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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November 2003, 12:15 GMT
'Guilty' by association?
How are US citizens living in London coping with the current tide of anti-Americanism? As George Bush touches down in the UK for the start of a controversial visit, four expats speak about the jokes, ridicule and the hostility they face.

George Bush
President Bush arrives on Tuesday
When George W Bush arrives in London on Tuesday, he will begin what is set to be the most controversial visit by a head of state in recent memory.

Demonstrators in their tens of thousands are expected to turn out to rail against his administration's foreign policy, its environmental record, and his presidency - numbers set to dwarf the dissent which greeted China's Jiang Zemin or the 1978 state visit by Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu.

While an opinion poll suggests that more Britons back the visit than oppose it, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has criticised the "fashionable anti-Americanism" he fears will blight the trip.

With feelings running high, how has this affected the many Americans who have made the UK their home?

Meighan Zoller, international relations student
  • From Virginia; arrived in October.
    "I got into a fight with a guy in a line to get into a club the other night about George Bush. I didn't realise how much everybody hates him until I came here.

    "I support my country and I support what he's doing. War isn't always the answer but he did what needed to be done in Iraq.

    "But I don't think it's a good idea for him to come here now; it's going to be a very hostile environment. I also think it's dangerous for him with all the terror threats. My folks have warned me to stay away from the places he's going, in case there is an attack.

    "I travel quite a lot now I'm here and we get told to say we're from Canada as it's much safer.

    "I went to Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park on Sunday. I love going there, but I keep a very low profile as there's so much anti-American feeling. One guy yelled "who all of you are Americans?" and I didn't raise my hand.

    "I felt ashamed for not admitting my nationality; at the same time, I don't want someone to attack me because I'm from the States. It's really sad that I can't be proud of where I'm from."

  • Bob Worcester, founder of polling company Mori
  • Resident in the UK for 34 years.
    "The invitation for George Bush's visit was made in good faith after 9/11 and we should respect that.

    "I'll be going to the state banquet on Wednesday. I've met him before - I was introduced as Britain's number one pollster and he said 'You tell Tony Blair he's doing a great job!'

    "I don't see anti-Americanism in the UK so much as anti-American-administrationism. When I do get drawn into debates about American policy, it's mainly with journalists - but that's also because I don't talk to many non-journalists.

    "What has surprised me is how fragile the relationship between our two nations is. We did a poll in August 2002 which showed that 75% of Britons approved of America - that dropped to 48% immediately before the Iraq war, then rebounded to just under 70%.

    "But I think that those who predict mass protests will end up with egg on their faces, just like those who suggested the Golden Jubilee would be a wash-out. It is a political protest by a tiny minority. Even if 60,000 turn out, that is a fraction of the population as a whole."

  • Julie Talbot, social researcher
  • Moved to London from Texas 11 years ago.
    "I'm quite keen to go to the protests myself if I can make it. Earlier this month Bush banned partial-birth abortions - a form of late abortion - which is my main reason for protesting.

    "I also object to the US trying to pull its troops out of Iraq just before the presidential election. And when I lived in Texas, I worked in local government for Ann Richards, the governor voted out when Bush was elected. It's quite a long standing grudge I have against him.

    "In the US, there's this feeling that you're anti-American if you don't support Bush - and I do find people saying that I've become anti-American since moving abroad. I don't think I am; I just get a fuller picture of what his administration is doing.

    "Now the US has become more aggressive, I can understand why people might feel hostility towards Americans. Living in the UK is more dangerous through its association with the US."

  • Tom Birmingham, works in finance
  • Arrived 14 months ago from Boston.
    "I find I'm frequently called on to explain the policies and positions of my country.

    "But I get more chiding and more jokes than anything else, especially over the foolishness of George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. People like to tease me that the American electorate must be stupid if these are the people they vote for.

    "I think the level of security being put in place is an insult to the British people, and a mistake on Bush's part - it doesn't reflect a good opinion of a country that is supposed to be our closest ally.

    "Nor would it go down well if it was put in place in the States. I've lived in Washington DC, and know what protesters are allowed to do there - the response would never be as extreme.

    "So I'll watch with baited breath to see what will go wrong during the state visit."

  • Are you an American living in the UK? Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

    I lived in the UK for 12 years during the Cold War as a US airman on a nuclear airbase. I lived in the local community and had to learn to deal with questions and comments from opposing extremes, from CND supporters to grateful WWII veterans. At first I shied away from any political conversation and tried to mask my nationality by being quiet. I soon found that most encounters were based on an inquisitive nature and a harmless desire just to debate.
    Walt , US

    I moved to Dublin 5 years ago. At first I did the typical thing of trying to disassociate myself from the "other Americans". I'd wince if I overheard a group of tourists loudly trying to locate a landmark or street, thinking they were terribly obnoxious. However, I soon realised that I was guilty of the same anti-Americanism that I accused others of. Now I have embraced my nationality, in fact become, dare I say it, proud of my nationality.
    Morrin Kilgallon, Ireland

    I lived in England for 16 years, returning to the US on day of all days, 9/11. I was in a public position for my years in England and had to deal with anti-American prejudice every day. There were even some encounters with the elderly that were driven by how American GIs behaved in England in WWII. Even my friends could not get past my being American when they would explain my character. It can make for a very lonely life continually checking how you behave as the perpetual "guest".
    Henry Jansma, US

    I moved to the UK 20 years ago to marry my English wife. At first, little jokes at the expense of my being American were mostly good-humoured, but over the years nastiness has crept in. The "fashionable anti-Americanism" started long before George Bush became president - he has merely provided a convenient focal point. It has been open season on all things American for years. The reason? Anything from genuine disagreement with policies to pure envy. Stand-up comedians, film critics, editorial writers all cannot wait to mock and criticise. The general population shouts out its agreement, then goes to McDonald's, drinks Coca-Cola, watches American films and TV shows, dresses in Levis, brags about holidays to Florida, etc.
    David Kujawa, born in USA, now resident in UK

    I've been living in the Manchester area for over six years and have often been put in the uncomfortable position of being expected to answer for the US. The constant portrayal of Americans as fat, dumb and arrogant shocked me when I arrived, as did the constant negativity in the press - I'd believed the UK & US had positive relationship.
    Karen, UK

    I came here in 1973, at the age of 19, in the middle of the Watergate hearings and immediately found myself personally responsible for all the corruption in the US government and the entire Vietnam war. Among other atrocities, I've since been responsible for cruise missiles, IRA funding and global warming. I'm genuinely sorry these things happened, but I never had anything to do with any of it, any more than my neighbour was responsible for the Whitechapel murders of 1888. Although I do feel sorry, I do not feel guilty.
    Ken Glandon, US expat

    I came to the UK 7 1/2 years ago and at first I was proud to tell people where I came from. Earlier this year I was granted UK citizenship; now when people ask where I am from, I tell then "I am American by birth, British by choice".
    Lara , England (ex-Nebrakaian)

    I have been here for five years and I've allowed comments about my country to make me feel ashamed. About a week after I arrived, a man said to me "I can tell you're American by the way you walk" and I replied "Really? I walk with my legs, how do you walk?" Another man told me how much he hates Americans "because they carry day bags with them everywhere", then asked me where the US Embassy was, as he wanted a visa to visit my country.
    Susan, UK (ex US)

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