3 Things I Get Asked, as an American in London

Americans in London, British thoughts of America, British Ideas, S.C Rhyne, the reporter and the girl

Why are you talking to me?

Yes, so I’m a relatively friendly gal–and I tend to make conversation with people around me. When I first moved in with the family I’m staying with, I was surprised that they didn’t know their neighbors…despite living there for twenty years!

So when I started going out for my early morning jogs, I made it a point to introduce myself to the neighbors, my local shopkeeper, security guard on campus, reception at my workplace, etc…until one day at a reception, I got a no-nonsense look that read “why are you talking to me” from a fellow student. Well, I thought this was a networking event.

Apparently, Londoners think its a little weird to start small talk on the tube, or while waiting in line, or even as lifelong neighbors. So how do Brits meet other people if they are not use/comfortable to talking to strangers?

Do you own a gun?

Uh, no. This one I don’t, but I probably will in the future. And this is usually followed up with a “Why”? or a strange look.  Apparently, BBC News is somewhat fascinated by American gun culture, according to various news articles that I’ve seen.

Just for some background info, handguns were outlawed in the UK after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996. It was the U.K’s first and only school shooting; and I guess this generation growing up in this culture view gun ownership as something strange. Should everyone be allowed a handgun– most definitely not; but it is interesting when you think about crime rates in London versus New York City. Two completely different worlds, despite the fact that these large urban areas are experiencing the same socioeconomic pressures, minus ready-access to weapons in one.

So what do you think of Donald Trump?

My favorite.

Of course, I’m into politics and its what I’m studying here; I have to admit some of the most interesting political science discussions I’ve had were with folks outside my department. So Europeans in general are completely baffled by Trump’s rise despite his very offensive and divisive rhetoric. To be fair, so are many Americans.

I do have to remind them that many European politicians have made very conservative statements in regards to migration (Syrian migration in particular) especially when you look at the rise of the nationalist party in France led by Marine LePen, the New Years assault claims in Cologne, Germany, Certain Scandinavian parliaments (looking at you, Denmark) wanting to pass a law to strip Syrian migrants of all their assets to pay back the government, and various countries in the Balkans that have responded to the Syrian humanitarian crises by erecting border fences and local officials saying, “Immigrants are not welcome”.  Thus, this sentiment towards migration, especially towards Syrian migrants is not just a Trump phenomenon –temperature testing in many Western nations currently show more anti-migrant feelings than before.

Well, that’s some of the things that Brits have been asking me. What about you? Ever experienced culture shock? I’m still trying to figure out how to open doors in this country. Are you British or from another country and want to know something about America(ns)?

Tweet me your questions @ReporterandGirl or post if on my Facebook wall!

 

23 thoughts on “3 Things I Get Asked, as an American in London

  1. I travel to Canada and host Canadian guests frequently, and I get slight variations on your three questions.

    Instead of “Why are you talking to me?”, I get “Why don’t Americans talk to your neighbors?” — almost a complete reversal. Canadians, who I find to be more open than my countrymen, are horrified by American insularity. I actually would have expected you to get the same reaction from Brits; my guess is that Canadians would have a really hard time living in London.

    No Canadian has ever asked if I own a gun; they either assume I do, or are too afraid to find out.

    But when the discussion turns to Trump, Canadians toss caution aside, their eyes growing wide with horror as they ask “What the hell’s wrong with you?” They simply cannot believe Trump supporters don’t see him for the con artist that he is.

    And for the record, should Trump somehow win in November, I’m not moving to Canada. The worst reaction you can have to a bully is to run away; a President Trump would be an existential threat to America, but I refuse to let that clown destroy my country.

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    1. Well, I guess it all depends where you’re from and what part. My experience is strictly London, as when I was in Cambridge nearly ten years ago, I didn’t remember hearing these sorts of questions.

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  2. I was in London last spring and I got asked about the snow and how we deal with having so much. This was during the giant snowstorm on the East Coast last year and I said that that happens every year in some city but its not generally that big of a deal. We still do everything. (I’m from Wisconsin)

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    1. Yeah, I know in London, they don’t have the infrastructure or the mindset to deal with it. but I would think it snows further up north, like Manchester or maybe even Leeds?

