Watching the English

So, back to the “familiarities” of England I mentioned earlier.  New Zealand is a culturally similar place to England as it was a British colony and many of its inhabitants either have direct or ancestral ties to England.  However, New Zealand society is far more level and it is much more of a meritocracy than England.  Of course, given that my parents are English I am probably more English than some, and especially after the foreign-ness of Paris, London with its chip shops (never mind that I prefer french fries) and red telephone boxes felt like a welcoming place.

The reason I have been thinking about all of this is because I have just started reading Watching the English, by Kate Fox.  It is a book on the social anthropology of England (as an aside, I am currently not reading purely for pleasure but carefully choosing my reading material for personal study reasons as well.  This is my “reward reading” for getting through the French translation of Onze Minutes by Paulo Coelho.  Thank you for the recommendation, Louise!)

Anyway, I have to say this book has terrified me.  I have so far read the chapters on conversation and class, and I may never speak to another English person again.  Indeed, as the book quotes George Bernard Shaw, “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate him or despise him”.  Of course, my advantage here is that I am not an Englishman – I suspect have the benefit of being given the leeway afforded to foreigners while still possessing enough “Englishness” to get by.  But it is still a fine line to be tread!

I would recommend the book though as it cleverly explains all sorts of seemingly nonsensical English traits such as talking about the weather, saying “sorry” all the time, constant self-deprecation, and getting involved in pointless pub arguments.  I can’t wait to get to the bit where the author deliberately queue-jumps to observe how people react.


2 thoughts on “Watching the English

  1. talking about the weather, saying “sorry” all the time, constant self-deprecation, and getting involved in pointless pub arguments.
    That describes most American women, too.

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