Friday, 8 May 2009

Whingeing Poms and Loud Americans

Being in the US and coming back to the UK has got me thinking about different attitudes in different countries. Stereotypes are dangerous, unfair and sometimes just plain wrong. However, often there is a kernel of truth. Nations do have cultures, with people tending to behave in ways that fits in with most other people, which is what many stereotypes are based on.

A couple of stereotypes that I'd be interested in getting your thoughts on are the friendly American and the negative, complaining Brit.

One of the things that struck Lauren and I being back in the States was just how good the customer service is. People serving us were so polite, friendly and helpful. I'd never noticed customer service in the UK or NZ as being particularly bad before, but in comparison it really isn't flash. A nice smile and cheerful snippet of conversation is not what you expect from the minimum wage slave behind the till in Pac N Save or Tesco.

Flags ringing the Washington Monument. Yanks do love the Stars and Stripes.

Back in London, I've been extra aware of how many Brits - especially in groups - like to have a good moan about something. How you'll hear something is 'rubbish', when it's merely mediocre, or 'decent' when it's very good. On the bright side, British pessimism makes for lots of great comedy and a healthy scepticism about people in authority.

I think New Zealanders have picked up some of this in our cultural baggage. There's the tall poppy syndrome for example - the urge to cut down people who stand out from the crowd.

Guardsmen at Windsor Castle, no doubt off to wet their stiff upper lips with a pint of warm ale and a moan about the boss.

So, what do you think of these stereotypes? Gigantic generalisation for sure, but is there something to them? Is so, why do you think it came about? Is it the British weather (I don't think it's that bad at all)? Is it the space and freedom of America, the optimism of people coming to the New World? What about other stereotypes - like the coarse, cocky, boozing Aussie? Or the cold, humourless German (completely untrue in my experience)? I'd interested to read your thoughts.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I remember Seitz always used to say that the noise made by Americans was exponintially proportional to how many were in the room! I must say that in my experiance, the French don't deserve their romantic label and my neighbour telling me that her boyf proposed by throwing a ring on the bed and saying "happy now?" confirmed my thoughts!