“Overpaid, oversexed, and over here!”

The title of this post is something that was often said during WWII, a reference to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Britain and throughout Europe.  It was popularized by comedian Timmy Trinder, a British comedian who probably didn’t come up with it, but who nevertheless used it in some of his routines.  The American G.I.’s had a comeback about the Brits: “Underpaid, undersexed, and under Eisenhower.”

It demonstrates something, though, about cultures.  Even though the Americans and the British soldiers had many, many things in common (they were mostly white, spoke English, were all soldiers, and carried many of the same Western cultural values), nevertheless there was a feeling of different-ness that colored their relationships with one another.  Not that there was necessarily animosity; by all accounts, there were a lot of positive feelings between the two countries’ armies.  However, there was the constant feeling that they just didn’t belong together.

This goes against the grain of the political correctness of our day, that imagines us more as a global society without boundaries.  In reality, there are a lot of boundaries, and I think we all know it.

Which is why one of the most interesting elements in a story is the clashing of cultures.  One of the things Jack Vance is well known for is playing up cultural clashes.  Often characters in his story find themselves having to interact with people who are culturally very different, and this leads to all manner of trouble.

So when you’re writing, consider culture and how it might play into the trouble that your characters will face.

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