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Culture - America vs Britain

Discussion in 'History, Travel, and Culture' started by James, Jul 1, 2016.

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  1. James

    James Infamy, infamy.. they've all got it infamy
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    OK - I thought I'd take a risk and post this question, How do you think American culture and British culture differs, or is similar/the same ?

    I guess I was thinking about US and UK politics and tv (especially since the UK seems to be going through a bit of crisis in itself recently). I don't mean it to be competitive, I know you Americans have a lot of guns, whereas in Britain we tend to rely on being slightly rude to each other, or using the old fashioned dirty look. I have to say I really have loved some of the US tv shows, I enjoy American films, literature and music very much. I do think the BBC and British culture has something distinct and unique to offer though, what do you think ?

    I have read that linguists used to think the language would fragment and we would eventually not be able to understand each other, though I'm sure with the web and mass media, that seems very unlikely to me. I think though there is a tendency to miss jokes, and cultural references, which I pick up when you know there has been a particular joke about something in American comedy which is totally lost on me.

    Is it that the way we live our lives is just so different now America and Britain ? I have left Australia and Canada out of the mix, as I think this maybe enough to contend with.

    Any thoughts everyone?
     
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  2. JJJA

    JJJA Permanent Fixture

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    We're mostly the same, almost like siblings in most respects.
     
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  3. the

    the Si master race.
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    Well Britain is Great while America will be great again. #Trump2016
     
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  4. Night Owl

    Night Owl This Bird Has Flown

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    Generally the humour is totally different from one another. I am saying this as an Australian - a partially impartial view. I don't have the time to elaborate, but maybe someone else will :S
     
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    Classic Australian response.
     
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  6. Gaze

    Gaze My word . . . hmm
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    I was more familiar with British culture since I'm from English Caribbean. So, I grew up being exposed to it, including watching BBC news, watching British shows such as Allo, Allo, and Are You Being Served, Agatha Christie, Jane Eyre, etc. When I came to the US, culture shock was huge, and so now adapting to American culture after 20 years, I see differences between the two cultures that are varied. Just a note, I've never been to Britain, but this was my impression based on media, my own cultural experiences, and Brits I've met over the years.

    Yes, my descriptions will be a little biased towards Brits because British culture has strongly influenced Caribbean culture and my impressions are also generational, likely based on previous decades (70s-90s).

    Now, not sure if the following impressions are entirely true, but here goes. . .

    British pay more attention to spoken speech and tend to value politeness and use more formality in social situations. Americans tend to be more casual, and easy going even in more formal or professional settings. Britain is a slightly stricter culture with more emphasis on following rules, while American culture believes rules are a bother, and are usually a deterrent to freedom and expression. In Britain, social responsibility and accountability is valued more highly, while in US, individuality and choice is valued more highly. Also in American culture, you achieve things mostly from competition. Actually, it's one of the most off putting things about this culture. Everything is a competition. It gets old. In US, you need to have some money, to have any kind of a life, not sure how it is in Britain.

    In American culture, holding fast to rules and uniformity are seen as obstacles to growth and progress, and so anything new and different or anything that challenges the old guard is seen as automatically better, while Britain tends to value knowledge for its own sake, intellect, tradition, and the past. US seems to value youth and beauty more highly than British culture. Seems British culture values the older generations just as much as the younger generation. I think more is expected of young adults in Britain compared to American children in terms of behavioral expectations. I think there is more emphasis on freedom of live out youth unrestricted by adult concerns until you are an adult, while it seems in England, there is more encouragement as a child to prepare for adulthood earlier with more focus on social responsibility and achievement. Britain seem to be more practical, while US seems to be more idealistic. Great respect for authority and position in Britain while in American, authority is considered a role that has to be constantly won to be deserved. Likely because they have a Parliamentary system while US has the electoral college. Not sure which is better.

    US is a more extroverted culture while Britain seems more introverted.

    In Britain, my impression is once something is achieved, you have that respect for achieving it for life (e.g. education). In US, respect for achievements don't last or they only last as long as they are useful. You have to keep earning it by doing something more to top the last thing you did. In Britain, my impression is social value and mobility is based more on hard work (regardless of competition), education, position and title, while in US, social value and mobility is based more on social connections, popularity, monetary achievement, and education (if it makes you money). In US, anything that doesn't have immediate use value, is dismissed as irrelevant or unimportant, while I'm assuming in Britain, people tend to value things for how hard you worked for it (whether or not it's a popular goal or endeavor). In Britain, it is seen as more socially acceptable to display your smarts, while in the US, doing well or showing your knowledge makes you a nerd or a snob.

    In Britain, I get the impression people are likely to use humor differently. Britain tends to use more self deprecating humor, while Americans tend to enjoy more insult humor. In Britain, you're expected to be a bit more humble about your achievements and let your work speak for itself, whereas in US, you're expected to do highlight your achievements to justify your right to an opportunity. Brits tend to pay more attention to etiquette and manners as a matter of habit and ritual, while in US, people are taught to be polite mostly as a matter of social ease, but in many cases, more as a means to an end e.g. customer service and tipping.

