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Reflections On England & America

March 11, 2015

Our family lived outside London for the last four years

and I miss a lot of things…

friends, bucolic England, exciting London,

and learning learning learning all the time

Having relocated to Northern California last summer,

I now have a firmer grasp of both cultures

Here are a few observations that crystallized lately

Bucolic California

Things that annoyed me about England now seem so practical

Why don’t they have assigned seating in American cinemas?

Why are there so many stop signs when a roundabout would be more efficient?

Why not back into a parking space when it provides a better angle?

Why temporarily desert a trolley in a grocery aisle when you could keep it with you?

Why do Americans ask nosy questions to strangers in the name of small talk?

How do the British quickly craft their point with minimum words and sentences?

Reflections On England & America

Although we share similar news headlines, the details are different

While the UK struggles with the question of legal European immigration,

the US is divided on how to best handle undocumented residents from Latin America

With a desire to improve educational systems,

the UK examines their GCSE test

and the US grapples with the new Common Core curriculum

The National Health Service (NHS) looks to improve their service

while Americans try to embrace the Obama Health Care Plan

Politics find their way into headlines with

the General Election for Prime Minister in May

and rumblings of presidential candidates in the US

All similar issues with unique backstories

to be tackled by different approaches

Cottage in Redwood Forest

Although our societies struggle with similar issues,

there’s a difference in ideology

Compared to Americans, the British are more trusting of their government

Perhaps increasing trust during World War II,

the government provided not only inspiration but Anderson bomb shelters, food, and clothing

I am keenly aware that survivors of those extreme rations, terrible bombings,

and divided families are still a living, integral part of British culture today

And so, the British seem comfortable with the government caring for them from cradle to grave

with free health care, education (university fees more affordable than in US),

and generous aid for those in economic need

They believe a civilized country takes good care of their citizens

But that care requires a lot of money, and taxes are quite high in the UK

63% of British people feel it their duty to contribute to public services

rather than keep the money earned

while only 37% Americans feel the same way (read survey here)

Because the UK government provides comprehensive services for residents,

there are only 164,000 registered charities in the UK

In contrast, data reveals 1.5 million nonprofits in the US,

which does not indicate Americans are more caring

but that American nonprofits try to fill gaps not met by the government

Bench Words

Perhaps strong public opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975)

and the shock of the Watergate Scandal (1972)

rocked modern-day Americans’ confidence in government

We prefer minimal government involvement in our daily lives,

feeling we can take better care of ourselves than government can

So you can see why many Americans are nervous about government reaching

into their personal health under President Obama’s health care reform

The government doesn’t have a stellar record in current services

such as public education and Veteran Affairs health care

We feel we must be our own advocate

by researching (FDA) government-approved drugs and devices

and carefully scrutinizing food ingredients and nutrition labels

I know our gun laws are a total ‘head scratcher’ to the British,

whose police officers don’t carry guns

But if guns were banned in the US,

 Americans would worry it would be the beginning of other rights

being confiscated by the government

However, discussion about gun parameters continue

Old Post Office Box

And while Americans are less trusting of government,

we are more trusting in businesses with the thought that

competition in the private sector brings consumers a competitive price and better service

While an unsuccessful business will close,

the government will raise taxes if funding is needed

However, oil and pharmaceutical companies are seen as pariahs by American society

The English are particularly skeptical of investment bankers and multinational companies

with an image of greed, corruption, and tax dodging

Persimmons in Sonoma

Another difference between England and America is the educational ideology

British children start school at an earlier age than Americans

with an emphasis on standardized tests and rote memorization work

Students become more specialized in subjects the longer they are in school

whereas Americans are more generalists even at the university level

The American school culture nurtures creative thinking

and encourages lively, questioning dialogue in classrooms

Combine that creativity and critical thinking from an early age with

the pro-business climate of America (less red tape and lower taxes),

you find a society that leads the world in patent applications

And while Europeans view many American items as trendy and innovative,

Americans have the impression European products are

more natural, healthier, and of solid construction

Coca Cola Sign

Before, I hadn’t noticed the uniquely American rhythms and traditions that span the year…

State of the Union Address

Super Bowl (American Football)

Girl Scout Cookie Season (not sold in UK due to partially hydrogenated oil)

Summer Camp (more than 11.5 million children each year)

4th of July (now a celebration of freedom, not independence from Great Britain)

Root Beer

Homecoming Queen, Pep Rallies, Cheerleaders

World Series (Baseball)

Trick-Or-Treat, Haunted Houses, Candy Corn



I’ll also throw in another American tradition:

passionate patriotism at home unlike I’ve seen in any other country

Fish Taco Food Truck

The bacon craze and hip food trucks are new American trends to me

which just adds to what makes America so American to me

Next | Observations Of England Through An American Lens


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