The Slightly Bizarre Pop Culture Game

One of the things that I’ve noticed since moving to the US is that when I meet people they like to try to make a connection with me by quoting some element of British pop culture that they love. This can either be really cool or a little irritating depending on what they come up with. I just hope that people aren’t disappointed when they express a love for “Downtown Abbey” and I inform them that it’s actually Downton Abbey and no I’ve never seen an episode. If you meet me and want to talk about “soccer” then that’s awesome but tell me that you’ve always had a soft spot for Liverpool and I’ll beat a hastier retreat than a French infantry regiment. I may mock you first though.

This kind of association is really strange; when I lived in England and I met Americans I never said “Oh an American, I love McDonald’s!” Which is fortunate because like anyone with working taste buds I really, really detest McDonald’s, but you get the idea, right? The thing is, sometimes I accidentally play this game too; last week I met a Canadian lady and before I could stop myself I found myself blurting out that I’d always wanted to visit Montreal, even though she wasn’t from there. I have also broken the ice with an Italian in the past by telling him I used to own a Fiat. Why the hell would he be interested in that? It’s just fortunate that I didn’t add that the car fulfilled the Italian car stereotype of bits falling off it every time the weather changed.

So it seems apparent that lots of us try to establish common ground early on in a conversation to give us something to talk about. Quoting pop culture might not be the best way to break the ice but it’s usually interesting and sometimes even amusing. If I was an American talking to another American I’d be asked if I had kids, or about my job. As a foreigner I get to talk about James Bond or explain to people that Simon Cowell is a twat, all in the initial part of a conversation. I can’t really complain about that, can I? The most common things that people bring up are Downton Abbey, The Beatles, James Bond, and Doctor Who but I even had one lady tell me that she used to own a bulldog! Of course as a Brit that snippet of information about her was vitally important to me.

Do you do this when you meet someone from another country or has it happened to you in a bizarre and amusing way?

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17 thoughts on “The Slightly Bizarre Pop Culture Game

  1. I am very bad about that. Oh, you’re a Brit, that’s really cool because I love Chelsea and don’t think defense is boring at all! And I LOVE The IT Crowd and Coupling. Or oh, you’re from Japan, I love the Japanese (real) version of Ninja Warrior and does your Teriyaki taste like Seattle’s? Oh, you’re from Mexico, that’s great I love Jarritos because it doesn’t use high-fructose corn syrup! People must look at me like I’m an idiot, which I can be when I do that stuff.

  2. I love when people know just enough of another language to make a complete ass of themselves trying to speak it to someone actually raised speaking it, like French or Spanish. Or when their voices get louder when talking to someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language, because of course yelling it at them will make them understand!

    Do you have people anxious to try their horrendous version of a British accent out on you? I’m actually doing it right now, but thankfully you can’t hear me… 😉

    1. Brits are definitely guilty of the “if you raise your voice they’ll definitely understand” thing. I get people trying to mimic my accent all the time, with varying degrees of success. I’m sure yours wouldn’t be the worst I’ve heard! 🙂

  3. I think your point, about us trying to establish common ground quickly, it, well, straight on point 😉 I personally don’t mind when people do that to me, I read it as the first step to a potential friendship. But I myself am trying to stop doing it because I feel it’s a tad bit too close to the idea of stereotypes, which such a behavior, practiced continuously, might reinforce.

  4. “The most common things that people bring up are Downton Abbey, The Beatles, James Bond, and Doctor Who…” Not Harry Potter? It seems I can’t turn anywhere without seeing an HP reference (not complaining – I love the books) so it’s interesting he didn’t make the list. Perhaps too ubiquitous?

    I’ve seen this same behavior (and I’m just as guilty) with people from different parts of the same country as well. I’m from Ohio but please don’t talk to me about the OSU Buckeyes (football – ugh!) or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I’ve never even been to Cleveland!) On the flip side, I’m sure someone from Atlanta would hate to hear my gushing about all the beautiful spots I’ve visited in Savannah – especially since the only bit of Atlanta I’ve ever seen was a mad dash through the airport.

    It’s interesting the lengths we humans will go to in order to feel connected with others no matter where we’re from. Your post really got me thinking – thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting! I missed out Harry Potter I’m ashamed to admit. I went to the same college as JK Rowling so when people mention Harry I’m armed with facts for them haha. I’m glad you find it an interesting subject matter too 🙂

  5. I have found that when heating I’m from the U.S. people want to tell me about how and where they have visited the states… Even if it is somewhere I have never been. Or they’ll ask my feelings on American politics.

    1. I must admit I have been guilty of telling people where I have been in their country too in the past although I never ask about politics as it’s too risky!

  6. I am an American living in Australia… I still find it amusing when people assume I am Canadian… even more so since I found out that they usually ask that first because Americans don’t mind being called Canadian, but Canadians being called American usually get in a huff about it apparently?? At least with the Australians anyway! LOL I have lived in various countries… and in non-English speaking countries I often get the “Oh, pip pip Cheerio!” kind of British impersonations under the assumption that if I speak English I must be British LOL

    1. Haha the Canadian thing is really funny! When we went to Mexico everyone thought I was American, even when wearing a British football shirt! I get the cheerio thing a lot in the US. 😮

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