We’re back home, visiting America at the moment, and we’re having to reply to the usual volley of questions from friends and relatives about what it’s like living in England. (They never ask about ‘Britain’, because no one in the USA understands the difference between Britain and England.)
The questions are always the exact same, and I’m tired of answering them over and over again. To save time, I’ve written out the answers I usually give, so I can give canned responses from now on. If you’re also an American expat, you can use them too.
There’s just one problem. Whenever Americans ask questions about other countries, there’s a political aspect to it, especially in an election year. Republicans are looking for evidence to confirm their belief that America is better than over-taxed, old-fashioned and morally and economically bankrupt Europe. Democrats are looking for examples and ideas on how America can improve itself through European-style liberalism. How can you answer without offending your right-wing, or left-wing family members and friends?
To cover all the bases, I’ve written up two sets of responses to the most common, and most-loaded question. Use them as you see fit.
How do you like living over there?
“I miss America, and it’s tough living among all these socialists. But I suppose it’s okay. Except for all the Muslims. Not that I’m racist. I just think people should assimilate, and everything you hear on Fox News is right. It’s terrible to live in fear of Muslim extremism.”
“It’s much more civilised over there. I get five weeks holiday. Everyone does – by law. There’s better work-life balance. News programmes are more intelligent. Public services are better. And best of all, the children in schools over there don’t have to participate in ‘active shooter drills’ as there’s no pro-gun lobby keeping the nation awash in military style firearms. It’s great to not live in fear of mass shootings.”
Tell me how you feel about that whole Brexit business. How does that affect you being over there?
“Brexit is great, and I’m sure whichever un-elected official is running the UK this week will let EU nationals stay for a while, if they’re not Muslims. And now that Britain has its independence from all those horrible pencil-pushers from Brussels, we can finally start actively getting rid of all those Muslims. And the Poles. And the Romanians. And Gypsies. And Canadians. That’s what 52% of the country voted for. By the way, I’m not racist.”
“It’s great if you want to come over and visit me, as the pound has nosedived against the dollar, but otherwise, Brexit is a xenophobic disaster. The economy is in serious trouble, the image of the UK has taken a massive hit and this idiotic vote won’t do anything to kerb immigration. The only thing that will happen is that two years from now, after much groveling, Britain will wind up with a Norway-style deal that will leave the UK still tied to the EU, but without voting power or influence. It’s a triumph of racism and fear over common sense.”
How do you feel about all the problems with the Muslims over there? Do you feel safe?
“It’s okay if you stay out of certain neighbourhoods, such as Birmingham. But thank heavens we’ve got Boris Johnson as foreign minister now. He’s been proven to be a man of great intelligence and vision. He’s going to sort out all the problems around the world that have resulted in all these refugees wanting to come over here. And the Muslims. He’s got to do something about the Muslims. I’m not racist.”
“It’s a lot safer here than in America. The murder rate in the UK is 1/5 of that in the USA. In America, you’re more likely to be shot by a toddler than by an Islamic terrorist. And I don’t hear Americans discussing their ‘toddlers with guns’ problem. I think the question itself is kind of racist.”
Does it rain all the time over there?
“It feels like it does. It’s really depressing over here. I blame the Muslims. Not racist.”
“It really doesn’t rain that much – it’s grey more than anything. You get used to it. But I’m not sure I can get used to all the racists that now feel emboldened by the Brexit vote.”
Is the food as bad as they say?
“Yes. You can’t never find no twinkies or mountain dew over here. And it seems like everything over here is Halal. I don’t want to eat none of that Muslim food. NR.”
“Produce is pretty good over here, but sometimes it’s tough to get a good, affordable meal in a restaurant. The food improves every year as more and more immigrants come over from Europe and bring their food culture with them. Those halal kebab shops are pretty good.”
Do people really have bad teeth over there?
“What does that have to do with the Muslims?”
“Not really. Sort of. British people really don’t like it when you make jokes about their supposedly bad teeth. It’s like making surrender jokes about the French. Or me making a joke about how fat you are as an American.”
You must pay a lot in taxes over there. How much do you pay?
“A lot more than America. There’s even a TV tax. I have to subsidise with my taxes refugees from God knows where, who come over, don’t work and get placed in public housing nicer than what I could afford.”
“Not much more than in America. And I get a lot more for it – national health care, guaranteed worker rights. There’s a TV tax that subsidises the BBC, but it’s worth it to have commercial-free and informative television. The only problem is that my taxes subsidise a wealthy ruling class that don’t work and get benefits and privileges nicer than I could ever afford.”
What do they think of America over there?
“They don’t like us. They’re jealous of us and our wealth and influence. They complain about American foreign policy, but they’re the first to come screaming, begging for help the minute that some Hitler or Muslim attacks them.”
“They don’t like us that much. They think we’re foolish when it comes to issues like health care, global warming and gun control. And Donald Trump makes us seem pretty xenophobic. But, if you’re prepared to take a little criticism about American foreign and domestic policies, you’ll find that, as a nation, we have no better friend.”
Are people nice over there?
“The English people are okay. But there’s hardly any of them left in England. It’s all foreigners and immigrants over here now and those people keep to themselves. When I sneer at them, or cross the street to avoid them, they never smile at me. They’re the racists. Not me.”
“The English people aren’t quite as open as Americans, but not counting Brexit, for the most part they have very liberal values. Yes, they are nice, if you give them time to get to know them, especially the foreigners and immigrants living in England. They’re really friendly.”
They don’t have 4th of July over there do they?
“Yes they do. Every year they have a fourth of July.”