An American’s guide to strengthening the UK’s “Special Relationship” with the US
An American postgrad shares some tips on how to make friends and strengthen US-UK ties while visiting or studying in Cambridge.
It has become increasingly en vogue for American postgraduates to study in the UK. The number of applicants for prestigious scholarships such as the Marshall, Rhodes and Gates-Cambridge has skyrocketed in recent years, reflecting a desire to strengthen trans-Atlantic networks of diplomacy and to foster academic collaboration.
All US expats have a duty to embody the qualities that have made the American people beloved across the globe, and to forge meaningful bonds with our British counterparts. But Cambridge is an intimidating place, and it can be challenging to connect with the British students (and other internationals) one meets. In the words of elder statesman George W. Bush: “This foreign policy stuff can be a little frustrating.”
Not to fear my fellow Americans—I have compiled a list of “pro-tips” that, if followed closely, will win you instant popularity and respect from the British. If you are a newcomer to the UK, pay close attention—the future of US-UK relations may depend on it:
Showcase Americans’ extensive knowledge of UK geography, politics and current events. Be able to name and locate 4 or 5 cities: my go-to’s are Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and Scotland. David Cameron is the Prime Minister of England, and a “Brexit” is a type of brunch dish—best served cold. When someone mentions the “Labor party” just laugh, shake your head and say: “what a mess.”
The louder the better
Debrett’s misguidedly tells Brits that “our arguments will be much more persuasive if you keep calm, listen to other people and treat their views with respect.” Enlighten your British peers, and introduce them to the American art of conversation. Whether discussing the future of the NHS, or the relative merits of blue vs. red VKs (blue is superior), make sure that your voice is heard above the fray. Last month at Cindies, I was shouting in the ear of a young woman who remarked that I sound “appallingly American,” which is perhaps the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. It takes years to perfect the loud, flat, nasally American accent that the Brits adore—be patient and practice often.
Adopt the drinking culture
Peer-pressure your British classmates to overindulge, and then come to the sinking realization that everyone can drink more than you. The legal drinking age in the UK is 12.
Appropriate British lingo
I often “take the piss” out of my new “mates” at Cambridge, especially when they make “rogue” comments about the US. After a night out last week, an American friend and I were flirting with two Cambridge townies in line at Gardenia’s. They promptly started referring to me as a “bellend.” I am unfamiliar with the term, but it must be a good thing—my “chat” is on point. Felt pretty “ropey” the next morning though.
Feel free to complain about the weather
In Boston and New York City it was below freezing in April; California is on the brink of a “mega drought.” Yet I never hesitate to (loudly, see pro tip 2) voice my frustration whenever it drizzles in Cambridge. Also, only refer to temperature on the Fahrenheit scale; Celsius is lame.
Use social media
Always Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook any building or object that looks old (by US standards this is at least 50 years). Try to include the words “ancient” or “castle” in the caption, and to #gameofthrones, #godsavethequeen and #london (regardless of your actual location). Use the British flag and crown emojis as punctuation.
Try out your “accent”
Everyone finds it endearing. When you get drunk and decide to imitate one of the hundreds of different accents that exist in the UK, you will inevitably end up sounding like a psychotic Australian. Brits love it.
Share a slice of US university life
Frequently mention your fraternity or sorority if applicable (e.g. “…that swap last week was pretty good, but bro did I ever tell you about that Sigma Alpha Tau Delta Epsilon Omega banger at USC? It was lit.”). Also, the “liberal arts” curriculum in the US makes us so well rounded.
Never insult the Queen
Just don’t do it. Don’t speak ill of President Obama either—people really love him here. I’ve heard the Queen is probably going to knight him soon.
Bonus Points: “Advanced Americans” only
Support Donald Trump in 2016. Promoting Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” is sure to make you wildly popular in the UK and anywhere else in world for that matter. And fully embrace “May Balls”. Talk about them incessantly, post daily in the Cambridge May Ball Marketplace and invite all your American friends and family to the events. Preferably write a Tab article about them like this “bellend.”
“A close relationship between our two countries is essential to the good of mankind in this turbulent world of today.” – George C Marshall
Relationships require time and effort. If American students follow these simple guidelines, the US-UK “special relationship” will remain strong. My hope is that these pro tips allow legions of Americans to descend on Cambridge each year, and seamlessly adjust to life in the UK. You’re welcome, Britain.