Cultural Differences Between Brits & Yanks Starting With Axioms of Language and Humor

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A colleague recently forwarded me a pair of articles dealing with the subtle cultural differences between Brits and Americans when it comes to rhetorical styling and humor. Both articles basically came to the conclusion that Americans are much more comfortable with a direct approach, where hopes, fears, aspirations, successes and ambitions can be clearly stated, whereas Brits rely on irony, self-deprecation and sarcasm to better get the point across, whilst simultaneously not becoming a target for scorn or mockery.

Interestingly, even some of what’s come to be considered Winston Churchill’s most inspiring speeches from World War II (“Fight on the beaches” and “Their finest hour”) were, at the time, considered too assured and head on for British tastes.

And in the realm of modern humor, it seems that Americans have more of an appetite for British irony than the British have for America’s directness (check out this list of British TV shows remade for a US audience). And, while you’re at it, try to think of a single American TV show, especially a comedy, that was ever remade for a British audience. Can you?

All of this brings me to my point, Winston Churchill and Ricky Gervais aside. When it comes to the workplace, what do you find more enjoyable or less taxing to be around: the direct approach and open ambition of the US or the self-deprecation and irony common to a UK office? What kind of humor are you accustomed to in the workplace?

Adam from RW3 CultureWizard

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