Friday, 23rd March, 2018

The US and the UK – Moving Closer or Getting Further Apart?

17, Jul 2015 By silb

Loving the States

Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different – the UK is a nation that has a slight obsession with – and a strong love for – US culture and US exports.

In the UK, we wear plenty of American clothing brands, we go to American fast food chains, and we consume loads of American films. For some reason I’m never quite sure what we ever gave the US in return, though – Richard Curtis films, maybe.  Not really a fair swap, is it?

The Global Accelerator

Globalization has changed everything . And sped everything up , too– including the evolution of our major cities. If it once seemed like the Big Smoke was lagging way behind the Big Apple, it’s caught up somewhat. London now joins New York in the unmistakeable top tier of world cities. London’s become so rich it has its own financial weather system. Walking down its streets you feel like you’re in a film. Indeed, there are even some famous Hollywood faces who’ve made London their home. The UK and the US feel comfortably close. Culturally if not always politically.

Crossing the Pond

While hearing an American accent London is totally unremarkable – like hearing a Scottish or Welsh accent, there seem to be fewer US nationals spread through the UK. Sure, if you spend any length of time in any of the larger cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow or Manchester, you’re bound to run into people from the States. But London definitely seems to be the main draw – and with its international feel, this is no surprise.

It’s difficult to get exact figures for the number of expats resident in any country – mainly because (I assume) people tend to move around, take citizenship and so on. It’s a kind of permanent flux situation – as social migration has been since the beginning of human time.

But to give you a rough idea of the expat numbers, the US is the third most popular destination for UK nationals – with more than three times as many Brit expats resident there as there are in France. Given that the closest point between the UK and France is, oh, around 21 miles it’s interesting that there are so many more expats across the Atlantic. The shared language must be a factor in this. Another Anglophone country takes top place for UK expatriation – Australia. Maybe it’s guaranteed sunshine as well as language?

Healthcare and banking

A recent story in the UK’s Guardian newspaper told of how Brit expats in the US find the health insurance costs to be a “kind of serfdom in The Land of The Free”. Ouch – but then this stuff goes two ways – with a well-known US singer once famously describing NHS hospitals as ‘old and Victorian’.

In terms of banking, the two countries also differ a fair amount. But one challenge remains universal. If you have no credit history in a foreign country, it’s pretty much the same as having no credit history at all – because these things don’t cross most of the world’s borders.

Both the US and the UK have seen their share of banking problems, of course. The reverberations of the subprime crisis in the US are still being felt today, while in the UK there have been various problems such as the near-fall of an entire bank as well as the mis-selling of credit card protection. The latter was essentially a superfluous insurance, as the words of one bank’s site clearly states: “your bank or card issuer is responsible for any transactions after you tell it your card has been lost or stolen” and the insurance referred to moneys spent after the incident of card theft. Go (as they say) figure!

The moral of these stories is of course that while both countries either side of the Atlantic are among the world’s richest (as well as both being full of clever, funny and hard-working people) the fact remains that when it comes to finances, always tread carefully when in a new situation.

The future

How will the UK and the US get on in future? Given that we speak very close variations of the same language, I doubt that these countries will diverge too much culturally in the next few decades. In fact, when high speed travel really has been perfected, there may even come a time when people commute from one country to the other – just like some folks on the US/Canada border do right now, just with a little more distance involved.