Friday 10 November 2006

damn yankees

Hi. I'm still alive - apologies for the distinct lack of bloggage. Please accept this gift of a miniature Peanut Butter Cup* as compensation. Anyhoo.

On Halloween night as Paul and I sat in London traffic, we heard several news reports about additional police on duty to deter hooligans from creating all sorts of havoc. It's a night for yobs and vandalism, they said. Local residents were afraid to leave home for fear of something unsavoury passing through their letterboxes. Decoy buses full of police officers roamed Merseyside, attempting to pick up troublemakers planning on trashing public transportation vehicles. The BBC interviewed the average person on the street about this harrowing night, and a comment that kept coming up was why should we acknowledge this American holiday? I read a newspaper article expressing a similar sentiment; that Halloween is an American invention and causes great strife in our nation. As if somehow the fact that trick or treating is an American tradition makes it inappropriate to celebrate here, and furthermore, this explains its unwelcome affect on British youths.

I think that Halloween is not celebrated here as it is back home (Canadians trick or treat too, you know - just with big winter coats over our costumes so you can't actually see what we're dressed up as) because it simply isn't a tradition here yet and no one quite knows what to do with it. I always describe my amusement each year at our local trick or treaters. We get none, they come on the wrong day, or they don't even bother dressing up. This tells me that there is great confusion surrounding this holiday, although it does seem to be improving the longer I live here. I'm not sure why there is a general distaste for it just because it's deemed American. It should be fun, with a bellyache the next day.

I came across another article about how awful it is that the British use "Americanisms" such as "Can I get...?" instead of "May I please have...?" So when you go to Starbucks to request a beverage from the 17-year-old behind the counter who really doesn't give a shit whether you live or die, you should do so by saying "May I please have a tall cafe latte?" instead of "Can I get a tall cafe latte, please?" because the spotty teen will be greatly offended by your American-ness.

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. As a Canadian, we do tend to find our downstairs neighbours to be somewhat rowdy and a little bit weird to be honest, but I can't say that I've ever found something to be abhorrent simply because it's American. When we were in California, people constantly acknowledged Jack. Businessmen with silly looking Bluetooth headphones at the hotel would greet Jack with a "Hi, Buddy!" and restaurants brought us endless supplies of crayons and balloons. Although over enthusiastic American store clerks can be unsettling to the outsider, they were very nice to have when we did actually need help. People smiled at us and chatted to us. No one batted an eye when I asked for menu substitutions. I'm two sizes smaller in the States. Sorry, that's another issue altogether.

What I'm saying is, Americans aren't all terrible. They're not all uncouth beasts who go around breaking windows on Halloween night, demanding food products in an impolite manner. All things American aren't terrible. We watch their television programmes, listen to their music, and watch their films. We celebrate Father's Day without (much) complaint, which is an American invention. And who doesn't appreciate a good burger? Mmmmm...burgers. Be right back.

Anyway, that's all I had to say. I might not always understand Americans and I'll never be tempted to eat grits, but if we could learn how to do Halloween like they do, that would be more than fine by me.

*(Supplies are limited. To claim your gift, you must come to my house between the hours of 7am and 7pm on weekends only, and answer a skill-testing question. Offer not valid in Quebec, Hawaii, or ROI. Thank you.)

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