I have to relocate to England for my new job. What are the pros and cons of this as a single American in her 30s?
I’m going to focus my response ONLY on the Social Aspects of being an American in England, because this question specifically asks about the pros and cons of being a Single, American, woman in England - so it isn’t asking about salary, or health care, or food...I have been both a single American woman in England, and a married American woman in England. I am a dual national, born in America, and I have lived in England twice, each time for five years. That being said, I am very, very much a New Yorker in accent, and personality!The first thing you need to understand is that London is not all of England, and for the most part, even though I travelled extensively all over the UK, and I have lived in a few other areas of England, my answer is going to be focused mostly on London, because that was MOSTLY where I lived - that being said, socializing, as an American woman in London, is not that much different than socializing as an American woman in Liverpool, or Brighton - the defining trait is that you are an American woman, and they are not Americans. And, even though you can and will meet people in England who come from all over the planet, I am going to specifically focus on the social differences between the English and the Americans - of which there are MANY.Before I begin, I also want to acknowledge that I will be generalizing about both the Americans and the English, and I want to state this clearly: One nationality is NOT inherently ‘better‡ than the other! Just different.Because of your accent, English people will ask you if you’re Canadian. They won’t ask you if you’re American. They don’t want to unintentionally insult a Canadian by assuming that they are American! This is because: Being a Canadian is considered, by the English, to be ‘not as bad‡ as being an American is! Ask a Canadian in England to confirm and/or explain it, in private. They’ll do it, because they’re super nice. :-)Oh, and because this is a work transfer, without going into England’s complicated classism specifics, let’s just say that you’ll mostly be interacting with people who are ‘middle class’.OK, here we go…AWESOME!!!!!!!!OK‡ So, you know how, in America, when we like something, we say it is ‘Awesome’?English people don’t do that. They are more likely to say something much more understated like, ‘Quite nice‡ or ‘Not bad’, so when we say everything is ‘Awesome’, we seem to be totally over the top to them. They are much more understated than Americans are!The English don’t ‘fist-pump‡ and ‘high-five‡ for everything, the way many Americans do. Silently raising your hand to ‘high-five‡ an English person means that you're an American who is being way too loud.And, English people very, very much dislike loud people, even though English people ARE loud! They think that they're not loud, but they absolutely are, especially when they're drunk, which is often‡ but, we will get to that later... Basically, English people very much dislike when non-English people are loud, and if you are not English, you are often automatically assumed to be loud, even if you are being totally silent. In England, smiling too big and too much is considered as be being ‘Too Loud’. In England, smiling too big and too much, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NOT ENGLISH, is considered as be being ‘WAY Too Loud’!The American propensity for extreme enthusiasm is often received by English people with a bit of horror‡ It is actually considered sort of ‘Tacky‡ there. It will often be received as childlike, or even idiotic.Now, this isn’t to say that English people do not get excited about things‡ They do‡ But, they express it very, very differently than Americans do. They are more reserved.The English basically express extreme enthusiasm, or any big feelings that they are having, by make themselves a cup of tea. I’m not joking.When an English person wins billions in a lottery, they put on the kettle.When an English person’s family Labrador dies, they put on the kettle.When an English person is bored, they put on the kettle.If an English person asks you how your day was, ‘Awesome‡ and for that matter, also ‘Horrible’, will always be the wrong answers, regardless of what happened.2. FUCK YOU!!!!The English are also usually much more reserved with their anger. I’m from NYC, and if someone makes me angry, I am often going to say, ‘Fuck you’, right to their face. The English, by and large, do not do things that way. An angry English colleague used to express her extreme frustration at work by signing off her emails with ‘regards’, rather than with ‘warmest regards’. An American wouldn't even notice something so tiny and vague, but you better believe that the English notice it! So, again, much more understated. An English person will also tell you to fuck off by not offering you a cup of tea. Very, very understated. When you hear them ‘tut tut‡ about you, you're in serious trouble. But, you likely won’t hear it, because it is most often done behind your back!3. BECAUSE YOU ARE A YANK.A lot of your personality and behavior, thoughts and opinions, and likes and dislikes, will be coined NOT as you, the individual, but as you ‘just being an American’. If you dislike a specific food, it is because you are an American. If you like a certain film, it is because you are an American. You will become an American first, and the person you are, secondly. This absolutely isn’t something that is relegated only to Americans in England, and the same thing often happens to English people in France, or German people in Italy, and so on‡ but it is something that you will have to constantly contend with, and it can get annoying. And, the English have no problem ‘taking the piss‡ out of you for your nationality of origin. Here is the thing: If you do it back to them, they often get very offended. Especially if you do it well, like I do. The English will also badly imitate your accent. Do not