another, possibly the first, in a neverending discussion of the differences between the U.S. and UK.
Sometimes differences between the U.S. and the UK are obvious, but not immediately noticed. Such as the way British people wear jumpers and U.S. people wear sweaters. You would probably not notice this unless you entered into a conversation with a British person while both wearing a ‘knitted garment intended to cover the torso and arms’ and complimented them on their sweater only to hear them say, “This old jumper? It’s good, innit? Nicked it on sale from Somewheretherebe’s.” 1
Sometimes the differences between the U.S. and the UK are not at all exactly obvious, but immediately noticed. Such as the manner in which British doors very often lack doorknobs.
And sometimes the differences betwen the U.S. and the UK seem to conform to such widely held stereotypes that you doubt if what you’re seeing is really happening or if someone has put on a stage play for your benefit.
EG and I attended a recent Q&A between Richard Ayoade and a film critic, in which were discussed, among other things: Ayoade’s career as a writer, actor, and director, as well as a Truffaut film–to be screened after the Q&A–called La Nuite américaine, or, as they say in the U.S., Day for Night. It was a great Q&A. Ayoade being brilliant and funny and not at all ruffled by his being interviewed by a film critic that at times appeared like a caricature of Britishness you might expect to find on the cover of The New Yorker (the closest thing the U.S. has to a British paper, really). The critic ridiculed, fairly straight off, the U.S. title of the film, saying, really, we’ve lost all the romance there, haven’t we? (which, yes, to be fair, but The American Night plastered on a marquee would just as well lead people in the U.S. to believe they were about to see a period film concerning Paul Revere). He also discussed, at length, in the run-up to one question, the particularness of the male psyche, and it’s desire to be loved, and how very unique it is to a boy, this need to be loved. He also very often asked questions to which it seemed fairly clear he already knew the answer, or, at least, the answer he expected or believed correct. Ayoade did not particular engage with the questions along the lines of the special magic of being a young boy, as opposed to being a girl, and, in one of the more memorable exchanges, when the film critic posited a question surrounding whether or not as a director Ayoade’s job was to answer questions, sometimes without knowing the answer, such as to what lens to use for a particular scene, but to still appear to know what what he was doing whether or not, in fact, he did, Ayoade responded, simply and effectively, thusly:
“That’s one approach, yes. You might also say, I’m not sure, and what do you think. Rather than, well, lying.”
So there you have it. British people are snobs. Also, British people are funny and not snobs.
There is a danger, of course, in experiencing a single event outside of your culture and attributing the nature of said experience to the entirety of that culture. For example, once, in England, I walked into someone and that person apologized to me. Would it be right for me to assume from this one experience that English people deploy apologies the way certain other cultures deploy ‘fuck off’? Probably not. But, I do it anyway. I am from the U.S., after all, and we excel at nothing if not the ability to hold fast to our beliefs whatever gusts of fact the heavens might send.
Happy Tuesday, readers.
- You should hear my British accent sometime. It’s even worse. ↩