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The American Dream for an Englishman

Published Oct 06, 2012 01:13pm


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I’m in LA where I have just had an argument with a young man I’ve just met, who is originally from England.  He said, “I love LA, I just love America and everything about it, for me it’s so much better than England”.

“But you’re still English” I said.

“Yes, but I think of myself as American now, I’m applying for a green card. I want to be an American”

He said, “Even though I’m from England, I’ve totally bought into America, everything about it, the culture, the life, the dream. And any English people that come here and criticise it but like to make money here should just go back to miserable boring, depressing England, where everyone loves a failure”.

I said, “In England people are just more realistic, even if that means being a bit more pessimistic. But you don’t stop being English just because you’re in a different country”. As if on cue, he and a room full of people all turned on me, accusing me of being anti-American.

One said, “So what are you doing in this country if you don’t like it?” I said, “I love it here, that’s why I’m working here”.

They said, “If you love this country then you should embrace everything about it”.

“Even the large portions, healthcare and the Kardashians?” I asked.

People in America can be very patriotic, even if they’re not American.

There is no such thing as The ‘English Dream’ because people in England don’t dream, they do, they do a lot. The minute I suggest this, I am then accused of thinking I’m better than the Americans – apparently another typically English trait along with being rude and sarcastic. In a comedy club in LA last week, I heard an American comic say, “Who are these Brits that keep coming to our country and telling us what to do? Simon Cowell, Gordon Ramsay – why don’t you just stay in your own small country and fix that before trying to fix us!” This piece of commentary received a round of applause.

I never feel more English or more superior than when I am in America. When I’m in America I talk like Mary Poppins is my mum and Simon Cowell is my dad. I really English it up, which is confusing for some Americans as they think I’m Mexican.

The night of the presidential debate between Obama and Romney, I was doing a show in San Francisco. I managed to watch the debate before my show.

I’m just grateful I was in San Francisco as one man said to me, “San Fran is not like the rest of America – we’re more like England. We can laugh at ourselves, you can come here and make jokes about everything that’s wrong with our country, we’ll agree with you and laugh with you, but I wouldn’t advise it anywhere else, you might get chased out with a gun”.

It’s true; if you’re not an American then you have to be careful where you exercise your thoughts, concerns and jokes about America. It’s like when you were a teenager and you hated your parents, but when someone else called your mum a witch you’d be really upset.

The young man I met who wanted to apply for his green card is doing well in America, achieving more success than he ever did in England so, of course, he loves being here and is embracing it, because the American dream is working – even for the Englishman. My Indian friends are American first and Indian second they are more attached to the American culture even though some of them were actually born in India. They say “You have to embrace the country you’re in, if you want to be a success in it, don’t trash it”.

When I went on stage and ridiculed celebrity culture, some people in the audience were really offended. It says a lot about what people value these days, when you ridicule homophobia, misogyny and racism and no one responds, but when you ridicule Paris Hilton someone gets really irate.

I’m now embracing all things LA. Colonic irrigation, yoga and wearing sunglasses indoors. Hopefully once I’ve done these things for a while maybe I’ll qualify to be American enough to joke about them.


The author is an award winning stand-up comedian and writer. She has performed all over the world. A columnist for The Guardian UK, she was named Columnist of the Year at the prestigious PPA Awards. Find out more from her website.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Shazia Mirza is an award winning stand-up comedian and writer. She has performed all over the world. A columnist for The Guardian UK, she was named Columnist of the Year at the prestigious PPA Awards. Find out more from her website. Follow her on Twitter @shaziamirza1.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (27) Closed

