Saturday, October 28, 2006

Random Conversations about Americans

It happened all throughout the trip, but the time that really stands out was the train ride from York to Doncaster.

If I hadn't heard it for myself, I would never believe that British people talk so often about America/Americans. Just out of nowhere.

On this train ride, Keith and I were on the left side of the aisle, munching on some breakfast sandwiches. On the right side of the aisle a row or two up, two British businessmen started conversing.

"When I was in America, I walked everywhere."

"What? Didn't you get shot? Don't you know they don't do that in America?!?"

Hardy laughter from both men. Then the conversation turns to how America was formerly a free nation, but how you can't do anything there anymore without the government interfering.

Keith and I looked at each other and grinned. When I overhear these conversations, I feel several warring instincts.

On the one hand, it always made me happy that I can't be immediately picked out of a crowd as an American. Granted, I'm sure it's a lot easier to blend into a British crowd than if we were traveling, say, in Japan. But even so, I feel like I've managed to stealthily infiltrate their society.

On the other hand, I feel the (always successfully suppressed) urge to defend my country. "I like to walk," I wanted to tell these blokes on the train. "And I've managed to live my entire life in America without ever having seen a gun."

One of my favorite questions that people would ask me during my year in England was, "So, what's America like?"

I think that, living in such a small country, it's hard for Brits to comprehend how truly vast and various the U.S. is. Someone growing up in rural Idaho is going to have an entirely different experience from a native New Yorker.

The tendency to make broad, over-reaching statements about Americans seems, in my limited experience, to be a popular pastime in the UK. Sometimes, depending on the speaker, the statement, and the tone, I find it immensely irritating. But most times I laugh it off, as when I overhear someone remarking about how all Americans are rich and have endless supplies of cash.

If you guys know any Americans like that, please introduce me to them!

1 comment:

cat said...

Wow! You've never seen a gun? Oh, the stories I could tell those Brits. They'd never visit the states!