Thursday, 7 April 2011

Class Wars

One of the biggest differences I've noticed is how class is perceived.  

In America, most people consider themselves "middle class".  It's a synonym for "regular people".  In England, it connotes a much more lofty status.  "Regular people" would refer to someone as "middle class" in a derogatory manner.  (Which is a whole other issue of American's finding things aspirational, where Brits find them worthy of ridicule.)  Middle class in England has a stodgier and more privileged implication.   The two are so different that wikipedia even has 2 separate entries.  American Middle Class vs. UK Middle Class

In general the thing I find most confusing is the difference between how class is determined.  In America, it tends to have more to do with each individual person's socio-economic position.  In England, it seems that  it's got more to do with family history.  There's less mobility.  People tend to be of the same status as the past several generations of their family.  Yes, in America people with resources (i.e. money) are most likely to succeed, but it seems that people move up the ladder more frequently than in the UK.  I've had this post sitting in my queue of drafts for quite sometime, but recent events brought this topic back to the forefront of my mind.

The biggest difference, I suppose, is the definition of Upper Class.  In England, you have to be landed gentry. This group doesn't really exist in the States.  Mostly, American Upper Class is just defined as "really, really wealthy".  Sure there is some clash between old and new money, but there is less strict entry criteria.   In America a family like the Middleton's (whose daughter is going to marry the future King) would most likely be grouped in the upper class.  Instead, Middleton is viewed as a lowly commoner and regular girl, even though her parents are multi-millionaires and she attended exclusive schools growing up.

I don't know that there's much point to this post, other than that it's a difference in the cultures that I've been thinking about.  It seems that England is more concerned with America than class.  Am I right?

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