Monday, August 1, 2011

British Expat Blogger Reflections

Looking back over the past six months, I think I was a little naïve when I began this British expat blog.  I just thought it would be a bit of fun and that I might get some views and interesting comments from around the world, as well as keep in contact and report back to friends in the UK about living in the USA.  It has been fun, of course, but after a while you also realize that the topic area can be a bit of minefield.  That’s because you are dealing with issues of national identity and people can get very passionate about that stuff – hell, people have fought wars over it throughout the ages!

I have at times been accused of making sweeping generalizations, getting my facts wrong and being deliberately provocative– all of which are probably true to some degree.  I will admit that there is a streak in my character that makes me want to poke things with a big stick sometimes, just to see what happens, even if I risk getting bitten.  My priority has always been to try and make my blog engaging, however, even if I risk ruffling feathers on occasion, as the thing that I always fear the most is my blog being bland.  I do love getting comments from different corners of the world and hearing other experiences and viewpoints and see the comments as being integral to the blog’s success, as they can often be as or more interesting than the actual original blog post!

I have generally tried to skirt around politics and race, so far, though, which has probably helped me to avoid any serious controversy.  I was genuinely taken aback by the depth of anger expressed against African Expat Wife in her post: Busman’s Holiday Travel Writing.  Sure, I know that there is a negative legacy from British colonialism and I am in no way qualified to talk about the rights and wrongs of Kenyan issues, but it did all seem a little harsh.  Anyway, African Expat Wife wrote a second post clarifying her position and that seemed to clear the air.

Returning to my own expat experiences.  I do have American friends that I know, or have known over the years back in the UK who have experienced a similar thing to me in reverse – dealing with the British visa bureaucracy, moving to Britain, adapting to British culture etc. and, of course, I do read American expat blogs about their experiences of the UK.  British expat experiences in the USA and the American expat experiences in the UK are like strange mirror images.  I thought the American comedian and expat, Reginald D Hunter gave some pretty astute and hilarious interpretations of British and American differences in his Live at the Apollo stint.

You can pretty much reverse the experiences of Reginald D Hunter, if you want to know what it’s like to be a Brit in the USA.  As he points out, English people have a tendency to say one thing, but mean something completely different, which can certainly cause misunderstandings.  I am fairly confident that the people who know me well, such as my wife, usually have a grasp of what I am getting at and can distinguish when I am joking and when I am serious - but I sometimes wonder if Americans who don’t know me so well walk away from our conversations with a completely different impression of what we’ve just been talking about to my own.


  1. Well I, for one, hope you continue with this blog Paul.

    I am enjoying it and learning from it.

    As for knowing when an Englishman is being serious or when he is joking, even an Irishman moving to England can struggle with that!!! :)

    Why does your blog want to install Adobe Flash Player on my computer? Maybe I should just let it do that?


  2. Yes, I plan to continue, David. I just thought I'd do a little navel gazing! hehe!

    Flash player is used by Youtube. There is also a Google ad on here and that might use Flash. Flash software is used for video and basic animation. You probably had it installed on your old computer but haven't done so on your new pc? You might as well have it as it is free and Adobe are reputable. I am assuming that's the issue. I myself use Firefox nowadays, but sometimes I notice differences with the site when I use internet explorer.

  3. "Provocation is my oxygen" was it Serge Gainsbourg who said that?

    I admit that I've had to tag on the obligatory "just kidding" a few times. Sometimes sarcasm or irony just doesn't translate well. It's even worse in emails which is why God gave us emoticons.

    On a purely linguistic note, one of the first guys I ever met here was from Puerto Rico and after about a minute of me talking he just turned to my wife and said "Does he speak English?"

  4. Unfortunatley my cultural conditioning has made it impossible for me *not* to be ironic, even if I am the only one who gets the joke sometimes! hehe!

    I have known one or two Americans in the UK who grew to love being ironic. My friend Lyman lived in the UK for decades and was a university lecturer, but he loved to play the role of a big dumb American who didn't understand British culture sometimes, just to draw reactions from people.

  5. Having said that, there are people in Yorkshire who's humour is so dry, I cannot tell when they are and aren't joking. I sometimes wonder if they know themselves.

  6. Remember in the Myspace days when I sent you a picture of a flying midget in a Superman outfit saying Happy Birthday in Welsh? I never assumed that all people from Wales are levitating midgets with a superhero fetish. I appreciate your sense of humor and your thoughts!