Aamed Oct 07, 2012 07:04pm
Blind patriotism is a dangerous thing. Better to be a citizen of the world.
Mani Oct 07, 2012 11:16am
Wow seems like you're in real superficial place. Where you can't be yourself and have to robot it up in the name of dream. A dream symbolically means attaining happiness and happiness is something, we set, as a benchmark to achieve for ourselves.
Shah Oct 08, 2012 07:02am
I can assure you: America is nothing like your country - India! Had you been there then you would have known. I would love to point out the differences but the list would have been too long for anyone to read it.
rajiv Oct 06, 2012 01:42pm
How difficult it is for a pakistani origin person to understand that where you live and what gives you bread and butter is your country... i live back here in india but i would be proud of those indians who live in any other country and put their residence country first to india... its calls loyality madam... i am not sure why you could write thousand lines on this and still dont understand it...
peddarowdy Oct 07, 2012 12:44pm
I have never been to America but I love it. Why? Because it is so much like my own country - India. The colour, the music, the love of arts, the passion, the diversity, the dumb-headedness of the politicians, similar Constitution, Democracy... The list goes on.
Haq Oct 06, 2012 01:54pm
No one anywhere in the world with any amount of self-respect likes an outsider criticiszing them even if it is the truth, actually especially if it's the truth. It's basic etiquette not to insult your hosts.
Cyrus Howell Oct 06, 2012 02:13pm
When the children of immigrants go through primary school and high school in American they become 100% American. I have been seeing this for 50 years. They are indoctrinated with patriotism. America may not be the best country in the world but it was the best creation of any government the world has ever seen. It has a legal system that functions, a legal system drawn from a dramatic history. With all it's faults America is a country that works, and it works for a lot of people.
Jag Oct 06, 2012 08:36pm
Thought it was going to be an interesting read ...... Not
Tariq Oct 06, 2012 03:49pm
I just came back from a two week visit to England. What a depressing country. It rained just about every day. The people (white or brown) were grim faced and unfriendly. I used the underground a lot while visitng London, and every time I tried to start a conversation with a Brit who happened to be sitting next to me, I received either an unfriendly grunt or total silence in return. What a treat it was to walk out after two weeks abroad and once again take in the blue California sky. We Americans have made our share of mistakes (I still cannot believe we elected George W Bush twice!), we are not perfect, but after all is said and done, I would not want to live anywhere else in the world. America is the greatest country on earth. Bar none.
Andrew Oct 08, 2012 03:11am
Shazia's article is close to my experience. I am British and have visited America many times. It is fine for a visit but sterile and detached from the realities of the rest of the world. A two week visit is enough. I would rather live in Pakistan where people understand the tough side of life.
Zaid Hameed Oct 07, 2012 07:58am
Even I have lived in America and it is true the legal system is great to go with a civilized culture and practices yet it is a country for people who have nothing in their homeland to go for. I noticed there were a lot of jobs but all were odd jobs, People were mostly underemployed. I realized I was lonely within a month I was there. I had a much better life style living in Pakistan. What might have kept me there was clubbing, women and alcohol but I am not that sort so it looks good even when you are there but the feeling is not that great at the same time.
Sam Oct 07, 2012 12:57am
I see britishers mourning and cursing about UK.Plenty of Britishers take up migration to Canada,Australia,NewZealand and US.But Americans are very patriotic and they really love their country.
proud Pakistani Oct 08, 2012 08:39am
Please come to Pakistan people will love you .
AL Oct 06, 2012 08:22pm
krishnan Oct 07, 2012 12:11am
While agreeing with you, I find the English are the most cool about criticism.I think it comes naturally to them. Like the teenager's situation, very aptly quoted by the author, our natural defensiveness come up, whenever someone criticizes something which is not in our comfort zone.
Khan Oct 08, 2012 03:57am
I was born in Pakistan and have spent the last 15 years in America. I love everything about America. No matter where you were born, what your skin color or religion is, how old or young you are, if you have the passion and drive to do well in life, I think America is the only nation in the world where you will feel and see this success. The laws, Governance, Regulation, Govt Support etc is so organized in the US that you feel the pride and sense of accompolishment. Yes, I disagree with the U.S.'s foreign policies, but guess what, Pakistans biggest enemy are Pakistanis, no one else.
Joe Oct 06, 2012 09:14pm
(Quote) "They said,
Tariq Oct 08, 2012 12:30pm
I am sorry you did not get the joke. The writer is a stand-up comedian, and I was making the point about how stand-up comedians (along with travel writers) rely on gross generalizations. Of course I don't think all Brits are sour and unfriendly. Although you could not really blame them if they were. Living day after day in that dreary climate would sour anyone's disposition.
Saad (DXB) Oct 07, 2012 10:52pm
This has nothing to do with being a Pakistani origin person Genius. No where in this article nor on her website does she say that she is Pakistani. In fact her website clealry says that she is a thoroughbred Britisher.
aaa Oct 06, 2012 02:40pm
I agree its not much to do with one being from england and going to america. Same thing is experienced by people from pakistan or india when they go to england as well. People will be happy as long as you are criticizing what they criticize in their and in your culture but not if you suddenly comment on something that is flawed in their culture. One takes it personal.
Raw is War Oct 06, 2012 03:27pm
Anshu Oct 08, 2012 04:38am
I have been in US and still continue to live here. I may not be here permanently; but I do respect the country immensely. The legal system, free culture and accepting people. All countries in the world have problems; there is no BEST country in the world. So please don't start complaining about the evils of US. To all Americans reading this just wanted to say "Thanks".
The_Progressive_Conservative Oct 07, 2012 01:47pm
You judged a whole country and culture based on 2 weeks in London? Wow.
BEA Oct 07, 2012 12:10pm
I cannot understand people who want to forgett where they come from if you are born in the UK you are British we apyed fpr your education medical bills how can you forgett your own country i have lived around the world including USA,,Middle east the Far East and Africa not at any time did i tell anyone i was not British because that is what i am i was Born in the UK my family live here you cannot deny your roots. this man probebly likes the US because of its weather here in the UK its always cold.
farid Oct 06, 2012 03:35pm
of course US is going through social evolution, early stages of evolution. The country has no history, except sky scrapers and steel. we don't know what it will become in few hundred years. Unfortunately evolution is a very slow process.
Sam Oct 07, 2012 01:40pm
UK is a over populated small island.Where as USA have lots of space and everything is big and modern in USA.
TI Oct 07, 2012 08:26pm
You and your English friend are displaying inferiority complex. How can you generalize America. Just stick to your day job of being a comedian (or rather keep improving it).