Saturday, July 08, 2006

The view from the UK

The view from outside is often only of the things that hit the news headlines - the murders, the problems, the disasters. Outsiders hear of the extremes, the exceptions, the stories that make the news. If we haven't visited somewhere we judge it by what we know of it second-hand - what we've heard from friends or more commonly through the media. When I told the kids I was teaching at a comprehensive school in Yorkshire that I was going to be leaving to live in the United States for a couple of years, I got the same response from at least one pupil in every class: "Ooh, miss, you'll get mugged!" There were 2 particularly popular American TV shows in the UK at the time. The kids I was teaching knew I certainly wasn't going to be experiencing a Dallas-type lifestyle, so all they knew was the violence and crime of Miami Vice

A recent poll for the Telegraph newspaper suggests that 21 years later, the average Brit's view of the US hasn't altered much. 90% of the respondents said that the USA has "A lot of violent crime". (Hmm - the only place I've ever been mugged was France!) Ironic given today's headlines on the online Telegraph:"Homicides soar by a quarter under Labour" and "A week in the life of lawless Britain". A foreigner reading those articles surely wouldn't feel reassured that the UK was a good place to live! Of course it helps if you have a sense of what the Telegraph's political slant is . . .

Although in general people describe their feelings about the US as "Fairly positive" or "Very positive" (54%), opinion of the USA is generally fairly negative. 51% responded that American culture makes the world a "Somewhat worse" or "Much worse" place to live. 65% think badly of the Bush government. 69% say that their opinion of the US has gone down in recent years. 76% believe that Bush is not using American power and influence in the right way to bring about a more democratic world. I haven't seen any similar polls of Americans, but I suspect if one were done in the very Democratic area where I live, the results of the questions about politics might not be too different to the poll done in the UK.

The overall view of the US is very negative - the respondents say that Americans are
  • uncaring
  • divided by class
  • unequal
  • don't care what the rest of the world thinks
  • vulgar
  • badly led
  • preoccupied with money
  • ignorant of the outside world
  • racially divided
  • uncultured

67% say that, given the chance, they would not go to live in the United States. Interestingly, I had a conversation with a family member this week who commented "You wouldn't want to come back to the UK. You couldn't afford to live here." I'm not sure if she just meant we wouldn't be able to afford the same kind of lifestyle - we wouldn't expect to.


meredic said...

Following Miguels lead I comment as you have commented me.
Thank goodness we don't have to believe polls eh?
Americans I have had the good fortune to meet have been much that same as the rest of the world.
Some nice, some odd, but then aren't we all.

Mmm said...

This is something that often irks me too--I man, my family in little rural Norfolk has been robbed, mugged and so on and they never leave their car doors unlocked whereas here in Colorado people often don't even close their garage doors and leave doors unlocked all the time. And this is city life. sure, NY or DC or LA can slant things but so can London, Manchester, etc. I would say it's actually far safer here than where I grew up in Fulham or Earl's Court.

Related Posts with Thumbnails