America and Britain: Reflection Through Contrast
While reading Bill Bryson’s, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, I immediately identified a similar theme that we have been addressing all semester long. Specifically, in continuation of last week’s class discussion, Bill uses travel, a change in scenery, as a way of highlighting his major points of cultural emphasis. By showing us the British and American cultures side by side, Bill offers us the chance to explore both countries by way of contrast. Interestingly though, as we begin to analyze the “grey areas” that exist between British and American culture, we begin to notice things about our own culture that would have otherwise gone unnoticed; Bryson gives us the opportunity to experience and understand our culture through a different lens. This same moment of individual epiphany—our departure and reunion with our cultural identity--also occurs when encountering humor and travel.
On page 11, Bryson highlights a major cultural difference between Britain and America through the mundane comparison of marketing strategies for the respective cultures/audiences. Specifically, he references a commercial for a cold relief capsule and explains that while British commercials “would promise no more than that it might make you feel a little better . . . A commercial for the selfsame product in America would guarantee total, instantaneous relief”(11). Here, we notice that Bryson—while being hilarious—allows us to both reflect and laugh as we start to see the absurdity within our own culture. By use of humor and a rather benign attack on our irrational and unrealistic expectations as a country, Bryson is able to ignite our curiosity about our other cultural shortcomings; He encourages us to think about other instances where we may be acting absurdly outside of our awareness.