When you’re an American living in the UK, you start to tire of discussions around the differences in language and culture. Ooh, I say aluminum differently than you do! Ooh, I call pants underwear and trousers pants! Shocking! Ooh, my country likes to imprison people and stockpile small arms while yours…uh, I guess plays soccer and calls it football! Weird!
It’s the exact same when Brits come to the States, I’m sure, and I’d imagine it’s just as tiring for them. But these conversations, sadly, are to some extent inevitable.
That said, there are a few things I’ve learned my fellow Americans and I just shouldn’t ever say to Brits, whether out of courtesy or a desire to not be incredibly awkward or insulting.
1. “English accents are sexy.”
First of all, as a pickup line, this is just unbelievably lazy. You know why? Assuming you’re in the UK, virtually everyone in the bar has an English accent. You just don’t pull out such an indiscriminate line unless you’re a total creeper. And if you’re in the US and you’re using this line, guess what? They already know. They’ve been hearing it left and right since the second they touched down at LaGuardia.
Secondly, the “English accent” is a weak umbrella term for an incredibly broad range of dialects. Small as that country is, it has a huge number of different accents. And some of them aren’t remotely sexy. If you can narrow it down and say something like, “Scouse accents are sexy,” (which they are most definitely not), then at the very least you’ve scored points for getting the accent right.
Finally, keep in mind that literally no Brit finds American accents sexy. To them, we all sound like Forrest Gump. So when you go up to someone and say, “English accents are sexy!” they’re basically hearing, “Garsh! You shore do talk purty!”
2. “We bailed you out in World War II.”
American history classes have a tendency to overemphasize the role of the US in World War II. Yes, we did great things, and yes, our involvement certainly speeded the war’s end. But for whatever reason, this turns us into complete chodes when we talk to Brits. First of all, let’s be clear: Our war experience was far less traumatic than Britain’s. Aside from the fact that World War II destroyed their empire (which, honestly, was probably a good thing), nearly 1% of the UK’s total population was killed in the war, while in America the number was about a third of that.
Also, the Nazis bombed the shit out of their cities. Unless you were in Pearl Harbor, that didn’t happen in America in World War II. US soldiers on the front lines didn’t have to worry as much about their families at home.
The British people are still quite proud about holding off the Nazis single-handedly after the rest of Western Europe fell — and their narrative of World War II always seems to mention how we dragged our feet getting into it. Regardless, to declare we came over and saved the day is a selectively simplistic way of putting it, and it’s just a generally shitty, disrespectful thing to say.
3. “Our football is better than your football.”
Virtually every non-soccer-loving American I know does this when they meet Brits. They start talking about “football” and how our football is better, and how theirs is boring. Or about how cricket is the dullest and most inexplicable sport on the planet. The reason this is obnoxious is that it opens the door to these jocky, gonad-swinging debates about whose culture is better and which sport has more of a right to call itself “football” (hint: We always lose this one, because it’s clearly soccer).
The point of speaking to someone from another culture or being in another culture isn’t to compare it to your own and decide which is better. Cultures aren’t laid out on some sort of bigoted March Madness bracket. They’re just different. We’ve got really cool stuff about our culture. They have really cool stuff about theirs. And sometimes, to fully appreciate a part of a culture, you have to have grown up in it.
So, yeah, maybe you don’t find cricket or soccer exciting. But no one gives a shit. Your enjoyment isn’t a prerequisite for others’ enjoyment. Also, shut up about their food.
4. “I thought all Brits had bad teeth.”
Jesus, what are you, a child? Don’t comment on people’s physical appearance, even if you’re hiding behind the foot-in-mouth, “It’s nothing personal! All of you people are like that!” excuse.
The “Brits have bad teeth” stereotype is obviously an exaggeration perpetuated by American pop culture, and, hey, even if it were accurate, at least they wouldn’t have to spend their formative years in mortifying braces. Also, when they get sick, they don’t end up in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. So to each their own.