England as seen by Americans
Terry Tomsha talks about her experience of living and working in England, where she has been for the past eleven years.
I = Interviewer
T = Terry
I: So, Terry. You’ve been in this country for quite a long time now.
I: What differences do you notice between the two countries?
T: Obviously the biggest difference is the people. The average Englishman is cold and not very open.
T: In the States it’s very different. We start conversations with people in the street, in the subway; we’re a lot more enthusiastic and spontaneous than people here. You know, when I first came, I couldn’t understand why I was getting so little reaction from people, but now I see that they thought I was overpowering and that I was trying to be too friendly too soon.
I: But, tell me; does the Englishman improve as you get to know him?
T: Oh yes.
I: Oh good.
T: Once you have made a friend, it’s a friend for life, but it takes a very long time. I’ll tell you something that I think is very important. An Englishman in America is respected. Everyone wants to talk to him. We’re inquisitive, we love his accent and his country. An American though in England is thought to be a little inferior because of his behaviour and his language. One thing I’ve learned it’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time I couldn’t understand why when I was talking to someone he would move away, you know, move backwards, and I thought ‘Do I smell? Am I boring him?’ The reason was, you see, Americans stand closer when they’re talking. Again, English people like a certain distance.
I: That’s true. What about your impression of living here? How does that compare with the States?
T: Well, mmm… I think life’s a lot easier in the States. It’s easier to make money and it’s easier spend
it. Shops are open all the time over there. Here you’ve got to race to reach the supermarket by 5.30. Generally though I find life more inefficient here. If you need an electrician, it takes days to get one, he doesn’t do the job very well, the system is so old that he can’t get the parts to repair it, and he doesn’t care.
This leads to another very important point. Americans work a lot harder than you do. To the English their private lives are important, their holidays are important, their gardens are important, their animals are important, but an American wouldn’t admit that. For us, our work is the most important thing in our lives. You know, holidays seem to be longer here, people make the most ridiculous excuses not to go to work – ‘My dog’s got a cold’ , I heard the other day.
I: Oh, come on.
T: You have tea breaks that get longer and longer. In that respect we’re quite like the Japanese. Our jobs come first, but there are all sorts of services to make life easier around our jobs.
I: Well, I take it you have a pretty negative opinion of England.
T: You would think so from this interview, wouldn’t you? No, in fact I really love it here. I go home once a year and really look forward to coming back here. This is my home now. I find life safer, more relaxed, and much more enjoyable. Maybe I’ve gotten into English habits! England doesn’t have the dramatic beauty of the states, but oh, it is very pretty and charming in a way that I find comforting.