Every year Thanksgiving in the UK becomes even more of “a thing”. A bit like American “football”, proms, and writing the date wrongly (see above, ahem). But is all this American culture in the UK a good or bad thing?
Two of our writers argue for and against Thanksgiving in the UK the the Americanisation of of Britain.
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Against – Tom Flint @foodboozereview
Let me be clear: I am no flag waving, Daily Mail-reading, Brexit-voting patriotic Brit.
I never stand for the national anthem at sporting events; I even mute the TV in out house when it comes on. Because I despise the song and what it stands for. I find English/British patriotism uncomfortable. Generally, I have little in common with those who are aggressively proud of being born in this geographic location.
However, I feel strongly connected with British culture in many ways; I have grown up and lived in this country my whole life. I find the concept of patriotism a strange one, but I believe that cultural identity and difference should be celebrated and maintained – provided it’s done positively.
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Also, I’m not anti-American. I grew up listening to American music, from hip hop to metal. Many of my favourite recording artists are from across the pond. I watch the NFL on a regular basis and enjoy the culture around it. Like most people, I enjoy US TV shows and films – and I love a classic American muscle car.
My problem is not with the country itself. What I have issue with, is the homogenisation of cultures in general.
There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by other cultures, of course. This is a fantastic thing, and it brings communities together. Other cultures have inspired our music, art, and fashion for centuries. This has led to some of the greatest artistic achievements in human history – musical movements that have defined generations, and cultural events that celebrate what it means to be human.
Britain and the US have long been connected through these cultural institutions, and it has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both. But this doesn’t mean we should adopt American culture as our own.
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For all the positives that have come out of our “special relationship” with the US, there are just as many negatives. The US has inflicted fast food, unrestricted capitalism, and the curse of convenience upon the world. Our high streets are awash with low quality and high quantity food and drink outlets that are slowly poisoning us, supersizing our population toward a bloated, sugary death.
In recent years, American creations such as “Black Friday” have arrived on our fair shores, resulting in some frankly disgusting, un-British scenes (it’s madness, I tell you… madness) and let us not forget American crimes against the English spellings.
Is this really something that benefits British culture? Do we really need to copy the US in everything? Or are we now at the total mercy of this global capitalist system, controlled by large US corporations?
The Americanisation of our high streets and online shopping aren’t something we can stop – but we have a choice to opt out. And there are other areas where we can resist the Yankifying of Britain.
Thanksgiving takes place today. I cannot for the life of me understand why any non-Americans would celebrate this. If you are holding a Thanksgiving dinner this week, and have no American connections, you need to ask yourself why.
Would you celebrate Bastille Day? Or the Day of German Unity? The food would probably be better. And as European celebrations, they have greater cultural relevance to this country.
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In the US, some people are calling for an end to Thanksgiving because it celebrates the destruction of native American culture by the invading Anglo-Saxons (your Facebook feed will probably give you the required info this week).
But never mind all that nasty business – you’ve got the Macy’s parade and a busy day of NFL action as a nice, colourful distraction. And don’t forget, Black Friday happens the next day, so once you’ve stopped stuffing your face, you can get spending.
British people have no connection with Thanksgiving – apart from our ancestors being a part of that invading force – so why celebrate it?
Proms are another one. Get over it, it’s just a bloody school disco. There’s no need for a stretch limo – just a 2-litre bottle of cider and 10 Lambert & Butlers (that’s how we used to do school discos, anyway).
Halloween has also got completely out of hand these days, but kids seem to enjoy it, so I won’t spoil their fun (don’t even think about knocking on my door for Trick or Treat though).
We Brits do things our way. It might not be as glamorous or colourful, but we need to remind ourselves of who we are – a nation of socially awkward, chronically repressed individuals, prone to over-drinking and fits of sarcastic self-deprecation.
What I am trying to say is this: difference is good, and we should be able to celebrate it without assimilating every little aspect into our own culture. We can enjoy American things without pretending to be American.
There’s nothing wrong with being who you are – even if it is a bit twee and British. We can be proud without being patriotic. We can enjoy everything that’s great about our country while also appreciating others.
