proud, and while I love putting on an American accent to tell everyone I am 'having a real nice time right now', I never ever let Microsoft Word change it to 'Americanizm' when the dictionary is set to English UK!

At the time of publishing this Andy Murray just won Men's Single Wimbledon, making British history and breaking the 77 year ban on being good that Britain had imposed on it's tennis elite. I shall be celebrating with a cucumber sandwich and a cup of Yorkshire Tea. THAT, is the Best of British.




5 comments:

  1. As an American (who loves all things British) I feel compelled to tell you how ridiculous you sound when you say Britain is adopting American culture because of "the honour you feel you owe us to us from WWII" and we are "sticking our oar everywhere". It is in fact your British brands who are placing American flags on all their items. The few American brands you have in your country don't impose "Americanizm" on you at all. Wimbledon is an amazing sport event with players competing from all over the world. Should they not show their support? At the US Open, if one saw a British flag in the crowd supporting their country should we say "clearly they are here because they want to show us support for all we did for them during WWII. "? The fact that one Hollywood star was seen in the crowd at a tennis match sparks a debate on how America infiltrated every corner of Britain is silly. If you are so against America please don't visit, watch our movies, eat Burger King on a late night out or use whitening toothpaste.

    And not all Americans go to therapists. You must have got that stereotype from one of those American movies you keep watching. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for your comment. Sorry that you feel I sound ridiculous.

    First of all, this post is in no way a bitch about America. It isn't actually about YOU as a nation at all. The essence of my (light hearted) post is about us as Brits. OUR British culture, OUR adoption of 'Americanisms', OUR choices. If it's a slate on anyone it's a slate on us.

    As a Brit, I am well placed to say what I think and feel about our own culture. The key point I make maybe went over your head, but it's not about LIKING America, it's about how far we bring Americanisms into our own culture so that we don't always know the difference anymore. I have grown up using 'American' expressions without even realising. It is in my mind the case that certain things born out of America have landed here in the UK, perhaps erasingiover our own culture in SOME places. My issue is not with exploring American culture, or any other culture, it's about how much we hold on to our own.

    I have actually said in the blog post that sampling other cultures is the 'beauty of how multi-culutral Brtiain has become' - and that applies to the American culture we explore here in the UK. The point I make is about that subtle difference between sampling other cultures, and actually becoming different from ourselves, losing our own British-ness.

    I love America, so many incredible things have come out of it, I have visited New York, I watch Hollywood films, I LOVE eating at 'American style' diners and am fascinated with your culture in many ways. My post here isn't about that. It's about Britain and about wanting to save some Britishness.

    Thanks for reading my blog and for your valued comments.

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  3. p.s. you have just said yourself 'British brands are placing American flags on all their items' - THATS MY POINT.

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  4. I understand both sides but Hannah has not explained in any way how she thinks we should preserve our Britishness? Just watch movies once a week?

    Only eat at McDonalds once a year?

    Everybody wants it the American way – so long as it is not imposed by America or called American.

    I am proud to be influenced by American culture, even more so by the fact that the true message of their country is Freedom.

    Doesn't make me any less British though.

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  5. How we would preserve our Britishness? I suppose it largely comes down to language and terminology. Which is why this is one of the key points I (Hannah) raised in the initial blog post. I find it disappointing when my peers refer to 'movies' and 'sneakers' - because that isn't English Language. It's American Language. It also comes down to nurturing homegrown talent in our arts and other features of our culture. Culture exists because there is distincition BETWEEN cultures. In essence I would like to see Britain not lose our own culture by inadvertently adopting that of America.

    I would also be proud to be influenced by America, but again you miss the point - I have tried to explain there is a distinction between being influenced by a culture and being consumed by it.

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