6 British Things Americans Admire

 Colin Firth keeps a mean stiff upper lip in The King's Speech. (The Weinstein Company)

Colin Firth keeps a mean stiff upper lip in The King’s Speech. (Weinstein)

There are many things that Americans seems to like about us Brits and our culture. Far be it for me to blow the collective British trumpet, though; I asked a handful of Americans-in-the-U.K. (with no prompting) what they most liked about us.

Interestingly, our stiff upper lip was mentioned more than once. “Americans complain about the stiff upper lip, but I think we secretly admire it because it’s so dignified compared with our ‘let it all hang out’ emotional style,” said journalist and Brit Mums co-founder Jennifer Howze.

Blogger and social media expert Meagan Adele Lopez, currently enjoying her second stint of living in the U.K., agrees, “Americans admire the British ability to have composure no matter what. As much as we mock the stiff upper lip, I think it’s something we wish we had more of, more restraint.”

Class was also mentioned a few times; not the British class system, but our refinement: “Class, not as in the class system but as in ‘classy.’ Brits have the royal family, and toffs with their tweed jackets and country piles. It just demonstrates a marvelous self-possession and classiness that’s the other end of the spectrum to Americans’ love of equality and casual lifestyles.”

Another comment was “I think Americans wish we could be as refined as well. There will always be that sense of admiration for the British culture.”

Surprisingly, social drinking got a few shout-outs.

Melissa, of Smitten by Britain fame told me, “I admire the pub culture and not for the drinking but for the sense of community, the local. It’s hard for me to describe that to someone else however. They have to experience it.” (I do miss a good pub session, I have to say.)

Jen Howze agrees saying, “Social drinking. People are much less alarmist if someone has a glass of wine or pint of beer at lunch. They have one, they go back to work, end of.”

This reminds me of my first work Christmas lunch in the U.S. Of course the waiter came to me first so I ordered a glass of white wine, and immediately knew I’d erred. My colleagues looked from me to my boss’s boss, then back to me. Stony silence, with a frisson of excitement. The big boss just smirked, but my immediate boss (a Scot, would you believe) reminded me that I had work to do and then suggested I order “something else.” I was very tempted to ask for a sherry!

Blogger Michelle Garrett and my (American) husband both came up with our ability to disagree on fairly serious topics and keep it civil.

Michelle says, “In the U.K. we get into all kinds of meaty topics (but not necessarily profound) at dinner parties, and everyone leaves as friends.”

I do find, at least here in the Midwest, that social conversations rarely touch on politics or religion unless there is unanimity. Criticizing a politician, for example, is seen as inappropriate, possibly rude, if there is a known supporter in the group. A stark contrast to the “speak as I find” approach of some Brits.

And of course, there’s the accent.

As Jen Howze says, ”Top is the British accent, it makes everyone sound smarter.” 

Some people even find it sexy, as this American student confirms, “Is there anything sexier than a perfectly executed British one-liner?” Americans, please note that while we’re happy to have our accents loved and admired, we’re not trying to dupe anyone.

As Stephen Fry puts it, “I shouldn’t be saying this, high treason really, but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren’t fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.”

Which brings me to another point of admiration, our self-deprecating humor, illustrated nicely by Funny or Die in this “Not All British Accents are Sexy” clip here.

As Michelle Garrett says, “The Brits’ ability to take the mick out of themselves, self-deprecating humor: the Brits may be critical of other nations, but they also take a hard look at themselves and when found wanting they are not only happy to criticize, but go one step further and turn it into a joke. I love it! Have I Got New for You is a prime example of this, and it’s one of my favorite shows.”

Makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside doesn’t it?