You would think that in a multi-religion, multi-ethnic, multi-national culture such as that in New York, a basic level of understanding on, and indifference to, the British would have come about, purely by osmosis given the sheer number of individuals migrating west across the Atlantic. This does not seem to be the case.
Several US natives daily are beside themselves with fascination at my accent and ‘charming eccentricities’ (is this a compliment…) – but note this engine operates just as efficiently in reverse, today nearly culminating in a non-intentional hunger strike when the gentleman behind the counter in Pret A Manger could not understand my pronunciation of the word ‘croissant’ for literally minutes.
Despite the (seemingly) consensus opinion that the British accent sounds ‘classy’, I must admit, it doesn’t do too much for your cool points. As a Brit amongst a (very pleasing) sea of Americans, piping up with a witty comment during group conversation ALWAYS makes your accent sounds posher and more awkward than it actually is – like your friend’s mum who inconveniently pops her head around the bedroom door to offer some Rich Tea Biscuits as a snack when you’re trying to get on with completing Sonic 3D for Sega Mega Drive.
So let’s embark, together, on a collective journey to delve into what the world thinks of the population who created Opal Fruits, Ozzy Osborne and Manchester United. I’ll rate the validity of each statement out of five, using Britain’s Union-Jack-swathed national treasure Geri Halliwell as my unit.
#1 british people are ‘sheltered’ – 3 Geris
I am obnoxious, but I am also reasonable. The widest section of the UK is around 300 miles, equivalent to the length of a casual Christmas Day stroll with the dog for the average American, whose home country spans over 9x that distance. In an abstract way, the idea of a minuscule island like Great Britain, with a quaint old queen who wears a little crown, yielding towns with thatched roofs and cobbled streets – in fairness – does make it sound like a still from my childhood wouldn’t go amiss in a montage of Downton Abbey clips.
However, let my generosity of understanding on this topic not be taken advantage of. I feel like this comment is (rather carelessly) over-used by our Continental European cousins in particular, to explain the extreme bifurcation in the behaviour between our two nations. I embed below a commercial, aired on Danish national television in 2008, that features a large number of naked women skydiving from an aeroplane to advertise the sale of a Siemens washing machine for €269. Naturally, the British look conservative in comparison to this utter lunacy. Only in Denmark, eh.
#2 british people have bad teeth – ashamed, but 5 Geris
This one caught me completely by surprise; at the age of 25 I have only recently become the proud owner of an electric toothbrush, however it seems an entire nation has had a keen interest in what us Brits have had inside our heads enamel-wise for some time. On first being made aware of the, rather harsh but annoyingly accurate, assumption that American people just do have better teeth than we do, I immediately acquired whitening gel from the dentist and got straight to work with the DIY trays. What Hollywood DOESN’T tell you about that gel is that it is the MOST PAINFUL THING EVER to have on your gums for even ONE SECOND, and I still haven’t worked out if the pain outweighs the daily humiliation of having teeth like that old dude from Aladdin.
#3 british people are mean – undeserved, but understood, 2 Geris
If one was of the artistic persuasion, one might liken the comparison between the inherent characteristics of Americans and Brits to the scrutiny of the two cities in question that birthed them. Allow me to explain – New York is all brights lights, perky waitresses, rooftop bars and aspiring actors with names like ‘Chip’, whereas London is winding streets, gritty Channel 4 dramas, medieval buildings and Russell Brand. For each population the other is foreign, exciting but unchartered, exotic but intimidating – the Americans do a good job of first impressions (I do not mean to do individuals a disservice by suggesting their generosity of spirit is somehow genetic, however) whereas I recognise us Brits can come across cold, sarcastic and cynical at first glance.
If I can be but one line in your UK dictionary – know that when we say ‘by God, don’t you understand anything about British history, your sweatshirt print is really loud and it’s hurting my face, why is your imitation English accent so disgraceful and it’s YOUR ROUND YOU IGNORANT SO-AND-SO’ what we really means is ‘I’m worried you won’t like me, please be my friend’.
#4 british people don’t understand food – utter rubbish, Scary Spice, off the Geri scale
Coming from an island that only offers kitchens in luxury apartments, where the phrase ‘to Seamless’ is a household verb dangerously close to being incorporated into official vocabulary, I enjoy the idea that we Brits (WE BRITS, who invented AMAZING FOOD ITEMS such as ‘fish n chips’, ‘toad in the hole’ and the battered Mars Bar) are considered by the inhabitants of Manhattan to be the ones who are junior in this field. I’m kidding (see #3 above), New York has amazing food – vastly superior to that of the UK in all fields save for these three – Indian, Chinese and cheeses.
We like cheese, damn right we do, those plasticky yellow snot-squares Americans put in their burgers are rank and 100% do not belong with the likes of the dairy products expertly originated by the high quality cows found in the British Isles. If you and I were on a date, and you brought me a bunch of flowers and commented on how nice my hair looked whilst preparing a cheese and wine feast (which you know is my favourite, of course, because you are thoughtful) and you dared to bring me that processed square crap, I would lamp you, no questions asked.
#5 british people like to queue – of course, 5 Geris
This requires little explanation. On day T+3, God made the land, the sea, all the animals and plants and stuff and (I imagine) must have come to the conclusion that high value items (shelter, water, Oreos, etc.) would be allocated on a first-come first-served basis, and that all the little animals would need to behave themselves and wait their turn to get a go on the rope swing. This is just how things work I’m afraid.
#6 british people love their pets more than their children – hysterical, but mostly incorrect, 2 Geris
Apparently this statement is very widely believed to be true by young children in far away countries. I read this a few years ago in an online article that I annoyingly now cannot find – the internet has moved on since then it seems with the post in question now no doubt buried deep in cyber space amongst Yelp reviews and useless articles on how to tell if he likes you. I wonder if the aforementioned children imagined British youngsters having to constantly compete for their parents attention against their long-suffering pets, much like Gromit and Feathers McGraw in ‘Wallace & Gromit – The Wrong Trousers’.