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  3. Hey there, Interesting post. I moved to the US, about 6 months ago. But then, like the rest of the educated world, we are no strangers to Americanism. Just that I am experiencing things first hand and find it fascinating.

    Donald Trump represents every incorrect “American stereotype” that is out there – they are rich, they think everyone else is wrong, everyone else is beneath them and they believe ‘Hey I’ve got money. I can do what I want’. None of this is true nor does it represent even a small percentage of Americans, but sadly people who hate this country believe all this and Trump just put a huge (or YYYUUUUGGGGEEEE) official stamp on it. 🙂

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      1. Asia….South East…

        Yep, Trump is an interesting joke. Maybe an expensive social experiment. But that is all there is to him…He would be no different from the stupid leaders of 3rd world countries who thrive on totalitarianism…But I love and trust the American people. They will let this joke, ride itself out.

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  4. That is very interesting. I (like many) didn’t realise that hand guns were only outlawed in 1997 after the 1996 Dunblane Massacre. I have never in my life known guns to be allowed except for the military, some specialist police and antique collectors. Agree people in London have evolved into different species to others in the UK.

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  5. Yes they are a lot friendlier as a general rule in the North. But there are more people living in London that are not from London that real Londoners. Americans watch Downton Abbey and many expect London to be just like that but it is far more International (so is Birmingham, but most of the people there were born in Birmingham). London can be quite a lonely place – it can be difficult to make friends. Where I live in Southampton (most Southerly point of the mainland) it is a lot friendlier too. But not everyone mixes with their neighbour (note English spelling) they don’t like to bother them.

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    1. Lol…the feeling that you’re bothering someone. I remember reading that about Brits once. I don’t watch Downtown Abbey, so I didn’t really have any idea beforehand. But I’m finding my circle.

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  6. It takes a while to build relationships here, but I’d venture that’s true of most big cities. There’s a large population densely packed in and now that I’ve been here a while I get why people may seem less friendly. There’s the transient, temporary nature of living arrangements so investing in relationships when people will move on soon is kind of downer. But mainly it being constantly surrounded by people. I’m pretty chatty by nature but being never more than a few feet from another human being (hello upstairs neighbours, downstairs neighbours, fellow commuters) I find that I need to retreat into myself a bit at times and I need that headspace. Put me back in Australia and I’m back to making friends in supermarket queues though.

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    1. Yes, I guess that makes sense, especially when I met someone from Birmingham who was all about how the north was more friendly. I guess its because outside of London they do not “deal” a lot with transients and such –especially given the amount of universities there are here. So many people come for a bit then go.

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  7. I found it interesting that you compared Trump to more conservative European politicians. I mean the UK is part of Europe but our politics are separate and we have plenty of UK conservatives of our own. I just found it curious and it reminded me that yes, England is viewed as very much part of Europe – which is weird, I’m here on an Italian passport so I should be very much aware of it! I’m enjoying your posts very much. Looking forward to the next one

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    1. Lol, yes we consider UK as a part of Europe, even though they may vote to leave the E.U. Is the culture in the U.K much different from mainland Europe? Or is there a quintessential European country?

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      1. I’m late with this reply! I guess I’m in an interesting position, Australian-born but lived in UK for last 16 years, parents are Italian-born. I’d say the culture in UK is different from mainland but having said that, you’d get differences within mainland states too ( or even regional – don’t get my parents started on north vs south pasta sauce!).

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  8. I moved from New Jersey to Kentucky… Major culture shock.. My first day there I almost ripped into the quick stop guy for taking to long to pack my stuff.. Took me a while to slow down and not be confused when people held the door or apologised for bumping into me.. Then when I came back to NJ I couldn’t believe how fast everything was.. haha.. It was a double shock..

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    1. Yes, I can imagine. Our culture is so broad, that there isn’t a typical American way of life. London is a little slower, than NYC — but its still a metropolis. Tonight I came home from softball practice and two of my nearest supermarkets are closed. On a Sunday at 7pm!

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