1. They’re genuine and open
One of the things that tends to rankle about my fellow Brits is our propensity to treat each other rather shabbily. You only have to witness a typical British lad publicly tearing a beloved “mate” to shreds with verbal smites and the occasional “friendly” rabbit punch to the back of the neck to realize that there’s something a little… sadistic about how we express affection for our friends. American dudes have “bromances” and indulge in manly hugs, whereas here in Limey-Land it is only acceptable to hug another dude in the midst of a rugby scrum or when the World Cup is on and we have, against logical expectations, managed to score a goal. Perhaps due to a collective fear of vulnerability, we Brits tend to hide our true fuzzy feelings behind sarcasm, “piss-taking” and brutal character assassinations. Our American cousins, on the other hand, tend to be more open and affectionate towards their pals.
2. The way they speak is just awesome
Who doesn’t love American slang? I learned some of my best words from my US buddies, and to this day pepper my speech with a colorful array of Americanisms—anything good is “pretty legit,” everything is “super” something, and “Dude!” is a beloved fallback whenever anyone says anything shocking. Perhaps it’s the influence of growing up watching amazing US television, but I can’t shake the feeling that US English just sounds, well, cooler than all other kinds of English. American accents in all their many variances also sound wonderfully warm and smooth to my ear. Whenever I’m riding the tube and I hear a US twang in among the rabble, my ears perk up. What is it about y’all that just sounds so damn friendly? Whatever it is, we love it and we kinda want it. Why else does almost every British person sing in a US accent, hmm?
3. Their zest for life
We Brits are, stereotypically, a moaning, closeted bunch. We love to complain—about the weather, the tube service, the BBC, you name it, Brits just love a good bitch. ‘Murcans, by contrast, tend to be a sunnier bunch. I gravitated naturally towards the American exchange students when I was studying in Tokyo, because they were always the ones who wanted to go out and do something amazing and Japanese, while certain Brits I knew at the time preferred to hole up in a facsimile of a British ‘pub’ watching football and frowning into their Japanese beers. Americans also tend to have a curiosity about the world coupled with enough confidence (some would say too much, but hey) to go out and experience it. Many of my US friends in Japan managed to lead completely self-sufficient and awesome lives, making friends and finding lovers even without being able to really speak Japanese. They simply got by with their confidence and willingness to put themselves out there, which was such an example for a shy and repressed Brit such as myself.
4. Their lack of irony and freedom of emotional expression
This is probably really an extension of number one. From my American buddies when I was working in Kyoto, I learned the term “mental health day” and I also learned that it is ok to talk about needing to take a “mental health day” without sounding like some kind of self-obsessed crybaby. We Brits tend to use irony and sarcasm to excess as a sort of crutch to prevent ourselves from appearing publicly emotional (a terrifying prospect) whereas Americans seem to be able to express their vulnerabilities more openly. When my best friend from California talked about “needing to be in, like, a positive space right now” during a period of inter-friend drama, I totally got what she meant and I thought that was a pretty cool thing to say as I had never thought about how important that was before, or about how I also perhaps had a right to demand that. Pre-Japan, whenever I was having a hard time and my British friend circle was winding each other up, taking the mickey and “bantering,” how sweet it would have been to just un-ironically yell, “I need to be in a positive space!” without winding up essentially committing social suicide by appearing deeply affected and uncool.
5. Their consideration and self-awareness
Americans have acquired a bad rep. People baldly admonish them for being brash, boorish, egomaniacal and obnoxious. Nothing could be farther from the truth in my experience. The Americans I met were lovely, self-deprecating and incredibly aware of their position in the world, as well as respectful of others. My very Britishness, at first a source of much delight and exclamation, was nonetheless embraced and never used to make me feel excluded. I found that the Japanese tend to have a “them and us” mentality, whereas Americans have an “us and whoever else wants to party” kind of vibe. I mean, you know, there’s nobody nicer than a nice American.
Now that I am, for all intents and purposes a Londoner, I find I really miss having a mostly-American friend circle. I also feel like my outlook and general mentality/personality no longer meshes all that neatly with that of your average stay-at-home Brit. But I don’t mind, because it’s so worth it to get out of your comfort zone and find “your” people. And when you do, you’ll have found your friends for life.