Cultural Differences

Tez3

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In a recent thread in a discussion on an emotive subject someone stated there was a big difference in cultures between America and Great Britain. Given that the two countries have always, well after the War of Independance anway, been the countries that have been the closest in many things, are our two cultures so different?

Not just in things like spellings, use of words etc but in major things about the way we look at emotive subjects like sex, abortion, homosexuality, religion. Are we just allies because we happen to speak much the same language or do we really have enough in common that we understand each other. I must admit that I have difficulties at times in understanding why things that seem simple here are more complicated in America. I imagine that works both ways?

Both countries are fiercely independant with different experiences of the same history, but are we still cousins? should we be or should Britain look towards Europe rather than America for support? Does America look to Britain still or does it look towards its Spanish speaking neighbours more now many Americans have Spanish as their first language?
 

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In a recent thread in a discussion on an emotive subject someone stated there was a big difference in cultures between America and Great Britain. Given that the two countries have always, well after the War of Independance anway, been the countries that have been the closest in many things, are our two cultures so different?

Not just in things like spellings, use of words etc but in major things about the way we look at emotive subjects like sex, abortion, homosexuality, religion. Are we just allies because we happen to speak much the same language or do we really have enough in common that we understand each other. I must admit that I have difficulties at times in understanding why things that seem simple here are more complicated in America. I imagine that works both ways?

Both countries are fiercely independant with different experiences of the same history, but are we still cousins? should we be or should Britain look towards Europe rather than America for support? Does America look to Britain still or does it look towards its Spanish speaking neighbours more now many Americans have Spanish as their first language?
We'd have far fewer wars in the world if we fully internalized the idea that we don't have to have a lot in common to be allies.

That said, regardnig what we have in common... do Brits have short attention spans, even shorter memories, an unhealthy obsession with gadgetry and a sincere but completely misguided sense of entitlement to things we can't afford? Do British corporations and industries exploit and encourage these things for short term profits at the expense of long term stability?

If so, then I'd say we're still pretty close.

Edit: I just want to add, though, that we're much better cooks. Jeez louise. British food = gut bomb. :D
 

elder999

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At this point, we're vastly different, Irene.

Best quick example: Bristol Palin. You posted about how her name was hilarious over there. I posted how I got how you found it funny, but not only did we not find it funny, but we didn't even know that you found it funny-never mind why. In spite of our sharing languages that resemble each other enough to communicate, we don't even share the same language.

Likewise, while over here we tend to percieve you as one people, unable to make the distinctions that you do between someone who lives on one end of Great Britain or the other, Wales vs. England, Bristol vs. Liverpool, etc., you seem to forget that we're an even bigger nation, made up from people descended from people who came from all over the world, and have huge cultural differences of our own because of that, and because of the geographical differences. Someone who grew up in New York City is not like someone who grew up in London-and probably nothing like someone who grew up in Dallas or L.A.

Heck, someone who grew up in the Bronx is nothing like someone who grew up in Manhattan, and they're walking distance apart....:lol:

I was in Disney World, years and years ago, and, well, anyone who's been there can tell you how Mickey and Minnie get mobbed by kids, and parents with cameras. Along comes Minnie-Minnie gets mobbed. People taking pictures, kids everywhere, and here's this "British" gentleman, camera in hand,muttering away (a little bit louder than muttering)It would all go so much smoother if everyone would just get in a queue. Of course, there wa no "queue", and most of the people there-Americans-will get in line if we have to: at the supermarket, for the rides, for the toll booth, for tickets, but we don't just form up in lines, and if you want a picture, you better just have your kids shove their way up there and jump in when their turn comes. When their turn comes? When they take it. I mean, sure, it was chaotic-but mostly it was just being dealt with, and people were not going to form orderly lines.Not saying it's good. Not saying it's bad. It's different.

