Understanding some differences between the UK and the USA

Understanding some differences between the UK and the USA

I spent six years living in the Mid-Western USA which means that I have some understanding of the differences between Americans and the British and how they behave.

The reason I mention this is that in the part of the art world I frequent there has been a mini tsunami about how Americans are so unapologetic about voicing their opinions and taking up as much time as they can in group calls. The Brits get all upset but are so polite that they don’t usually voice their opinions and when they do, they get shot down by the Americans who disagree.

So, if I can try and explain what I see as the issues, it might help both Americans and British people to be more understanding of each other when on these group calls.

The first thing I think Brits need to remember is that we are a small nation. The UK would fit into the USA over 40 times. The population of the UK is around 68 million whilst that of the USA is over 330 million. When you are one in over 330 million, you need to shout to be heard if you’re the type of person who wants to be heard!

We all know one of those families with lots of children and amongst them you will find the quiet, sensible one; the loud joker; the thinker; the enabler; and, sadly, the one displaying narcissistic tendencies who thinks the world must revolve around them. It doesn’t matter where you are; this is a very common split.

Here in the UK the over the top, overbearing narcissist is usually toned down by the overly polite British system meaning that this personality type often hides in open sight for years before people realise who/what they truly are.

In the US, this personality type is not shut down and, because there are so many more of them, they vie for position and always have to shout about how brilliant they are. Because this behaviour is not seen in a negative way in the US the next layer down of people wanting to be heard becomes more vocal than the most vocal Brit.

People in the US are very comfortable about asking for what they want because that is how their society is structured. The first time I went into a sandwich store, had I not been with my wonderful American friend, Jeff, I think I would have simply gone hungry. I had to quickly pick one of seven different types of bread, when I had no idea what some of them were. I then had to pick what I wanted in the bread: meat; salad; sauces etc. All I wanted was a simple cheese sandwich. What I got was about six different cheeses to pick from, ten different types of salad, and then questions such as did I want mayo, mustard, thousand island or ranch dressing?

I don’t remember what I finished up with. Jeff, bless him, sorted it out for me. My point is Americans are so used to having so much, making choices, voicing those choices and by the time I left America I was very happy to do likewise. It is just about what you get used to doing.

The same is true of these international art groups. Brits very politely sit back and let Americans take over the show and then complain about it amongst themselves, rather than watching and learning that to compete in that arena you need to adopt that type of behaviour.

The bottom line is that as nations we are very different. The way we educate our children is very different. For example, it is drummed into kids in US public schools (the equivalent of UK state schools) to stand and pledge allegiance to the American flag every morning. When the national anthem is played, everyone must stand and place their hand over their heart. They are basically taught to do as they are told when needs be; how else can you control 330 million plus people in a crisis? Can you imagine that happening in British schools? For one thing, we are shouted down for displaying our flags, particularly the flag of St. George.

However, these days very few people even bother to stand for the national anthem, which is not taught in schools across the whole country, and we don’t have that response drummed into us. Actually, I think that in general the respect for our nations is similar just very different. One is acquired, the other enforced.

Our morals are different, too. Here in the UK postal theft and fraud are massive; over there no one interferes with your post box, ever. If British public utilities need to mark where their pipes or cables run, they use spray paint but, in the US, they use coloured flags. No one would dare move those flags. When one of my boys suggested it, the other kids were horrified and stopped him doing so. Here in the UK, little flags in the ground wouldn’t last five seconds.

The row which ensued in one of these groups last week arose simply because someone tried to be kind. They warned everyone that the courses currently being advertised are carefully designed to get people to join, handing over large sums of money without really considering what they are signing up for. Someone described the run up to the course being opened as “slick”. The Americans were up in arms as they felt this was insulting to the person running the course. It wasn’t. It was simply that a very caring Brit wanted people to think carefully before handing over a substantial amount of cash. She was being kind, but it backfired. She was defended by some but lambasted by a lot of Americans and is now left feeling really upset for trying to protect people.

I have to agree with her that the run up to and opening of these courses is very slick; they are all the same. Jeff Walker is the grandad of all these courses and virtually every run up to every one of his courses is designed to grab your attention, and make you feel you must act now as the course only runs once a year. Having received a free taster, you are left thinking you will only achieve your goals if you join the course. The British versions are slightly more subtle than the American models but at the end of the day they are all the same.

Another important difference might help to explain why Americans are so happy to shell out lots of money on these courses. Here in the UK, we tend to spend over 50% of our income on our mortgages (well, most of us do) and then there are running costs. We don’t eat out as much as Americans and our clothing is much more expensive. We live on an island so imported brands cost money.

Americans have the luxury of far cheaper goods, they don’t spend as much on their mortgages, they have far more money to spend and excess cash is part of their system. Going to concerts or attending sports fixtures costs more over there so people who are not into those scenes spend their spare income on courses. Neither is right or wrong; they are just different.

So, my advice to anyone wanting to join any of the courses currently being advertised, remember this. You will be drawn in by the free content which is delivered over a few days to a week. You will be told that by signing up to the full course you will dive deep and learn a lot more and you will shell out a ton of cash to be part of that world.

But each of these courses, whilst no doubt having good content to share, will have loud, dare I say it pushy, Americans who very unapologetically shout about what they need, have no problem criticising you if they don’t agree and will upset the Brits. If you feel that you must take these courses because you have been sucked in by the campaign, realise now that moaning about it amongst yourselves isn’t going to change anything. So, either stand up and shout from the rafters yourself or sign up to a course run by a Brit, which may have fewer American participants.

Having already taken many of these courses myself I can tell you, hand on heart, that all the information these courses provide is already out there for you to find for free. There are no secret formulae, you will not find all the answers handed to you on a plate, you still need to put the work in to become successful and it all takes time.

I do hope this gives you a small insight into how these groups work and what to expect. Tolerance is key and isn’t it about time we Brits really started to stand up for ourselves? We don’t need to shout, but we can still calmly and forcefully get what we want when we understand how to play the game.

NB Just for the record, I do not get paid to endorse any of the people or brands I have mentioned above. These are all products that I use and genuinely believe in and people I truly admire.

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