I coaxed my brother and sister out the other week with the promise of pizza and beer. We got onto the subject of the differences between Brits and Americans.
In a massive generalisation, we agreed that Americans seem to carry a lot more confidence than Brits and we started to joke about how British people ‘push the feelings down’ before we all cracked up. We agreed that, as a nation, we seem to have a special way of combining social awkwardness with an inability to express our emotions.
Personally, I’ll avoid confrontation like I avoid broccoli.
It takes me all the guts I can muster to politely express my distaste at something. I am certainly not one of those people who likes to complain about service. I’ve been on the other side of it, so I constantly empathise with waitresses and sales assistants. The most I would do is not leave a tip and hope they realise that it translates into ‘you gave me the wrong dish; but its fine, I ate it because I didn’t want to complain, and I understand you’re very busy’.
Similarly, my sister told me about an extremely rude customer who threw his money across the counter at her and asked her to hurry up. Whilst a ‘fuck you’ was bubbling up inside her, the response was, ‘excuse me?’ Granted, the later response would help her to keep her job.
Then, there’s our extreme politeness. My housemates have noticed that I say ‘sorry’ every single time I’m in their way. Or when I bump into them, or if they bump into me. They lightly made fun of it at first saying ‘you will be’ but when I wouldn’t stop saying it they told me ‘stop saying sorry!!!’, to which my response was: ‘…sorry?’
We seem to have a hard time expressing affection too. Take dating. Much has been written and discussed about the emotional constipation of British men but my girlfriends are just as bad. Tell a guy you like them? Noooo! You must play it cool, wait for them to text first and then not reply for 3 days for fear they’ll think you want to marry them. And, if they send a text too early, or too many times? He’s clearly a weirdo who hasn’t been on a date too long for an underlying reason that you don’t want to find out.
I am starting to discover another way… an eager guy isn’t necessarily a weirdo. There are many different dating cultures. In some countries, it’s all about flattery. It happened to me. A non-English man was texting me and after a day apart he said, ‘I miss you’.
I’m sorry… what? How can you possibly miss me? You have no idea who I am!
I started to fear the next date, picturing this guy being some clingy maniac. However, this was not the case. He was extremely laid back and funny. I was starting to learn, that’s just how he did things. It was incredibly refreshing.
I told one of my friends about it, she looked positively sick when I told her we’d been texting every day, and that he told me that he missed me.
‘And that doesn’t bother you?!?!’
Someone actually saying that want to spend time with me? Nope. It’s quite nice. Now I understand that it doesn’t mean clingy, desperate or wanting to spend forever together; it’s just dating with a bit of an ego boost at the same time.
So, whilst I adore British mannerisms, with our social awkwardness and overt politeness, there’s definitely something to be said for a bit of emotional expression and flattery when it comes to dating.
Throwing away your worries about coming on too strong, and actually admitting that you enjoy each other’s company, is certainly something I could get used. It’s something that I think we Brits ought to learn about.
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