“The English people do not like Americans.” This is what we were told by a friend as we were taking a tour through East Anglia, retracing the history of the Puritan migration to America, before making a visit to the American ambassador and his family.
My friend was certain he was correct and based his opinions on a State Department survey of citizens of many countries. We were told that Americans came out last in terms of likability in England.
Partly because I am a very proud American and partly because I am very fond of the British, I decided to take an informal survey of my own. Remembering that my effort was to be a rather unscientific survey, I nevertheless recorded my results — framed as a balance sheet of opinions in both countries.
As seen from Great Britain, America has the following assets:
■ Entrepreneurial: We are very creative in the world of business. Our entrepreneurial spirit has fueled some of the best businesses and the strongest economy.
■ Military: The military is very strong, making the USA a valued ally over the years. This is a real plus.
■ Trade: The Brits love American products — songs, movies, clothes and posters made in the U.S. can be found in many places. We are viewed as good partners.
■ Gun-loving: The cowboy image prevails as a view of America. We seem to feel that all problems can be solved with violence and guns.
■ Entitlement: The perception of America is that we feel entitled for no particular reason —entitled to good service or anything we might want. We are often viewed as walking loudly and heavily, and carrying a big stick. This is not appreciated.
■ Arrogant: A closely related trait is that we often appear arrogant. We push; we demand; we shout.
The flip side of this balance sheet may be of some interest. As far as our attitude toward the Brits is concerned, the following assets were listed:
■ History: The history of Great Britain goes back many years, putting ours in perspective — from Roman and Saxon times up to World War II and today. The history reminders continue to be visited by American tourists (read Stonehenge and Churchill’s bunker).
■ Language: We like the language because we understand it.
■ Comfort: In general, accommodations and the hospitality of the Brits are exceptionally fine. We like to visit.
However, among the liabilities from our perspective are the following:
■ Stuffy: The Brits appear stuffier than is justified. The “better than thou” attitude can be annoying at times.
■ Class conscious: The stratified society is undeniable and, worse yet, has hindered economic progress to a degree.
■ Colonial: “The sun never sets on the British Empire” quote and the colonizing of other countries in years past does not conform to our values or our history.
More pluses and minuses could be added on both sides, but the diplomats on both sides take notice with the knowledge that the bonding between our two countries must be treasured as both populations become more diversified.