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British Perceptions of American Culture

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British Perceptions of American Culture

Post by NorthAmericanguy » January 14th, 2016, 6:15 am

Found an expat forum full of gem posts by British travelers who have either lived, or worked in America. The topic of the post was how it was difficult to make friends in America. Check out the postings:

When we lived in Singapore, in a culture that is significantly different to our home culture, our social circle was pretty much 50/50 locals and non locals (European, American, Scandinavian etc).

Here, where I expected our cultures to be more aligned, our social circle is more like 90% non-local, 10% local. Again, the non-locals aren't necessarily Brits - from all over the world, just not many from here!
I have lived here for twenty years and for some reason have found it tricky to connect in a sincere way with women friends. I get to a point where we're exchanging personal things and it feels like a friendship but then it all stops and you're just on nodding terms at the supermarket.

I find that friendships here are very focused around your kids and if your child is not on the same soccer team or whatever as your kid then people can't be bothered.

On the up side I've got a small group of ex-pat friends from Europe and we are so on the same wave length. We have kids of all different ages and so are not bound by our kids relationships. Thankfully our conversation doesn't revolve around our kids as it seems to with American women. I get invited to go for a walk and then have a cup tea around the kitchen table which is much more my thing than going to say a Tupperware party or a bunco night which is all the rage in my town.
This is one that (depending on the day) irritates and/or baffles me.

So many people I know or work with seem to base their identity on where they went to college - wearing the sweatshirt well into their thirties and beyond, bringing it up in conversation all the time, banging on about college sports ad nauseam, and so on.

Back home, I have next to no idea where anyone went to college, unless we were friends at the time and I went to visit or something, and it never comes up unless there is a shocking event in the news or the like. And even then it's only of intellectual interest.
I work with several VA Tech grads, and when that awful shooting took place they behaved like they had PTSD. It was tragic, but come on...

As someone who has lived here long enough to not attribute being unable to make friends, it is very much a case of being a fish out of water, or a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

I have narrowed it down to several factors (and note, these aren't meant as criticisms, but observations):

1) Americans seem to tend to socialise less with co-workers outside of work. This could be partly due to the greater distances that people generally commute. There seems to be more of a general reluctance to acquire new friends as many people are content with their existing circles / cliques. Having to work longer hours would also hinder any time to spend with friends.

2) The US is a much more materialistic society, so you stand a greater chance of being judged based on your house, car, physical appearance or how much you earn.

3) Aside from the west coast where many people seem more open to deviations from the norm, many more people here seem to follow the plan, doing X by Y age (graduate high school > go to college > graduate > marry college / high school sweetheart > buy house in suburbs > breed). Any deviations seem to be frowned upon by many people who deem such people who didn't follow the plan as "losers".

4) Americans seem to be more achievement / goal oriented. To a Brit who is also that way, the US would seem better, but not all of us are wired to be competitive. Many Americans also discuss their college days a lot.

5) American humour is very different. I don't think they find our self-deprecating, more dry humour as funny, though some do, hence the popularity of some British comedy shows over here that have a cult following. I only really find the black comedians funny here + the late George Carlin. I miss the banter that British people engage in, not being afraid to take the piss, even out of themselves. That doesn't seem to fly well here.

6) Sports. Any hardcore British football fan may have a hard time here. The MLS has grown and does have a huge following, but it's not quite the same crowd that you'd get at a Wolves or Stoke City Saturday afternoon match. To talk sports, you've really got to be prepared to get into an American sport. I just find the whole sport thing to be very different.

7) Politics. The right-wing here are very alien to me and seem far more nutty and extreme than the average British Tory voter, who I could still have a sensible discussion with, even if we disagreed on many issues. The right wing here seem so brainwashed, loud mouthed, nutty and obsessed with issues such as abortion and same sex marriage.

8) Obsession with physical appearance. Lots of teeth whitening, Botox, breast enhancements, magic pills for weight loss, plastic / cosmetic surgery, general obsession with wanting to not age. It's as if many people want to be "perfect" and never age. I find the whole thing very alien.

9) I do not agree with many attitudes towards the poor, those who are weak in any way, blaming them for their problems to the extreme. We know some people are poor because they ****ed up, but you cannot apply that to all. I am very much at odds with the whole "individualist" "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mindset.

10) A very different attitude towards the role of government.

11) Lastly, I have always been uncomfortable with people's tendencies to pry here by asking about your job, where you went to school and even your salary. As a British person, I find many of the questions to be "off limits".

In summary, I just feel like it's harder to be different here. People are usually nice and polite enough on the surface, they're not as reserved, but there's just something missing, at least for me.

I hope that explains it.
Probably a lot depends on where you end up and the type of work I guess.

Making friends= acquaintances very easy. Making type of close friend that you'd probably be used to from school/college/work in the UK, less likely.

I thought I'd made some good friends at the last job. When everyone got laid off, pretty much nothing from all of them since. Been out with a couple of folks, till they moved away and comment on a couple of FB statuses with a couple of others, but the rest, pretty much ignored. I have more contact with some folks I did some contract work with one summer in England than these folks.
Gender roles...another quite major difference. I have often observed that men tend to hang out solely with men, women solely with groups of women. There doesn't seem to be as much mixing up of men & women as there seemed to be back home, which is odd to me as I had quite a few platonic female friends.

Also, have any of you noticed that any such deviation in what the typical American male is ends up being labeled as "gay". For example, two guys going to lunch together, or a man doing the housework. I recall a mutual friend of my ex wife and I, whose husband was a stay at home dad. Many of their friends and family seemed to secretly have a problem with it. ... ca-777535/

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