One of the things you find when moving country is that people ask you what like/dislike about your new country. When we moved to the US we didn’t have a big plan, we just stumbled into it. We didn’t have in mind to become rich on the fat of the US (figuratively or literally), and we didn’t specifically plan to stay or come back (though we’d always assumed we’d want to come back at some point). Nonetheless it was incumbent on us to comment on our new home.
The two things I would routinely point out (once I’d worked out that this was required) were normality and optimism. The former highlighted that Americans are really the same as Brits, at least from hour to hour. We all want to do whatever work we need to (either for money or for self-satisfaction/ambition), see family and friends, watch the football (whatever shape it might be), eat too much and bitch about others. Look wider than that and you can find endless differences in our attitudes to the rest of the world, consumerist natures, etc, but day-to-day we are the same. I suspect that’s true of most peoples around the world.
Optimism is, perhaps, the most basic area in which we differ. In America there is an assumption that things will work out. Whatever it is you’re thinking of trying, you should go for it because there’s a good chance it will work. And if it doesn’t, the next idea will. Whether it’s a new business or just a new haircut, it’s worth doing. This isn’t universal, of course; there are plenty of people who live without hope, or with utterly false hope (lottery, NBA draft, etc). But while it isn’t universal, it is pervasive; wherever you go there will be someone who aspires.
In the UK, and I apologize for my choice of words here but it’s really the best way to put it, the general assumption is that things are basically shit. You can try to build a business, but you’ll fail. Yes you can go to college, but you’re not really bright enough. That looks like a great car to buy, but the guy who’s selling it to you is trying to rip you off. The Millennium Dome? A stupid idea from the start. Actually the Millennium Dome was a stupid idea from the start, but the point is that it couldn’t have been thought of otherwise because it involved ambition, and ambition defines shitness.
I’m not a particularly ambitious person as it happens – I’d quite like to start a business, but can’t even aspire as far as working out what it would do – but living once again in an environment where the default attitude is cynicism can drag even cynical me down, and I’m sure it will take some getting used to.
On the other hand, the bacon here is fantastic.