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Continuing her look at the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., Maria del Mar concludes by looking at how the two cultures differ in matters of the heart.
Love is perhaps something universal that unites all humans, wherever they are in the world. However, the way in which romantic relationships play out varies from place to place, and distinctive national ‘cultures’ of love and romance are interesting to explore and compare. In this, the last in a series of articles examining cultural differences between the UK and the USA, I’ll be tackling that trickiest of topics, love and romance, in both a British and American context.
Earlier I wrote about the differences in national characters of British and American people, of the intricacies of the American social persona: friendliness, manners, small talk, confidence etc. compared to the British preoccupation with a stiff upper lip, suspicion, sarcasm and irony. It makes sense that there would be some form of correlation between these social habits and romantic behavior, and I think it’s fair to say that the Americans are much better than the Brits at talking to strangers; a pretty essential skill required when meeting potential partners.
However, one thing that did strike me while I was living in New York was that there was a strongly formed culture of ‘dating.’ Romantic potentials seemed to be viewed as commodities, and people talked about dates as if they were more like shopping trips or material objects rather than opportunities to build intimate connections with another person. The ‘date’ was judged on what activity they had planned, what was consumed, and how much money was spent. More emphasis seemed to be put on these superficial things than on the person themselves.
In America, it seemed to me that the experience of falling in love (or even in lust) had been colonized by capitalism, just like every other aspect of society. Sure there was a dating scene in England, but I felt that many romantic experiences, including my own, seemed to be formed through a loser, less defined period of ‘hanging out’, mixing with each other’s friends and getting to know would-be significant others in a less formal and premeditated context.
There was something about this commercialization of dating culture that made me feel uncomfortable. Though it was undoubtedly easier to get a date with someone in New York than in London, I found myself missing the less-intimidating scene at home. In many ways, American guys seemed to have their game face fixed on far more firmly than British men. But the rift between the sexes and the judgmental side of the dating scene here left me feeling a little bewildered.
Though there’s something to be said for the pro-active, go-getting American attitude in regard to dating, I couldn’t help but feeling like the commercialization of romance took some of the spontaneity and excitement out of connecting with someone on that level. Sure, we Brits are definitely less confident when it comes to the opposite sex, but I feel like we also might ultimately be less cynical. However, in an age where technology has made it easier to connect than ever, perhaps single people on both side of the pond are venturing into a brave new world of dating that will mean that our national characters will continue to evolve accordingly.