You’ve heard the stereotypes: Americans are gluttonous, Americans are loud and Americans have no manners. Unfortunately, I can’t help but agree with one part of the stigma: The average American speaks louder and communicates, both verbally and physically, with greater enthusiasm than his United Kingdom counterpart.
It’s not that I mean to be loud, or slip into, “like, oh-my-gawd that’s so fabulous!” all-American Valley Girl mode.
But after living in Europe for 10 weeks, I’ve realized a couple of things, one being that my gregarious personality is a lot like a puppy dog’s – easily excitable, a bit sloppy at times, and if you ignore me when I want to play I’ll sulk into the corner with my tail between my legs.
Considering I’m Miss Happy-Go-Lucky 24/7, I wouldn’t be surprised if the calm, soft spoken editors at the magazine I intern for think I’m on speed. Their phone conversations are brief and to the point, while I follow the American standard of greeting each person I call with a cheery “good morning!” and “how are you?”
I nod enthusiastically and respond with “definitely” to each assignment as another intern, Helen, who is British, simply listens and replies with a nonchalant “all right.”
If something needs to be done, I’m on it and ready to immediately report back to my higher-ups, who in the meantime are quietly relaxing at their desks taking a tea break for the second time that day.
In the U.S., interns are brainwashed to exude enthusiasm and gratefulness for even the most menial of tasks, while my English editors would probably prefer that I drop the “how can I help you today?” over-zealous McDonald’s worker attitude.
Yet without the American worker mindset,
British interns wouldn’t last a day at American publications, where part of the job description is acting like reorganizing the lipsticks in the beauty closet for the umpteenth time is the most rewarding task anyone could ever ask you to do. Helen is a fun girl with a mouthful of wit – but her humor is dry and her smile’s short and sweet.
When Helen met a boy, she gave me a rundown of the night with a sly grin and blushing cheeks. When I met my latest love interest, a Londoner born-and-raised named Russell, I stood by her desk, excitably gesturing
along to every step of my story while simultaneously showing her his picture on MySpace.com and asking her to analyze his latest text message.
Even Russell admits that I’m the epitome of an extroverted American, and I wonder how this British bloke could possibly take interest in a hyper girl like me when he has his pick of the sweet and reserved.
When celebrating Guy Fawkes Day last weekend with him and his South London friends, I was the only girl who did more than stand in a circle holding a sparkler. Instead I danced about in my typical jolly mood, cracking jokes and randomly introducing myself to those around me. It wasn’t that the girls present weren’t having a good time – it’s just that to the English, open excitability is synonymous
I might as well tape a scarlet letter “A” standing for “American” across my mouth. Since living in the U.K., I’ve consciously had to remind myself to speak in lower tones and downplay my naturally perky attitude. Like a puppy first experiencing the world, I’m hurt and confused when people don’t appreciate the fun in my toy, or in this case, my energetic personality. Brits know that there is a time and place to be loud – football matches, last call at the pub or in the bedroom.
Americans, on the other hand, treat the world as if it were a free-for-all playground. Like 7-year-olds, we madly squeal on the tire swing and run crying to our mothers at the slightest boo-boo. In the British sense of the word, we are immature – and since living here, I’ve realized that my American habits are not only unnecessary, but deflect from my more favorable personality traits. I’ll take a good push on the swing any day, but after living in the U.K., a part of me thinks it’s time for this puppy dog to stop drooling and grow up.
Sammy Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.