While today is just another regular Monday morning for our British peers, for us American students abroad it is a day of patriotism and celebration. Back home in the States, our Independence Day is usually spent with family and friends celebrating our freedom through lighting fireworks, eating barbecue, and drinking beer. While it is no guarantee we will be able to replicate that celebration in London this year, one thing is for certain: our earnest patriotism exhibited today will cross the British.
In the “Humour Rules” section of Watching the English, author Kate Fox describes a rule in British culture about the importance of not being earnest. “Seriousness is allowed, earnestness is strictly forbidden,” Fox says. “…One must never take oneself too seriously. The ability to laugh at ourselves… is one of the more endearing characteristics of the English.” She juxtaposes English frivolity and self-deprecation with the attitude of Americans: “The sentimental patriotism of leaders and the portentous earnestness of writers, artists, actors, musicians, pundits and other public figures of all nations are treated with equal derision and disdain by the English.”
English cynicism or apathy has manifested itself throughout our time here. In the Euro Round of 16 football match, when Iceland scored what would prove to be the game winning goal against England, the onlooking fans in the pub did not respond with jeers, but self-deprecating laughter. In daily conversation, the British constantly bemoan their dreary weather. The political earnestness of the LEAVE campaign ultimately led to a Brexit — would Britain still be in the EU if the seemingly majority, status quo REMAIN camp had the same mentality?
The English can scoff all they want, but I prefer earnest idealism of the American dream to the “muddling along” of the British reality.