But there must be a line.
We shouldn’t become a homogenised knock-off of the ol’ USA, defined by what we consume. Instead we need to be our true British self, an identity that’s built on history, experience, and the influences of many cultures. All brought together on the fair shores of Blighty.
For – Tom Fordy @TheTomFordy
As Alan Partridge said when his friend Michael started seeing a John Wayne-loving man called “Tex” (alright, Terry) behind his back: “He likes American things now.”
And yes, I do. I bloody love American things. What’s not to like? American things are big and fun, with lots of artery-clogging indulgence.
This isn’t an issue of patriotism for me either. I like being British, and I like British culture. Especially when that includes bits and pieces of other places and people (this is a nation of immigrants and hotchpotch of cultures – anyone who doesn’t get that can sod off back to where they came from, quite frankly. Somewhere in Kent, presumably).
I’m one of that generation raised on 1980s American movies. I love that romanticised vision of Americana – 50s-style diners, giant burgers, dollar bills, massive cars, rock ‘n’ roll music, Hollywood stars, Hulkamania.
Going to the States as an adult makes me feel like a kid. I’m awe of its size, of its vibrancy, of its… well, Americaness.
I know what you’re thinking: the ultra-commercial movie industry has got its claws in me. It’s worked; it’s sold me on the Hollywood-filtered American dream. I know. I just don’t care. I love it all the same.
When I visit the US, I can’t wait to go to Denny’s (coming to the UK soon) and have a mental-sized breakfast, then have the audacity to order extra sausage; I enjoy the company of Americans, genuinely brilliant people; I can drink lite beer without having to be a British craft ale wanker about it; their skylines make me feel like I’m living in a montage; and the atmosphere at their sports events is immense – hotdogs in hand, whooping and hollering, everyone having a bloody good time (not that I have a clue what’s going on most of the time, mind you).
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Americana in the UK though? That’s something else. And it is happening – way beyond the movies and music.
NFL games are an annual thing here now, on the hallowed turf of Wembley and Twickenham, no less; Thanksgiving dinner is served in respectable restaurants; and – as my counterpart has pointed out – the likes of Black Friday and school proms are standard.
But think about it. Why be so precious about Britishness?
Some would spit at the idea of the NFL over proper English football. I like football and go to football games, but let’s be honest – it’s fucking miserable most of the time. No one’s happy, it’s usually cold and/or raining, and there are at least ten people in the stadium who want to smash your face in.
I’m not saying American football is better than our football. I’ve never even been to an NFL game. But for me, that juxtaposition sums it up: American things are colouruful loud, and fun; British things are dour, downbeat, and moany.
And as for American spellings? Who cares? Language is fluid and ever-changing (in fact, American spellings can be attributed to a US lexicographer who tried to tidy up the inconsistent mess of English).
The words “queef”, “spooge”, and “sticky-outy” entered the Oxford Dictionary this year. Are we really going to piss and moan about a few misplaced Us and Zs?
I agree with Mr Flint on the Black Friday front. I’d like to say that hyper-consumerism is one aspect of American culture I could do without, but I would happily eat myself to death in any of its best fast food joints. As for prom – no amount of tacky dresses and stretch limos packed full of squawking, cidered-up teenagers will make the school disco remotely glamorous.
That’s the thing about Britishness: it’s so deeply ingrained, so tragically entwined to our repressed, stuffy ways, no amount of touchdowns and Thanksgiving turkey will ever change that.
Which brings me to today. I will be cooking a sort of Thanksgiving-y meal. And after that, I’ll be watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I wouldn’t say I’m celebrating Thanksgiving, but I’m thankful for an excuse to eat big, drink heartily, and watch a proper American movie.
And no, I’m not an American, but guess what? I’m not religious either, and I celebrate the shit out of Christmas (Die Hard jumper and the Best Christmas Album In The World Ever are both queued up and ready to go on December 1).
Why? Because just like those American things, it’s shitloads of fun. It don’t want the British sense of identity of be eradicated by US culture. But let’s have a few little bits to break up the monotony of life on this grumpy little island.