Allies? Sure. Friends? Sure. Just very different cultures. Things you tend to think of as "none of my business" we have a long history of making our business: religion, sexuality, personal vices. Hell, we made liquor illegal for 13 years, because of a bunch of people who couldn't mind their own business. There are still counties in this country where you can't get a beer, never mind a decent shot of tequila.....:lol:

On the other hand, our "shared language" means that we get to share Benny Hill, Monty Python, the Avengers, and all manner of other goodies. Don't know that you get anything as good in return, actually....

I've got to say as well, that your lot probably spend a great deal more time trying to understand us than we even bother thinking about you. Don't know if that's good or bad........


.....and yeah, we have wayyyy better food.
 
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Sukerkin

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You were doing fine right up until your last line, Elder.

Other than that fantasy (which is based on the whinings of a few generations of panned Frenchmen) there's not a lot to disagree with in what you say.

I think our 'image' of America, which is largely negative I have to confess, comes from the output of the media more than anything else. For example, in my own lifetime, I have only met a handful of 'Yanks' face to face, so my sample size for forming an real opinion is vanishingly small {and half of them were ex-pat Englishmen :lol:}.

My on-line contacts are massively greater of course and that has worked on my judgements of what makes an 'American' quite strongly, chipping away at some treasured stereotypes.

The thing that does consistently surprise me (and which has been reinforced rather than dispelled by the Net) is how little attention many of your countrymen seem to pay to the rest of the world or it's history.

I have ever surmised that this is because America itself is more than large enough for everyone and everything is supplied to America in such quantities that not many have to think where anything comes from.

I forget what percentage was it that actually have a passport, let alone use one but I recall it being surprisingly low. With such grandeur at home I can see why there is little incentive to go elsewhere but this leads me back in a circle to saying that those of us out 'here' don't get to actually meet many Americans ... so we make our minds up from what we see in the movies and from the actions of your government as it stomps around the globe as if it owned the place.

Which means, all in all, that's it's actually quite hard to judge how to answer the OP. Our nations relationships have been forged by war more often than not and you know what they say about relationships formed in times of crisis :D.
 
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Tez3

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The Bristol Palin thing the whole of Britain found vastly amusing, it made all the papers, all the tv and radio shows. We found the whole family very amusing, it was like a parody, American life as portrayed in National Lampoon House's Vacation films but then we laugh at all polititians, keeps them in their place.
The British tend to look at America and see a large puppy, good natured, fun, meaning well but not grown up yet. It probably what explains the queue thing, we see it as adult good manners to take your turn. It means too that a certain section of our community take it upon from thenmselves to teach the rest of the world British good manners, bless them, these would have been the sterling ladies and gentlemen of the empire who have the mickey taken out of them many times but are the true heroes when things turn bad.

I think too we do think about you a lot, I suspect we still think you should have joined the Commonwealth! We worry about you like parents with their teenagers without even thinking you might find that patronising and unwelcome.

It does annoy us however when our polititions bow to yours, we think they should have their own minds.

I hate Benny Hill, he's awful, a real chauvinst pig!!
Your dramas such as West Wing, ER, the CSI series, that sort are very good. You also do sharp, very 'American' comedies that have fast funny repartee that we don't tend to have.

I have worked with Americans, service people usually and found them open ( far too much sometimes, far too much information about private lives on too short an aquaintance!) but quintiessentially naive. It's wonderful being patriotic but one should also have an open mind about other cultures especially when in that country and not in America.
 
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Tez3

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I don't want this turning into a country v country bashing session! I just thought it would be good to explore our differences (sounds vaguely rude lol) and things we have in common. It would be nice to smash a lot of those myths we have, as Sukerkin says, been believing due to the media.
 

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I just have to say I love Benny Hill, Dr. Who, Tomorrow People, and of course, the esteemed Mr. Bean. :)
 

Sukerkin

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In terms of myth dispelling, I thought that, for 'us', the recent series by my favourite erudite Englishman (Steven Fry) as he drove around America in a London cab was very good. Yes, all he had time to do was give us a cliche from each state but at least that showed us that there is more than one stereotype :D.

