I’ve just come to the end of a rather large amount of time spent in New York. I feel decidedly American!
I’ve been to this amazing city 3 times in 4 weeks – it’s my favourite city, after London, so I’m not complaining. But as I return home it’s with slight excitement because there’s currently a real buzz in America about us Brits and our island.
I think it most obviously started a few months ago when I was in a meeting in a hotel with Bloomingdale’s and received about 9 texts and calls from various excitable American friends and colleagues who were telling me that we had a new future King. Glorious news of course – and I have to say I felt slightly miffed not to be at home celebrating with a jug of Pimm’s or bubbly – but that evening, the minute people heard me talk they said “Congratulations on the Royal baby”. Everyone knew. Everyone was happy and I oddly felt very proud to be British.
I’ve always had Americans comment on my accent but the last few weeks at trade shows here have seen more people smile with delight at my chatter and ask me to say things.
I’ve come across three articles and magazines waxing lyrical about how the UK is such a hot destination right now. Then there’s the stores. British flags promoting brands and designs in shop windows. Banana Republic is even in on the act.
It’s odd though isn’t it? If you think about history, America declared independence from England in 1776, and both countries fought for 8 years in the Revolutionary War. Several decades later, England and America clashed again in the War of 1812. In fact, in the first days of independence, America was still enemies with England. So why don’t Americans hate England?
We’ve made lovely friends here at the shows – some are fellow exhibitors, others loyal JoJo customers and so it’s great to understand from their American perspective why all things British are of such interest.
For what it’s worth I’m going to try to pull together a list of the things that make us ‘Brilliantly British’
My god they love it. I speak fast and I’m sure half of what I say is lost but I’m constantly told that British people just have the ‘cutest accents’. Most Americans are oblivious to the many accents and couldn’t tell a Liverpudlian and Mancunian apart but no matter what – they like to have a go at imitating it. From the few I’ve heard, they really shouldn’t.
Yes we have real royalty and they are so jealous. They love the Queen and adore Kate: although democracy is what the USA is all about, Americans are simply fascinated by the royals.
American girls have a definite dream that one day, they’ll find out they’re related to some very rich and very royal person, that they’re really a princess, after all – and they get to marry Prince William.
We ooze history and have been around for centuries and centuries. Many of our buildings are older than the constitution of the United States. England has existed so long, that its history has become the stuff of legends. England is the home of King Arthur and Robin Hood and Jack the Ripper, and fairies and dragons and princesses.
Our way of life
I think Americans see us all as leading very simple countrified lives. Drinking tea out of fine china every afternoon with crumpets and scones. Walking to the village church every Sunday. Gossiping with the neighbours (over a cup of tea, of course). Knitting by the open hearth. Watching Punch and Judy puppet shows.
We all know each other, we’ve all met the Queen and we live in houses with thatched cottages and rose gardens. Lovely.
Our tiny cars
When they realise we actually own cars because England is quite big and we can’t walk everywhere they adore our cute, perfectly formed cars we drive on the wrong side of the road. We are super cool with our Mini’s and our tiny European Peugeots and VW’s
They don’t get it but they pretend to get it because it’s so darned cool to find it funny. Monty Python, Mr. Bean, Jeeves and Wooster, Punch and Judy. Americans think British humour is hilarious and are bemused to discover The Office was originally a UK show!
They adore him. He’s mean, blunt, arrogant, insolent, and insulting. What’s there not to love? In fact they love British judges on reality TV shows. There’s Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne on “America’s Got Talent”. There’s Nigel Lythgoe on “So You Think You Can Dance”. And there’s Len Goodman in “Dancing with the Stars”.
Funny that there are hardly any American judges on British reality television
The British invasion in the 60′s gave America The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Since then, UK music rocks and continues to crack this huge country. From Sting and Amy Winehouse to Coldplay and One Direction.
We have given birth to some of the greatest writers in all of history. Who hasn’t enjoyed reading the works of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Agatha Christie, etc., etc.
For years they’ve been in love with our programmes from ‘Are You Being Served’ to ‘Doctor Who’ but ‘Downton Abbey’ has taken interest in UK TV to new heights. 24million Americans tuned in for last series breaking all viewing figure records for a UK show – enough for the Countess Dowager to choke on her cup of tea.
I’m already preparing myself for the topic of conversation at the October trade shows. Rather than discussing the trends and themes of our Spring range I absolutely know it will focus on whether Lady Mary has coped with Matthew’s death and who I think will marry who next – Downton returns to our screens late September and I’ve had two emails asking me about it already…