Monday, May 12, 2008

Understanding the UK

The new Rough Guide to the UK says:
"The only certainty for visitors is that however long you spend in England and however much you see, it still won't be enough to understand the place."
Does an immigrant to the UK who has spent as long there as I have in the US (23 years so far), feel as English as I feel American? Although much of one's integration into either culture depends on mastery of the language and the personal effort one is prepared to expend, I wonder if it is easier for an immigrant to feel at home in the US than in the UK? Never having been an immigrant in the UK, I don't know. I do know that when I think about the fact that I have spent most (almost all) of my adult life in the USA, it does feel like home and I do feel as though I belong. I know I would go through significant reverse culture shock if I were to return to the UK for good. My grandmother left the UK for close to 20 years and I am not sure that she ever completely lost the feeling that the country she returned to was a different one to the one she left.

People certainly have had plenty to say about the new Rough Guide at the BBC Have Your Say forum. (Discussion there is now closed.) Although I haven't read either of them, it sounds as though Toni Summers Hargis' book Rules, Britannia would in many ways be a more helpful guide to the befuddled visitor to the UK than the Rough Guide.

1 comment:

Mmm said...

I so relate to everything you say here. I think it is far easier to assimilate here in the States where diversity of culture is more celebrated than in the UK where even having a slight accent can get you in trouble. Americans generally don't feel as threatened by outsiders (except for Mexicans now due to the massive influx--larger than any immigration tide US haas ever had before--combined!). They are aware that this is a country grown from immigrants. I think in England people feel more threatened as they watch the English culture really starting to wane and so with that immigrants aren't as welcomed.

I know that if I was to return to the UK i would have reverse culture shock as a 'third culture' person. I know my English cousin who, like me, grew up in England for formative years but then lived in DC for 18 years found that after she moved back to England not only was it hard but she was treated as a foreigner of sorts for her American so on and her marginal accent where anyone with even a different English accent to the countryside she lived in was marginalised. It's been very hard. Her dreams of fair green England have been sidelined to some extent ad she now looks fondly back across the pond to America--much the same way she did when here, except that here her background was celebrated, not made fun of.

BTW, you left a comment on my blog about Turkey but can't find it now. My parents too ahve travelled extensively way back when--see the map of world I have in one post so I can relate. It's good to find someone with such similarities. Thanks for adding me to your blog roll--I've been enjoying reading through all these blogs from fellow expats like ourselves. Having them helps one not feel quite as isolated.

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