We can never really overcome the 'prejudices' we are inculcated with from birth but by dint of exploration of each other via book, 'chat' and maybe even actual visit one day (fingers crossed) we can learn that fundamental truth that we are all people. We may be shaped by our cultures (here I resist jokey but unfairly snide comparative barbs ROFL) but we are all still individuals - that is how even in our one-step-removed internet contacts we form friendships. What we like and what our views are and how we comport ourselves mean much more than where we are from.
 

elder999

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You were doing fine right up until your last line, Elder.

Other than that fantasy (which is based on the whinings of a few generations of panned Frenchmen) there's not a lot to disagree with in what you say..

Oh no. It's based on several trips to your country(ies).

Now, I like huevos rancheros a lot, but the beans that you guys serve for breakfast?

I could go on, but, I'm sorry-with a few notable exceptions,some imports and some converted imports (your curry is a lot like our "chinese food," no longer what it purports to be, but some hybridization that is more native to where it's served...) what you offer for cuisine is pretty weak by most standards-given a choice between the varieties of "Italian," or "Mexican," or "Asian," or just about anything, I'd take them over most things purporting to be "British."

Except maybe "French." I don't care for most "French" food: I like their pastries, bread and bouillabaisse, though....:lfao: Oh, and their "coffee."

On the other hand, there are some things in Mexico, the Phillipines and a few other places that I'm not about to touch.......and, on the other hand, every time I've had dog, I had seconds, so what do I know about food?...:lol:


Tez3 said:
I hate Benny Hill, he's awful, a real chauvinst pig!!

I feel much the same about David Chappelle...........:lfao:

You're right about the "American abroad" attitude, though. I almost always wind up being embarassed for one or more of my countrymen while overseas-in Japan, or the Netherlands, even in Mexico.....especially in some parts of Mexico, which some Americans tend to think of as another state....we do tend to have no idea of how to behave in someone else's home. Shameful, really.....

It's pretty likely we get "lulled" by that "common tongue" thing in your country, though, and it seems even worse. That part might even work both ways, though who'd know it?
 

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There are large cultural differences among the proletariat, but at the top, America still maintains all of its anglo traditions. Look at the elite schools in both nations. Look at the crazy emphasis on bloodlines and family purity. Look at how Anglican traditions are viewed here...to the point of anointing certain families as "royal".

Also, look at the money. Our financial institutions are direct copies of yours. Our financial leaders regularly commiserate on the fate of both nation's economies. These same people intermarry and are often duel citizens. The top of our society is still very much tied to the UK.
 

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What is rather interesting here is that comedy does not cross over well in different cultures but yet there are British comedies that work well in the US and from the post of Tez it appears that some of the American comedies work in Britain. So how different are we really?

As to Sukerkins view of us not knowing the history; we are taught it in school however not in great detail, how much detail are the countries of Europe and the British Isles taught about American History? However with that said many Americans do not really know much of their own history so not knowing the history of other countries does not surprise me in the least.

I like history and I will admit I know more about the US and China than I know about any other place but I did recently see a few PBS shows on Henry the 8th and Shakespeare that were incredibly fascinating and I will admit that I know bit of it but certainly not all.

And speaking as one that has never been to the British Isles and never had authentic food and only knows about it from hearsay I must say I agree with Elder But then if we were talking China and food the US looses hands down :D
 

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When I was in Germany in the air force, I was drinking a beer in a local gasthaus with a bunch of Germans I didn't know. After about the 7th or so beer, this older lady put her hand on my arm, leaned in and said, "You Americans are SO YOUNG. We have brothels older than your country."

That image has stayed with me and affected my perspective from that point on as I travelled around. I would look at the corner stores and the bars and all of the other buildings and wonder when they were built. In Traben-Trabach, where I lived, there were few buildings that didn't predate the revolutionary war. There's a sense of permanence that comes from this, to me.

