It’s a whole new world

The UK and the US may have a shared language and history but there are vast differences between the two countries which would be hugely boring to blog about as they are well known. Instead I’m going to look about how people in the two countries have differing perceptions of things that affects how we view the world.

Distance

The UK often seems a lot bigger than it is, because the regional variation in landscapes and accents in a small area is probably as high as anywhere in the world. The fact is that on a global scale the UK is a tiny country compared to the US. We often consider a four hour drive a long journey, whereas I have an American friend who has to drive for 8 hours to get to somewhere in the same state! To put it into numbers, the size of the US is 9,826,675 km, while the UK is a mere 243,610km. The sheer size of the US takes a lot of getting used to at first. Americans are often derided for not having passports and being insular but with a country so large and with such diversity it’s pretty understandable. On the other side of the coin, Americans often relate everything to London as this is their point of reference for the UK. After a lot of frustrating conversations I now add “about 200 miles from London” to every query about where I’m from before I’m asked if I’m from London! Is this a common question for expats to field?

History

 The American idea of something that is old is very different to the British. Now I’m fully aware that native Americans existed long before Europeans ever discovered the Americas but America as a country is impossibly youthful. I remember being proudly shown a “historic” building in the Midwest and thinking (not out loud of course) that the wall around my back garden in England was probably older. Even though I’m going to be moving to one of the first parts to be settled by colonists (Boston, MA) I find it hard to “feel” the history as I walk the streets in the same sense that I would in Europe. As an example, my hometown of Exeter in England was founded in about AD60 and the Roman walls still stand. Boston, one of the oldest major cities in the US was founded in AD1630. If you walk around an ancient British city centre you can imagine the events that have played out over many centuries and the only US city I’ve found that in so far is New Orleans which is loaded with atmosphere. There are some advantages to the modern nature of most US cities, however, in that they were often designed around the automobile so it’s far easier to get around and park in them!

Politics

Although there are similarities between recent US and UK governments (both show a marked propensity to invade smaller countries for example) the political differences are huge. A “Conservative” in the UK is very different to a Conservative in the US, with British Conservatism largely relating to economic issues and the US version relating more to social issues. The political centre in the US is considerably more to the right compared to in the UK. In the UK I’m very slightly right of centre politically, but amusingly in the US I’m way to the left on the political spectrum. I’ve even been called a “communist” on a forum by an irate American for the crime of advocating state funded healthcare. When I move to the US I won’t be able to vote unless I opt to eventually become a citizen so any Republican reading this can breathe a sigh of relief!

 

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