Popular music: Britain vs. America

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Music is a culture in and of itself, and often a generation may mark their growth with popular tunes that relate to those memories.

Because of the cultural differences in every country, it is plain to see that music would vary widely by location. This holds true for the two countries in question in this post, England and America. Musical stylings in these countries can be quite different and yet still find some overlap nonetheless.

  An article in The Atlantic discusses the phenomenon of British bands being wildly popular with Americans, and American solo artists becoming hits in the U.K. Take, for example, The Beatles, who to this day remain one of the top three best-selling artists of all time and now popular bands like Muse, and even One Direction follow in their footsteps. Much of their sales came, and still come, from Americans. Further, Michael Jackson is also a member of the top three top-selling artists but as a U.S artist can accredit much of those numbers to the British population.

Although it is difficult to tell what leads to these trends of overlap in the two areas, it could be a result of wanderlust or cultural curiosity. Humans naturally crave travel and the ability to meet people who are different to ourselves in an effort to diversify our gene pools, said Science in Our World. Therefore, the reason that a British person might be a fan of an American musician and vice versa could be for the same reason that people find foreign accents attractive– a desire to see or understand another culture, and to relate to them.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that the differences in music internationally can be what leads to its success and bring joy to people around the world.

Conversational differences in England and America

cocacola Perhaps one of the most well known facts about England from an American’s perspective is that a lot of vocabulary is very different there, and vice versa. For those who are planning a trip to one from another, here are some of the words you might see and what they mean.

England

  •  Jetty
    A small pier over water that boats can be docked on.
  •  Elevensies
    A snack between breakfast and lunch that usually consists of small sandwiches or pastries with tea or coffee.
  • Quid
    Slang meaning one pound GBP.
  • Loo
    Toilet or restroom
  • Water Closet
    Toilet or restroom
  • Flat
    Apartment
  • University
    In England, you graduate from primary school (junior high) then go to college  (junior/senior high school) and then to University which is equivalent to American college.
  • A-Levels
    British standardized test
  • Aubergine
    Eggplant
  • Courgette
    Zucchini
  • Rocket
    Arugula

    America
  • Sneakers
    Equivalent to trainers or running shoes.
  • Soft drinks or pop
    Sodas like Coca-Cola or Sprite.
  • Backyard
    Garden attached to someones home
  • Garage
    Like a carport, attached to one’s home.
  • Sidewalk
    Pavement, along the side of the street.
  • Yellow light
    Amber traffic light.
  • Cookies
    Sweet biscuits.

The vocabulary can be very different, but is not difficult to pick up quickly upon hearing it. This site also provides helpful definitions for slang and commonly confused words for further clarification.

Controversial topics: taboos in England and America

There are topics of great discussion and controversy in almost every culture and location, and knowing what to avoid in conversation can be an important aspect of international travel.

In the U.S hot topics usually revolve around political happenings or national occurrences, though they can range from presidential issues to the inflation of a football. They are usually not long-lasting, and may come and go with trends or current events.; though sometimes these issues are prevailing, such as civil rights campaigns or immigration laws. The main characteristic of American controversy is that it is still widely open to debate and it is not considered rude or disrespectful to bring up in conversation. Some may even enjoy it as a facet of their social lives, and incorporate debating or lively discussions into events or gatherings. Debate clubs are also particularly popular in academic settings such as high school and college.

In the UK, however, the approach to contentious subjects varies. Currently, the refugee crisis is particularly relevant to Europeans and European natives, and is highly politically charged. Yet, discussion of the refugee situation will be different in Britain than it may be in the United States. The attitude towards topics like politics, religion and international events is that they are only of individual or familial importance. To ask of someone’s personal beliefs is largely considered inappropriate or prying.  Western influence may be affecting these beliefs somewhat, but the tradition does still hold in today’s culture.

For those who may be visiting either of those regions or have interest in international politics, it may be crucial to consider how cultures approach and consume media and politics etc. Concepts of socially acceptable behavior construct an entire culture.

Planning for studying abroad or leisurely visits to Britain

Studying abroad is a great option for students who want to visit other parts of the world; England included. These trips often include everything a young adult would want to do for a flat price and some college credits.

Peyton Stahler, a junior at UF, visited Spain last summer and is now interested in visiting England.  This post will be a question and answer, as Peyton’s questions may reflect those that a college student going on a study abroad trip, or on their own independent travels, may have.

Question: “How much of a culture difference is there between England and America? Is there anything other than language?” Stahler said.
Answer: There is a cultural variation between the two countries, but someone visiting for pleasure or leisure should not be too concerned. Be prepared to ask where the “loo” or “water closet” is, and to drink tea every day at 4p.m., but you’ll pick up most of the habits and slang as you go along.

Question: “How should I get around? In Spain there were a lot of buses, but is it the same way over there?” Stahler said.
Answer: Public transportation is very similar to how it works in other European countries. In the big cities, there are underground train systems (the Tube) as well as buses, trains, taxis and even bikes that you can rent for an hourly or daily basis. In smaller cities, you most likely will have to rely on trains or buses. Fortunately, many people use public transport and it is cheap and easy to use. Don’t dismiss walking either, for most places there are plenty of sights and attractions within easy walking distance (and in the cooler weather it is usually quite pleasant).

Question:”What are some non-touristy but must-see destinations to visit?” Stahler said.
Answer: The architecture in England is altogether quite impressive, and simply wandering down small streets can often lead to finding quaint and picturesque scenery. But for those who are more focused on having the day planned and organized, try looking into some of the roof gardens in London which can be great for picture taking or a sunset dinner. Most museums are also free to visit in the cities, especially for students, and there are enough to spend a full day in.

