All the hoopla about the Bears playing in London brings back a lot of memories from the first time the team played there. It was back in 1986 when they played the Dallas Cowboys at the old Wembley Stadium. At the time, I was a reporter for WBBM-TV Channel 2 and was sent to London to do “sidebars” — human interest stories — while the team was there.
Among the things I learned: unlike their American counterparts, British television crews did NOT eat in their cars between assignments. As the chief photographer of my crew told me, “If we can’t sit down for a proper bite, Phil, we’d rather not eat at all.” Wow!
The accepted “personal space” to conduct an interview was much different in England than in America. Here, chairs are set up just a few feet apart for an interview. In Britain, my local crew regularly put me at least a couple of yards from the person I was interviewing. As a result, psychologically, I could barely get a question out. I just felt too far away.
Americans living there for years joked (and bemoaned) the fact that Brits they had encountered for years at their children’s school, for example, would still not speak to them because they had not been “properly” introduced. Americans on extended assignment also said that in business settings, Brits did not shake hands nearly as much as Americans and that British men wore a lot less jewelry. The list goes on.
I wish there’d been a book for me to read like Rules Britannia: An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom by former Brit, now-Chicagoan, Toni Hargis. Hargis explains the multitude of social differences between the two cultures. The bottom line of the book: Britain is not just America with an accent (and conversely, America is not just Britain without one!)