I got a little bit of this sense of history in Boston, but it's nothing like traipsing through the ruins of Bernkastel-Keus or even drinking a beer in a bar that's built out of the cellar of a centuries old building.

I do appreciate the size of America, but even within that there are a lot of differences. Part of the problem we have, I think, is our ready acceptance of categories. I grew up largely in Texas, but can guarantee you that I have nothing in common with the stereotype of a Texan.

We do tend to be somewhat disinterested in the details of world events. I think this is a shame, but the point about sheer size and breadth of the USA is surely part of it. That said, Canada is as large as we are, and they tend to be much more aware of the global implications of their actions.

As for the passport thing, I think that the cost of travelling abroad is prohibitive. I travel across the border to Canada often, but have a special drivers license instead of a passport.

Edit: Oh, I have to add that Monty Python was big for me. I remember the first time I watched them was in a 12 hour marathon... I must have been like 11 years old. Been a fan ever since.
 

Sukerkin

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Oh no. It's based on several trips to your country(ies).

Now, I like huevos rancheros a lot, but the beans that you guys serve for breakfast?

I could go on, but, I'm sorry-with a few notable exceptions,some imports and some converted imports (your curry is a lot like our "chinese food," no longer what it purports to be, but some hybridization that is more native to where it's served...) what you offer for cuisine is pretty weak by most standards-given a choice between the varieties of "Italian," or "Mexican," or "Asian," or just about anything, I'd take them over most things purporting to be "British."

Right! That's it! Get your sword, we'll settle this like gentlemen ...

... oh wait, you're clearly joking. Phew! I thought you were serious for a minute then :lol:.

Of course, in all seriousness, your tastes have to be your own and if our food isn't to your liking than my saying otherwise wont change that.
 

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What is rather interesting here is that comedy does not cross over well in different cultures but yet there are British comedies that work well in the US and from the post of Tez it appears that some of the American comedies work in Britain. So how different are we really?

As to Sukerkins view of us not knowing the history; we are taught it in school however not in great detail, how much detail are the countries of Europe and the British Isles taught about American History? However with that said many Americans do not really know much of their own history so not knowing the history of other countries does not surprise me in the least.

I like history and I will admit I know more about the US and China than I know about any other place but I did recently see a few PBS shows on Henry the 8th and Shakespeare that were incredibly fascinating and I will admit that I know bit of it but certainly not all.

And speaking as one that has never been to the British Isles and never had authentic food and only knows about it from hearsay I must say I agree with Elder But then if we were talking China and food the US looses hands down :D
My mom said that the most important year in American history was 1066. Her opinion, surely, but the point being she believes strongly that at least a fundamental understanding of the history of Britain is crucial to understanding the history of the USA.
 

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I think our 'image' of America, which is largely negative I have to confess, comes from the output of the media more than anything else. For example, in my own lifetime, I have only met a handful of 'Yanks' face to face, so my sample size for forming an real opinion is vanishingly small {and half of them were ex-pat Englishmen :lol:}.

My on-line contacts are massively greater of course and that has worked on my judgements of what makes an 'American' quite strongly, chipping away at some treasured stereotypes.

My wife's sister lives in London, and hopefully we can pay her a visit some time (my wife has actually gone to visit a few times, but I have not been able to accompany her). Perhaps when I make it over there, you and I can get together for an afternoon to share a pint or two and hopefully I can help break down a few American stereotypes.
icon11.gif


Good other points you made in this post, I find much to agree with.
 

elder999

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There are large cultural differences among the proletariat, but at the top, America still maintains all of its anglo traditions. Look at the elite schools in both nations. Look at the crazy emphasis on bloodlines and family purity. Look at how Anglican traditions are viewed here...to the point of anointing certain families as "royal".

