I’ve been struck very recently by the charm of an Englishman, and if any of you have had the pleasure of meeting one, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that they’re different from our American counterparts.
What’s so different? Isn’t a man just a man?
Despite our shared language, the difference between the American and the British way of life varies greatly. For starters, our slang is completely different. When my new Englishman, whom I shall call EM (brilliant, I know), used the word cunt a few months ago, I was floored. It must mean something quite different from our use of cunt here. So, I asked him. His explanation went as follows, “The C word in Britain [is] usually associated with people that jubilate in the inane or irrelevant (usually accompanied with undue self-importance). Stems from the crude reference to the female genetalia… Perhaps the last taboo insult.”
I had now not only cleared up that misunderstanding, but had also become completely infatuated with his choice of words in his description. We just don’t use words such as jubilate or inane in conversations here. I am an English major, and something like that can turn me on instantly. As Alycia Smith-Howard says it, getting to know an Englishman is, “A seduction of the mind.”
But if you do a quick Google search on the matter, you’ll find scant information online relating to relationships between American women and British men. Or, you’ll find plenty of American women insulting British men for their “stiff upper lip” and lack of asking out a woman, or footing the bill. Whereas British men call American women brash and loud and traditional. Here, Robert McCrum talks about his American wife and the dating differences between their two cultures:
These fine sentiments are meaningless, and faintly sinister, to your average American woman. They never go into darkened rooms with almost total strangers until and unless it has been thoroughly checked out by a real estate agent, a trusted girlfriend and, probably, an expert in feng shui. The only fluttered consciousness they’ll experience is if you cannot agree to split the bill, I mean ‘check’. And the idea that love might be a childish matter is almost heresy in the American bible of the heart.
We American women apparently treat first dates as job interviews. We have a mile long laundry list of do’s and don’ts for our future partner and we treat everyone as a future spouse waiting to be crossed off the list for wronging us on our first date. He didn’t pull out his wallet and pay? Cross him off! What’s his credit score? Does he have children? Religion? Check, check, check. The endless laundry list.
It wasn’t until recently (yesterday) that I realized dating customs vary so greatly. It’s common in the U.S. for girls to date or get to know several guys at once; whereas, in other countries, that’s considered rude or heartless. I had no idea. That was something I learned to do from the men here in America and just as I was supposed to accept their behavior, I guess I picked up that habit.
And of course there’s the tradition where American women (still) think men should do all the asking, and all the calling. This proves to be true all the way up our fame ladder, as proved by Gwenyth Paltrow saying that not one British man asked her out when she was on a trip in London.
”British people don’t seem to ask each other on dates,” she fretted. ”If someone asks you, they’re going out on a limb, whereas in America it happens all the time. Someone will come up to you and ask you for dinner and you’ll say, ‘Sure.’ It’s no big deal and no weight will be attached to it. It’s only dinner, for God’s sake.”
The same article goes on to insult English men in their entirety calling them incomprehensible drunkards who spend too much time in the pub. Another article online quotes Canadian writer, Leah McLaren who calls them “repressed homosexuals…[who are] incapable of intimacy with a woman.”
Wow. It’s no wonder many English men don’t like us. We’re demanding and we misunderstand their culture. Not to mention, if we misunderstand their culture we jump to a negative (and brash) conclusion. Are we American women or are we sharks? (See Shark Week on the Discovery Channel).
As I’m sure all women (and men) will agree, the British man’s accent is something charming. Looking past the popular, sexy accent though, is an individual who’s not just charming for the sake of being charming. He may not be particularly open immediately (the British like their privacy) but he isn’t convinced that he has to lie or exaggerate to impress you. And his humor. There’s an art to his sarcasm and dryness. It’s a well crafted line that he gives you, intended to make you laugh. The EM is incredibly witty, although it took me quite some time to understand his British references. Here’s one for example:
Apparently the UK terror threat level has been reduced from ‘severe’ to only ‘substantial’, meaning there is now just “a stong possibility of a terrorist attack which may well occur without warning”. I feel so much safer knowing that.
And another commentary on the price of a train ticket:
£39 for a train ticket. If anyone sees Thomas The Tank Engine, remember to punch the smug cunt the face for me.
Once this American girl got the meaning of cunt, I had to admit to laughing out loud to each one of his jokes. They’re smart, funny and quite brilliant. Maybe I’m just biased.
Another difference between the American and British way of life? Without being too crude, the EM is different in his approach in talking about sex. It’s not, “Hey do you give blow jobs? How soon can you be over?” but “How about a cuddle on the couch and a glass of wine?” Something American men often lack is the ability to control how excited they are about sex. Once sex is mentioned, and American men know you have a vagina and some breasts, they turn into a cave man with a club thumping you over the head and dragging you back to their bed. When you wake up, you must serve them fellatio and then find your own ride home. With an Englishman, although he may be feeling the same cave man lack of control, he subdues it (at least to you) and romances you. But the romance isn’t over the top, like the Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi, who publicly announced that he’d run away with another woman if he wasn’t already married to Veronica Lario.
Berlusconi’s public statement in [apology] – “Forgive me, I beg you … I guard your dignity like a treasure within my heart … Accept this public apology as an act of love. One of many. A big kiss. Silvio” – would not have cut much mustard with me. Generally speaking, the more florid the declaration of love, the worse the bounder behind it. Besides, grovelling in public is hardly a punishment at all for a man who lives to be centre stage. [Quote and commentary from Jemina Lewis]
To her credit, Veronica Lario wrote that it was “damaging to her dignity as a woman,” and divorced him in 2009.
So, even if a relationship can’t develop overseas, I have to admit that getting to know the EM is quite different from the online stereotypes I’ve found about him. And it’s certainly a refreshing change from dating the American Mike, The Situation types who think, “…It’s not a matter of if she wants to hook up with me; it’s a matter of just when I decide.”
Logging off to watch BBC and Pride and Prejudice. xo
Update January 2013: Since the writing of this post, I’ve come to realize British men are very much like American men; they just hide it well at first.