When coming to London I was warned of a few American stereotypes: We are closed-minded, we are loud (guilty) and we are easy. But what I didn’t expect when coming to London was that the British view college-aged Americans in another way – as celebrities.
I have learned of differences between the American and British cultures. I’ve learned that I can’t understand English humor – to me the British version of “The Office” is as slow as the nightly news – and I’ve learned the English seem to glorify American comedies. I realized this when I came across “Friends,” “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Glee” while flipping through the television one night. Also, I found that a number of young English people would mention Las Vegas as a top destination to visit in America. The reason? “The Hangover.”
I prepared myself for my stay in London by reading history and tour books and watching movies. The pictures I imagined of genteel men who drink tea and eat Shepherd’s pie are a far cry from the boys I have met who can recite every joke from every “American Pie” movie ever made, and who ask me if American Uni (Brit speak for college) is the same as “Animal House.”
The British fascination with American television and movies was solidified for me one night when I was talking to my friend Tim, a student from Newcastle who is interning in London for the semester. We were talking about “The O.C.,” a show that often comes up when I mention I’m from Southern California. He asked me if the show was anything like my life at home and I told him it did remind me somewhat of Santa Barbara.
He responded, “See, that is why we think America is so cool, you actually live that life. For you, that’s reality – you are like celebrities to us.”
Celebrities? I guess I can understand. Many Brits who I’ve met are fascinated by American television shows and are thus fascinated by the Americans who live similar lifestyles. So, I guess in that way I do symbolize a lifestyle that is incomparable to that of Tim and his friends.
But just because I agree with that one stereotype doesn’t mean I agree with the others. I still have to clarify that band camps aren’t actually cool and that all fraternities aren’t like what you see in “Old School.” But when my friend and I were telling Tim about how Americans party – shot-gunning beers in showers, playing Kings and drinking Four Lokos – I realized maybe we are more like “American Pie” than I thought.