Also, look at the money. Our financial institutions are direct copies of yours. Our financial leaders regularly commiserate on the fate of both nation's economies. These same people intermarry and are often duel citizens. The top of our society is still very much tied to the UK.

While there is an element of truth to this for some of the families "at the top," it's largely a socialist-proletarian canard, based upon a lack of experience with any of those families. You could be right about the financuial institutions, but, just as one example, the Kennedys are largely descended from a criminal bootlegger.The elite schools, while they may have started out emulating similar institutions in the U.K, and may even have some similar traditions, are largely American affairs.I don't even know what you mean by "crazy emphasis" on bloodlines and purity. People are into their lineage and sometimes heritage, that's all-if you were descended from someone who came over on the Mayflower, you'd know it.

While I don't deny that we have what some would see as an aristocracy based upon inherited wealth, it is a distinctly American aristocracy based upon wealth. Don't even know what you mean by the "top of our society," let alone "tied to the U.K." Sounds like more "one world government, Rothschilds and Bildebergers, Illuminati and Trilateral Commission" confusion to me....:lol:

When I was in Germany in the air force, I was drinking a beer in a local gasthaus with a bunch of Germans I didn't know. After about the 7th or so beer, this older lady put her hand on my arm, leaned in and said, "You Americans are SO YOUNG. We have brothels older than your country."

I stayed in a hotel in Venice that was about 800 years old-a Knight's Templar shelter, no less...

On the other hand, I was in a ceremony last month that has taken place in about the same place, at the same time of year, for a little bit longer-actually, probably a lot longer-since 900A.D. or so..... Again, it depends upon your definition of "You Americans...."

All of which brings back part of my original point: there are pretty big (from what I know of them) cultural differences in your country{ies} ; there are vast cultural differences in ours, brought about by geography, religion, upbringing-and, well, just different cultures. Given all of that, the differences between us are to be expected.
 
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Xue Sheng

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My mom said that the most important year in American history was 1066. Her opinion, surely, but the point being she believes strongly that at least a fundamental understanding of the history of Britain is crucial to understanding the history of the USA.

Coincidentally that is the only year I know from English history, the Battle of Hastings, and I have no idea why that sticks in my head but it does
.
 

Sukerkin

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Well, Xue, 1066 is a fairly significant World History date, so I would imagine that it was highlighted pretty hard in your schooldays; that might be why it's stuck so well?

It could, of course, be that it sticks in your memory as the date of the first surviving written mention of my families existence ... no, my sillyness there ... that was 1086 - we're still in the same town too :lol:. I'm quite far flung from the tree being all of almost twenty miles away :eek:. Living proof that American's think 100 years is a long time and Englishmen think 100 miles is a long way :D.

That really is one of my favourite cliche's about our cultural differences.
 

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Living proof that American's think 100 years is a long time and Englishmen think 100 miles is a long way :D.

That really is one of my favourite cliche's about our cultural differences.
This is so funny. 100 miles is almost within commuting distance! :) I was thinking about a road trip I took my family on a few Summer's back. We drove from Seattle to South Dakota and took in Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, as well as (at my daughter's insistence) the Corn Palace.

We then drove over to Iowa to visit my wife's hometown, then South to San Antonio to spend a week with my parents. From there over to Anaheim and a day at Disneyland and then a scenic drive up the Oregon coast back home.

Overall, if I remember correctly, I drove over 6000 miles in 3 weeks. It was great fun. Lots of good memories.

We're going to drive down to Disneyland this Summer for my daughter's 12th birthday. I'd rather drive than fly. We'll get to stop in the Redwood forest and maybe this time I'll get to take the kids down through Monterey... maybe stop off at the Hearst Castle or the Agate beaches around Eureka/Arcada.
 

Sukerkin

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Crikey mate! 6000 miles :faints:. Leaving aside my having flown to Calgary and back (via Chicago), I'm not sure I've gone that far in my entire life :lol:.
 

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