Question:”I’m a kind of picky eater, what will I be able to eat there?” Stahler said.
Answer: There is a common misconception that all the food in Britain is unusual or bland, with dishes like spotted dick or kedgeree, but like America–England is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines and there is usually something fit for everyone. Italian food and pizza is especially popular there, if you prefer to stick to something you know, or try a family-owned pub which most likely serves fresh BLT sandwiches or thick oven chips with vinegar (french fries), and will likely be happy to make something more customized to your taste.

Resources like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet can be great for for planning trips abroad, as well as reaching out to your college’s study abroad director if you are a student. You might also consider buying a map or travel book before you leave,  so you can get a feel for the geography and don’t have to worry about spending too much on over-priced tourist books there. Doing research is definitely a crucial part of any trip, especially when going over seas.

Varying wildlife in Britain and America

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Hedgehogs in America are pets, but in England they are a common garden guest.

Wildlife in these two areas differs immensely. Although this is bound to happen when comparing two different regions it is particularly interesting in this case, because of how it affects society.

In England, you are almost guaranteed at some point in your life to see badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, field mice and weasels. Similar to hummingbird or squirrel feeders, British homeowners may even go to extra effort to make their outdoor spaces appealing for hedgehogs to reside in. Though as is the case with many common wild animals, there are those who may consider them pests and do their best to deter or even eliminate them.

In America, we have squirrels, hawks, eagles, snakes, alligators and coyotes. Visitors to Florida may be attracted for viewing the alligators and fish hawks (Ospreys) that are rare sights in their home country. As many Floridians and Americans know, however, the overpopulation of these creatures can cause the creation of regulated hunts. One for example, being the Florida bear hunt which was ended after two days due to the extravagant slaughter of the native animals. The news of this hunt spread internationally most likely due to international readers being shocked at the treatment of an animal which many would go to wildlife exhibits or zoos just to see.

The presence of certain animals in an area contributes to how a society acts, thinks and even eats. As previously discussed during the post on food, regional delicacies can be an attracting factor and a widely known facet of a community. For meat eaters, this usually means a plethora of whatever resides within their boundaries. Even those who aren’t eaten, like snakes, tortoises and maybe slugs, they are an important part of every ecosystem and the lives of many wildlife photographers (or bloggers).

A contrast of humor in British and American culture

Language differs throughout the world, but laughter is universal.

Humor is a source of relief, a way to express yourself and a part of someone’s personality. How it is created and received internationally, however, can vary widely.

The British have a concept of humor that may puzzle Americans (they even spell the word differently) and vice versa. The Americans have a more accepting stance on sincerity, and appreciating the struggle of the underdog–therefore their humor can stem from a more emotional and personal place, said Ricky Gervais in an interview with Time Magazine. British humor tends to be ironic, tongue-in-cheek and even critical.

This can be well displayed through the two versions of The Office. There is a U.S version as well as a British version, and they are far from identical. The American version was massively popular, and attracted thousands of viewers and over 200 episodes, whereas the UK version lasted only 15 episodes.  The cause of the U.S series success being its “sunny optimism” that provides more relief for its audience in contrast to the dark, bitter humor of its English counterpart, said the BBC.

Humor seems to be one aspect of life in different countries and regions that tends to stay localized, especially when it comes to these two countries. Both have their triumphs, though. Britain has produced acclaimed movies like Monty Python and Hot Fuzz. America is responsible for shows that are redefining comedy such as Modern Family and Saturday Night Live.  “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane,” as Robert Frost said.

Foreign and Familiar: A comparison of cuisine in Europe and America

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Food is an essential element of life, and it can help to define a society and a culture by how they provide it, prepare it or consume it. Exotic foods can inspire an entire vacation, and home-style foods can be reason enough for a deprived college student to take a much needed visit home. European and American foods are notoriously different and each carry their own set of stereotypes, but how they differ actually proves to say a lot about the country itself.

American food specializes in a lot of areas, but a specific area that competes quite often with Britain is of the sweeter variety: candy. American candy is the stuff of daydreams for children, with bright colors, animated packaging and quirky flavoring.  British candy can appeal to the younger demographic, but takes a slightly sleeker route, choosing to highlight the quality of ingredients, low prices and even attractiveness of their products. The veritable contrast between the two isn’t just due to preference, it is actually the result of different food regulations.  According to Business Insider, UK regulations state that chocolate must contain 25% cocoa solids, whereas the US requires 10% chocolate liquor.

England and America operate differently, as shown by how they view “real chocolate.” But both have a definitive investment in food, and sometimes it even leads to a cross-over between their two cultures. The appearance of British brands such as Cadbury, and Tetley (English tea manufacturer) are rapidly appearing in American stores. Many Publix stores even have an “International Foods” section which features these brands along with others from around the world. America shows its influence with chains like McDonalds and Starbucks popping up throughout Europe.

With foreign foods being a way for people to connect, policies and styles surrounding the way food is produced or presented is really a positive. Novelty restaurants like American diners in Britain, or tea rooms in America are very profitable and draw a large audience for the opportunity to try something new. When British people enjoy afternoon tea, or traditional “coffee at 11,” it seems alien to a person from Texas, perhaps. Yet, American who drinks sweet tea with every meal would perplex a British tourist who has only ever had their tea hot and with milk. Food, as with language, clothing and other aspects of culture, defines and separates a community from the others. These defining factors in the UK and US are born from long histories in politics, policy and even intersections with one another. Appreciating them from an outsiders perspective can be interesting and most times: delicious.