I was told by numerous Brits and Americans before I came to the USA that the Americans love the English. But I didn’t quite believe it until I got here. Here is an extract from a conversation with my next door neighbour, which is pretty much transcribed word for word:
“Where are you from?” she said. “You sound foreign!”
“England,” I replied.
“Oh, England! I love your accent! I’ve always wished that the pilgrims had kept their English accents after they got off the boats and we didn’t speak like we do now - you know, with the American accent…”
Okay, the neighbour is slightly dotty, but her general sentiment has been expressed to me over and over since I started visiting US and then living in the USA as a British expat. Basically, the Americans love the English, and the English accent, although ironically, many Americans can’t locate my own Northern English accent until I tell them where I am from - I’ve been asked if I am from Australia or Poland many times.
|US and UK mugs owned by my wife and I|
(Digressing briefly, I once did a similar thing in Berlin, Germany. There was some awful music playing in a café where I was eating with a German-speaking English friend. The barmaid had previously been conversing to my friend in fluent German, so I assumed she was German. Although many Germans speak reasonable English, I was still confident that she wouldn’t understand me when I described the music to my friend as “dross”. Imagine my surprise when she bellowed at me in a broad Ulster accent: “This music is not dross! I picked it myself!”)
Anyway, back to Anglophilia, or rather, moving on to its opposite: Anglophobia. The truth is that there are many negative stereotypes of the English around the world, but these are probably the main ones:
- The English are arrogant and consider themselves to be superior to everyone else.
- The English are duplicitous and they play mind games with people (especially when it comes to politics).
- The English are at best cold and aloof, and at worst, downright cruel, especially with their humour, which they use to berate people that they don’t like.
How true the negative stereotypes are is a matter of opinion, of course, but Americans don’t generally buy into any of them in any significant way, in my experience. Quite the opposite, in fact, they have all sorts of positive stereotypes (I can feel a little embarrassed sometimes, because I feel sure that I won’t live up to expectations!)
Britain does generally do a good job of projecting itself abroad. Possibly too well, I sometimes think. I remember being back in Blighty and working with immigrants from places like India and the West Indes. They would sometimes tell me how naïve their views on Britain were before they moved there. They thought that everyone lived in big houses, either in beautiful old cites resembling central London, or in rambling green countryside, and the British people were very polite and civilized. In reality, of course, lots of people live in grotty inner cities with grey suburbs and the British people can be a pretty surly and miserable bunch at times (unless they’ve had a few drinks in the pub).
There is a tendency in the US culture to look for simple truths and to some extent there is a tendency to split the world’s countries into goodies and baddies, or white hats and black hats, as they say here. Americans generally prefer cultures that are similar to their own. I remember reading a survey that showed the American public overall feel most positive about the Canadians, closely followed by the Brits. I do sometimes feel a little sorry for the peoples that are designated black hats though (generally those people in arab and muslim countries).
Anyway, having said all of the above about Anglophilia, one question still puzzles me: If the Americans are so positive about the English, why does every other American movie seem to cast an Englishman as the leading bad guy? ;-)