America: A place that you can never “tick off” your travel checklist, you can only observe the tip of the iceberg as understanding it fully would take a lifetime.

The magnitude of this country is indescribable and hard to appreciate, especially for two young English girls embarking on their first “living abroad” experience. For us, America conjured imagery of strength, pride, and global presence beyond that of other countries. This message seemed epitomized by the American flags hung proudly across Maine. The only time the English find it appropriate to display flags is during the World Cup — and even that splits the population due to the belief that they are “tacky.”

So, to the naïve outsider, this land of states seems not only unified but self-aware, knowing and understanding its position on the world stage.

The American postcard image shattered quickly as we only had to scratch the surface to see that American unification and belief did not run deep. There are inclusive small sets of beliefs, cultures, and purposes contradicting one another whilst remaining under this umbrella. This discovery seems to contradict the projected image of America and we could not help but feel that the “American Dream” was actually “America: A Marketing Machine” simply selling us a prescribed ideal. Disillusioned and almost hurt from this realization, it occurred to me that maybe fellow English visitors have this negative view freeze framed in their minds. They forever live with the belief that America’s image has just as much substance and meaning as the semi-reality TV show “The Hills.” Before ranting and raving on our soap boxes with blind belief that England was ‘better’, a critical eye needed to be cast over our own image mechanics.

England: A small island steeped in history. It may only take a few hours to cross from side to side but it is the residence to the most famous monarchy in the world and the birthplace of musical legends such as The Beatles. It is the homeland of the British Empire with a national anthem hailing the Queen for leading the country to victory, making all men into brothers, and respecting the law of our land. On reflection, I suddenly realized and had to raise the question: apart from our music success in the 60s, what does England actually stand for now? We sing our national anthem out of respect at the correct times, but are the words relevant and do we believe in them anymore? The idea of working in the King or Queens’s name had somewhat disappeared in the last hundred years. Our Government takes our military overseas. Nowadays, our men represent the people and families of our country. I have more frequently been asked whether we still listen to the Spice Girls than anything to do with our heritage. I realized that we were criticizing and mocking America for projecting a form of unification that as country, England had stopped doing.

England is continually debating and trying to define terms such as “multicultural” and what it means to us. We are trying to define our unification through religion, the same as we were 500 years ago. We are resting on our historical precedence and not updating or investing in our current image. It is now clear that America projects their chosen image as it is a framework for various people to operate within and unite when needed. Even though we are far too conservative to dress our houses with flags, I think we have to humbly stand corrected and pay some respect to American’s projected image; England is the one who could do with an image makeover.

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