do it back to them. Trust me on this.4. AMERICANS HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR.The English have a sense of humor that is often experienced, by Americans, as ‘mean spirited’. Now, coming from NYC, if I meet someone and within ten minutes they're saying things to me like, ‘You don’t order the right drinks, because you're a stupid Yank’, I’m gonna get angry. Where I come from, if you don’t know me really well, you’d better not talk to me like that! In NYC, we do have a very biting sense of humor, but not with total strangers, ever! In England, they say mean things to people who they do not even know, and they call that ‘Just Banter‡ - but, here is the thing: Sometimes, they are very much, intentionally, insulting you, but if you call them on it, they will say it is ‘just banter’.Sometimes, they are doing it because they have decided that they think that they might actually like you! It is hard for Americans to tell which is which. If you respond with anger, or if you hit them back with an even better, funnier zinger - specifically because you are not English - they do not like that! The English, who are often quite sarcastic, also don’t seem to understand that Americans can also be very sarcastic. Your sarcastic American comments will often be taken literally, and they will be horrified.5. HOW DARE YOU.It is actually extremely easy to make an English person feel deeply and importantly offended. Most of the time, when there is a miscommunication of any kind, their reaction is to feel deeply and importantly offended. They won’t directly tell you that they feel this way! If an English person says, ‘Terrible weather’, and you, the American, say to them, ‘Oh, it’s not so bad’, they will quite possibly feel offended. The polite response, by English standards, is to agree with them. I once said said that I dislike rhubarb, and I thought I was going to be beheaded. They received that statement as me saying that America is better than England!Of course, if an English person says ‘terrible weather‡ and a foreigner AGREES, you’ve just insulted their country’s weather‡ So, I’d suggest a silent smile and a nod.A lot of English people feel that someone of another nationality disagreeing with them about anything, or disliking something that they culturally adore, is your way of ‘secretly‡ saying that their country is horrid - and this is simply because they are so indirect when they deliver their own serious insults, as a culture - they project that trait onto other cultures. If that same exchange occurred between two English people, there is much less of a chance that anyone will feel deeply and importantly offended by it - but they might. To be fair, this English weirdness extends to the French, Italians, Germans, and anyone else who is not English, and as I said, even sometimes to other English people - but it is extended MORE often to foreigners. Many people will say that this is based upon their ego, but I see it more as a general neurosis that runs through their culture. I like to think of the English as ‘extremely sensitive‡ and almost a bit paranoid, and somewhat socially awkward, rather than egomaniacal. As a culture, they have a lot less of the blatant bullishness and obliviousness than Americans have. They are more genteel and gentle, and a bit hyperaware. They simply have much more of an awareness as to what others may or may not be thinking of them, than Americans do!6. NOT THE DONE THING.In England, just like in every other country on earth, they have social rules. Their social rules are sometimes very different from another country’s social rules, but that doesn't make them wrong! Just like in other countries, if you break the social rules, you will suffer negative social repercussions. I strongly suggest reading the book ‘Watching the English’, by Kate Fox. The English have a lot of social rules that Americans do not have. For example: ‘Yes, thank you‡ is always the answer to ‘Would you like a cup of tea’, and it is actually quite a big deal if you get that wrong, because‡ Well, see number 5. In England, being outwardly ‘polite‡ is a rule‡ In England, making casual chitchat with a total stranger is not always considered polite behavior, whereas in America, this is most often totally acceptable. In England, it is more often considered polite to leave people alone. So, what is and isn’t considered ‘polite‡ in America is not the same as what is and isn’t considered ‘polite‡ in England, and you’ll do well to learn their rules, and be polite enough to abide by them, while you are residing in their country!7. WHAT IS LEFT UNSAID, IS OFTEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT IS SAID.Basically, they won’t tell you what their English rules are. And, it is not polite to directly ask them! Many people could not even articulate them if they tried, because they are just so ingrained in their culture. As I have already mentioned: When you mess up, it will simply be ‘regards‡ rather than ‘warmest regards’, and as an American, you probably won’t have any idea of what is actually going on. The English are much less direct than Americans are, and they like it that way. Your American Directness is not going to be received well. For example, if I don’t agree with a plan, as an American, and especially as a New Yorker, I would say, ‘No, that isn’t a good plan, because…‡ and in England, you have just been quite rude! In England, if they do not agree with a plan, they are more likely to say something along the lines of, ‘Well, I suppose that would be one way to do it…‡ and you will notice that what they have NOT said is ‘No’. The ‘no‡ was left UNSAID. I must admit, I will always struggle with this, because I’m not a mind reader, and to my NYC-American ear, it is overly subtle. I’m not psychic. Sometimes, I wanted to scream: ‘JUST SAY IT FOR FUCK SAKE!!!!