US/UK Differences: Red

You may recall that I was born an American but moved to England for good in 1995.  I can’t help but mention the odd difference between the two cultures from time to time…

My Helios is a red-head.  While I was raised to not judge people by colour of their skin, in England there is a long-held prejudice against red-heads.  Oh sure there is the preconceived notion that red-heads have a terrible temper on both sides of the Atlantic.  But in the US that’s really where the generalisations and persecution stops.  When I was young, the thought that red-heads have a terrible temper never stopped me from making friends.  Consequently I found that red-heads don’t have any more of a temper than I do.

However, in England the treatment of red-heads is so objectionable that it’s little wonder they are commonly thought to have a terrible temper.  This English prejudice ranges from a cold adjective thrown at a red-head to downright humiliation.  Helios is regularly called “Ginger”.  While in the US this is simply another adjective to describe a red-head, while in England “Ginger” is usually said with a cold venom.

More disgustingly, red-heads are also regularly called “ginger pubes” – as if red-hair shouldn’t stop on their heads.  It is common practice for hen parties to go to pubs and force the prospective bride to perform certain embarrassing tasks.  These tasks always include asking a red-headed man to reveal his lower-garden for general ridicule.

Red-heads are always considered to be less attractive than blonds or brunettes.  I was once told by a former friend to never have children with Helios just in case it came out ginger.  “You wouldn’t want a ginger baby!” she said.  I didn’t stick around long enough to ascertain if she meant that she understood about the prejudice and how hard a red-headed child might have life in the UK– or if she simply meant that any child that Helios and I might have produced had the potential of being ugly.  It’s a good thing I’m not a violent woman because that former friend nearly got a smack in the mouth!

I first met my Helios on the telephone – he worked in a different office of the same company.  We became friends without really knowing what the other person looked like.  So when we had the necessary conversation involving what the other person like when we met for the first time, he described himself as “fat, bald and ginger”.  Well, let me tell you, he’s not fat – he’s actually very trim considering he has a desk job!  He’s bald, but I’m not in my 20s anymore and now find a man without hair to be very attractive.  As for ginger – that’s just a hair colour to me.  Although in the environment I’m discussing, you can understand why I thought he was putting himself down in three quickly-typed adjectives.

It’s a practice that I never really understood – the ridicule of another group simply because they are different.  There are enough hurdles in life without placing another before someone needlessly!



2 thoughts on “US/UK Differences: Red

  1. Wow, I honestly (being an American) never really knew that Ginger was meant as anything but hair color! How horrible that people are mocked or treated differently for their hair color! 😦

  2. Layla,
    Thanks so much for your comment. Although I know I’m guilty of some prejudice (I have to admit to being human!), I despise prejudice myself.

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