Living in the USA and being a British expat blogger is generally fun. But there are perils too associated with writing a British expat blog. Probably the hardest thing for me sometimes is finding the balance between how you treat your homeland and how you treat your host country. If you appear to treat either of them too unfavourably, people get upset. Even praising one country can appear to damn the other in some eyes.
I could, of course, make my opinions and humour (humor?) as bland as possible and avoid all possibility of controversy, but that’s not me, and frankly, I personally prefer to read an expat blog where someone actually says something. Experiencing the expat blogger’s impressions, opinions, viewpoints is the whole point reading a blog, methinks?
I guess one of the things that can make things awkward is that many Americans and Brits tend to have fairly two dimensional views of each other, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, especially if they have not traveled to the other country. Brits can find amusement in American naivity of Europe, but the British idea of America can be a simplistic amalgamation of New York, the Deep south, and the Midwest bible belt, with no real idea of how these places fit together (or don’t fit together, as the case may be!)
Some subject areas are certainly thornier than others for a British expats blog writer. I think at some point I will have post a blog about my impression of American politics. That is almost bound to annoy some people. In general terms, I must say that British politics seems rather civilized compared to the raging cauldron of hate that is often modern American politics, where even the blandest of statements by a politician can kick off a fierce argument between left and right. Americans are certainly committed to the idea of democracy and their constitution, but I am not always sure as an outsider that their system works very well, not at present, anyway.
As well as politics, there are other American and British differences. The whole concept of America as a nation state is different from most places in the world for a start, including Britain. You don’t often find me quoting Margaret Thatcher, but she said that Europe is founded on history and America is founded on philosophy and that is absolutely true. Americans will argue until their blue in the face about what exactly the their constitution means and how much it is fixed and how much it is a living document open to change. It’s important because in some ways, the constitution *is* America. If you aren’t in keeping with the philosophy espoused in the constitution, you can be labeled un-American, a concept which is essentially alien to the Brits, who don’t have a constitution and are British by virtue of being born there regardless of any beliefs – sure, you can be labeled unpatriotic in the UK, but you could believe in communism, or some other form of totalitarian system that is contrary to mainstream British values and still wouldn’t be called “un-British”.
Whatever you think of it, America is certainly an interesting place. Millions of diverse people sharing an area of land with nothing in common apart from that they are all supposed to agree to a few basic tenets. Going back to Thatcher, she described Bolshevism as a big social experiment. I kind of think of America that way too.