‡ You also cannot do THAT in England‡ You must leave that Unsaid!In England, being indirect is synonymous with being tactful, and being direct is synonymous with being crass.8. MEET AT THE PUB.If you drink alcohol, your social life with be a lot more fun in England than if you don’t, because most people meet at the pub, and they tend to drink a lot. At all of my jobs in England, which were all in different fields, people regularly drank on their lunch breaks, and went to the pub together after work - and, not just on Friday - it was pretty much an every day thing. We don’t do that as much in America. At many of my jobs in England, we even casually had beers in the office, for meetings. We don’t do that so much, if at all, in America. It is a heavy drinking culture, in England. People in London drink much, much more than people in NYC, and I didn't think that was even humanly possible! When you are asked out for a date, it will likely always include alcohol, and it will often be a meetup in a pub. People can get literally ‘falling down drunk‡ in England, and they often do, and it is not at all considered socially unacceptable. All over England, outside of pubs and clubs, every weekend, you will hear extremely drunk English people screaming (very loudly!), and you will even see them vomiting in the streets, and as long as they don’t drive, it is generally and seemingly, for the most part, not considered a problem! And, although it is mostly drunk young English people, it is far from only the young English people who do it! Drinking alcohol is the English national pastime. Sure, maybe a date will ask you to the movies, but even that could involve alcohol, because in England, they even sell beer at the movie theaters! In England, socializing = alcohol.9. YES, ALL AMERICANS.In England - and in plenty of other countries for that matter - you will constantly be told who, what and how, All Americans Are. Even by people who have never been to America, or have only been to Disney in California, once, at age nine! Everyone outside of America is an expert on all of America. It can be at best annoying and tiring, and at worst, downright offensive. The English (the world?) have a love / hate relationship to America. So do I, so I cannot say that I blame them very much! But, it can get on my nerves. Also, the English are obsessed with class, and class is very different there, than it is in America, and as an American, you will automatically be considered ‘lower class‡ than they are - the degree by which you are ‘lower class‡ will vary, but you will always still be fundamentally of a lower class than they are, just by virtue of being from America! People often speak in absolutes, and English people often make a lot of generalizations about America and Americans - JUST LIKE I AM DOING IN THIS RESPONSE, ABOUT ENGLAND, AND THE ENGLISH - so you just have to know that this is going to happen, and deal with it the best you can.Just remember this: It also happens in reverse. My English husband is constantly asked by Americans what his favorite football team is, because Americans think that all English people love football. In England, they often say things that are massive generalization about Americans relating to things like guns, and racism, and about our global ignorance, rather than something as innocuous as sports, so it can be more upsetting. You can get angry, or you can try to have an intelligent conversation with them about it - which might end up with you being even more angry - or you can just let it go. See number 5 (How Dare You).10. FREE TO BE YOU AND ME, BECAUSE WE ARE TOLERANT.Tolerance of other’s ways is not the same as Embracing the ways of others, and ‘Free to be you and me‡ actually means: ‘Not The Done Thing’. Please see numbers 1–9, and especially 5, 6 & 7, for more of an explanation of what this REALLY means, socially, in England, and what you should or should not do and/or say, about it, because‡ The moment an English person says to anyone, but especially to an American, ‘Free to be you and me’, the truth is, you should just shut the bloody hell up! Just stop talking. They disagree with you, and you have offended them, so they no longer what to discuss it.‘Free to be you and me‡ is actually English for ‘Fuck you’. It sounds so much nicer! Personally, I really, really like it. But, it isn’t them being nice.Lastly‡ I want you to know that I absolutely love England, and I totally love the English, for many, many reasons, and even for the many things that I have listed IN this post!If you date men, you will find that Englishmen are quite different from American men‡ By leaps and bounds, and for so many reasons, I much prefer English men, to American men. Which is a good thing for me, because I am happily married to the best Englishman on this planet! He is quirky, and super different from me, and he is very, very English, and I love that, and more, about him!It can be hard to become close to English people, as they tend to be a very slow burn compared to Americans, but I can promise you this‡ The English, once you're are in with them, are incredibly LOYAL and conscientious people.Take your time with them, drink the tea, and the alcohol, get to know them, try to be more aware of the potential feelings of others, let the initial cultural misunderstandings slide, try not to take everything personally, let them get to know you, as you, over time, and eventually, everything will be lovely jubbly!Oh, I almost forgot‡ You might want to keep in mind that one of the most common stereotype of American women, pretty much across the globe, is that American women are all SLUTS!With that in mind, you needn't worry about your dating calendar EVER being empty!Your ‘Single American Woman‡ dance card will ALWAYS be full.(Before you kick off at me, my lovely English reader, please be reminded that I did say that I was generalizing about the English, and that I love England, and the English, so you have no need to be deeply and importantly offended by anything that I have written! But if you want to be angry anyway, because it’s ‘the done thing’, all I have to say to you is: “Aww, bless! Free to be you and me! Regards, Lara”)