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America is much more diverse, and in some ways much less conscious of that diversity, while in England being from Manchester or London is a big to-do. And the class issue is different as well -- it's more about culture, schooling, parents still in England, and here what class is to us, money is to Americans. That's my analogy, anyway.
Have you ever been offended by someone while in the U.S. Briefly explain what happened.
Not really, although some people do think that everyone from England is aristocratic, wealthy, snobbish, and like someone from "Masterpiece Theater" which gets tiresome after awhile -- that and questions like 'do you know the queen.' Or the fact that we're all either 'Hello Harry' types or cockneys, fox hunting or eating fish and chips, that sort of thing. I don't like jokes about the food, or really jokes about my country in general from Americans who haven't been to England. Americans tend to be much more intimate and prying about personal information in general -- some people act as though they know you after five minutes riding beside you on a train, and are willing to tell everything about themselves, and expect you to do the same.
If you were to offer advice to a resident of the United States about how to more effectively deal with foreign-born visitors, students or citizens, what would it be?
Just listen a bit better and don't make assumptions, I guess. Don't judge people from what you see on television, even though I suppose I was guilty of that when I came here. Perhaps to wait a bit to get to know someone before you ask them lots of personal questions, in case they have difficulty opening up about their lives. And just be nice, and helpful, and realize it takes time to get acquainted with things like the public transportation system, and how to queue up in a line the proper way.
Did anything surprise or concern you about what you were told?
The prevalence of violence in America is certainly a concern for Americans. But conducting this interview made me think more critically of how the image of violence we have in other nations impacts our reputation worldwide. This interview really made me think about how American violence is perceived in other nations, and also how what we think our own policies, that only affect ourselves, like gun control, affect our reputation abroad.
A also wondered if our 'therapy culture' or the fact people are so forthcoming with personal information in America might be a more negative thing than we sometimes think. Maybe it's not always best to tell everything about your life right away, or at least to understand that to do so might be intimidating to a foreigner. We Americans tend to think that the more you say, the friendlier you seem, and asking lots of questions shows that you care, but to people from some other cultures it is the opposite.
Any "lessons learned" about other cultures?
Even a relatively similar culture to our own, that of our 'Mother Country' England, can be quite different from our own. Our nation's culture looks different from the eyes of an outsider, even an outsider who speaks the language. Also, I learned that experiencing America can be very different depending on where a foreigner comes from in his or her nation, and where he or she goes in America. I think Ellen's experiences might have been different if she had been from a rural place in England, and if she had traveled to say, Las Vegas rather than New York, or to a rural part of the Midwest. Also, Ellen is very spunky and resilient, so even though some cultural generalizations are possible, the person's character and adaptability to the new nation has an effect on how positively the new culture may be viewed. Even though it's easy to make cultural generalizations, every nation is very diverse, even relatively small nations like the United Kingdom. Every person is still an individual, although that individualism will obviously be shaped by that person's culture and upbringing. But culture and upbringing are more than nationality -- gender, personality, sociability, and socioeconomic status and education are also factors.[continue]
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