    (I hate tipping at restaurants. It should just be included in the food price so they can pay servers a proper wage. It's tough to enjoy your meal knowing the server is only being nice or charming just to get a good tip while knowing they're just talking about you behind the scenes).


    So, @James, what do you think? Am I close or a little too off the mark?
     
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    #6 Gaze, Jul 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
  7. invisible

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    American humour has really caught up to world standard in the last 15 years. In the 90s American humour was so painfully eyerollingly unfunny and unsophisticated it was frightening. But it is much much better now.

    There is a difference though. With American humour there is always a really formulaic aspect to the way it plays out. Like image macros. Image macros can be utterly hilarious, but you sort of know what to expect. I think British humour tends to operate less on the cues and stock devices than American humour, it is less formal and more chaotic.
     
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    STRAYA
     
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  9. Night Owl

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    Can I ask a question, to which It'd be beneficial to hear from at least one Pom and one Yank (that's what we call you folks, don't worry, it's 99% endearing).

    Do you find David Letterman and his show, funny?
    Do you find Monty Python's work - i.e. 'The Life of Brian', funny (exclude consideration of the Flying Circus)?

    Cultural differences, namely in regards to humour but even more than this, may thus be inferred from the findings.
     
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    James

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    @Gist - what an incredible, insightful post. I really couldn't agree more with everything you've put, the summation of Britain is spot on. I have only been to America once, but of course like most of the world, I have been immersed in its cultural output for decades, and I agree with what you wrote there too. Once on holiday in France, a group of Americans moved into one of the holiday homes and they quickly came down by the pool. If they'd been British it would have been a small nod, to acknowledge us. I knew hearing the accent, they'd come over, they did. So I think the introvert/extrovert thing is a good way to put it.

    Sadly I think Britain is going though some sort of ridiculous identity crisis, our older generation can't seem to accept Britain does not 'rule the waves' anymore. They younger generation believe we should have never tried to do so. Our Government are closing Libraries etc and we seem to be demolishing some of our key social foundations. People are angry, confused and too often broke. Even if they are working. I fear the UK maybe about to break up internally. But I've wandered off track. Simply put your post is excellent.
     
    #10 James, Jul 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
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  11. Gaze

    Gaze My word . . . hmm
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    Just to add, Brits can be a bit condescending while Americans appear to be more relaxed with strangers and more accepting of differences (despite social injustices). However, Americans are a tad bit too obsessed with appearance.

    Edit: Other things I've noticed in American culture is that if you don't laugh at crude or rude humor (although it would be considered rude and inappropriate in other places), you're seen as uptight and stuck up. If you are quieter, people think something is inherently wrong with you. You must be outgoing and aggressive to be seen as socially valuable or a great person. And there's an obsession with being seen or being noticed. And people need to be constantly entertained to keep their interest, non-stop. There's no balance. As one video I just watched mentioned, everything is BIG. American culture is also way too fast paced, at killing speed.
     
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    #11 Gaze, Jul 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
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    James

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    I totally agree on the British condescension thing - the rigid social hierarchy is maybe the worst aspect of Britain. Although I'm from humble beginnings, I've usually been very accepted dealing with those from the 'higher ranks'. My parents were from Ireland, and I think as I grew up I subconsciously adopted the nearest English accent - the BBC. It probably created a different impression of who I was. I'm glad that America is more open and less stuffy.

     
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    I'm not really qualified to answer according to the terms of your question, but can I just say that I totally hate that guy. It may have been some complete accident but every time I switched over to a bit of his show he was always talking about how familiar he is with the good old set of established New York families or something like that. What a vomit festival.

    I'm sure people will cringe when I write this, but I also saw him be really inhospitable to Kristen Stewart on his show once, around the time she first became really famous, and I didn't like it. He should have been a more gracious host. He really was not welcoming.
     
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  14. Gaze

    Gaze My word . . . hmm
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    Glad, I'm not the only one. Thought I was the odd one out for not liking him. Never got on to his sense of humor. Just didn't click. Preferred Conan O'Brien and Craig Ferguson. My fave was Jon Stewart.
     
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    :grouphug:
     
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  16. Night Owl

    Night Owl This Bird Has Flown

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    Side point: I can't (couldn't) stand The Late Show with David Letterman. I really don't understand how it can be funny. I can't even articulate how unfunny I always found it. I'm glad there are Americans who despise it. I secretly hoped that was the case. But hey, I'd like to hear from Poms and Yanks who think otherwise - and why even. I support your right to find funny what is objectively anything but ;)
     
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    #16 Night Owl, Jul 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
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  17. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    Are you kidding me!? All those Adam Sandler movies!? Just GTFO.

    Just kidding I love you but the 90s were fab for humor!
     
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    This is not a threat, it's a warning. If you keep on harassing me with this I'm going to lose all sense of reason and perspective and go full INFJ limit break on you, and then I will not be accountable for anything that happens. It has happened before and it can happen again at any time. SO BACK OFF
     
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    (Just kidding around. But do I ever lose it sometimes. I really need to work on that.)
     
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    You blew it!
     
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