Collins and Lyall rise above a reductive interpretation of British culture with the same tools they would use to write any story: by finding something that might resonate with American readers, and then using that to better explore the intricacies of the issue. Collins wrote a popular article about the Daily Mail in April, which she thinks got such a great reaction because many American readers were already familiar with the MailOnline. “I’m not sure it would have made such an impact if the MailOnline hadn’t been making such inroads in the States,” she says. “Maybe the answer is that you have to write about something really, really British, or really, really universal.”

Understanding any culture takes an investment of time that most American readers probably don’t make. “I’ve lived here a long time and it takes a while to get used to the irony, misdirection, humor,” says Lyall. “You have to get used to the fact that you can’t suddenly go and confide everything you ever thought or did to someone you just met at a social occasion, the way you might in New York City.”

It can’t be that bad: Lyall is married to a Brit, and Collins is already trying to work out how to extend her visa so that she can stay in the UK for a third year. But there is one bit of British culture that Collins says she will never understand. “English desserts I can never quite get on board with,” she says, laughing. “The fruit and booze combination! When I flip through the Sunday supplements, there’s never anything I want to make for dessert.”


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Hazel Sheffield is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @hazelsheffield.