Summer reading: Watching the English ~ Brand Mix

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer reading: Watching the English

If you 1) Are English and wonder why you act the way you do or 2) Have spent time with English people and wonder why they act the way they do, this book provides some answers. I'm English and my wife's American so, now that I've read the book, I'm going to give it to her so that she can see that whatever irritating English things that I still do, even though I've lived in America for 20 years, are NOT MY FAULT.

Just three things that this book reveals:

1) The weather: English people do not talk about the weather all the time because they are interested in the weather. They talk about the weather because it's a convenient form of ritual greeting used as an ice breaker to overcome our social disabilities. Important note to the non-English: Whatever an English person says about the weather, however wrong it might be, etiquette requires you to agree. (Five years in LA "cured" me of this particular ritual because, in LA, there's no weather to talk about.)

2) Humor: The English person's basic antidote to our social "dis-ease" is humor which we use all the time, even in times and places that other cultures would find inappropriate. Humor is, as author Kate Fox says, "our default mode," a "reflex, a knee-jerk response" used to combat awkwardness or from taking ourselves too seriously. (I'm still deeply afflicted with this condition. Even my daughter (6) knows this and asks after most of the things I say: "Are you kidding?" And usually I am.)

3) Eeyorishness: Defined as: "More than just incessant moaning... it is utterly ineffectual: we never complain to or confront the source of our discontent, but only whinge endlessly to each other, and proposing practical solutions is forbidden by the moaning rules." A condition exemplified by the national catchphrase "Typical" or "Better make the most of it." (I'm partially cured after prolonged exposure to the very different American attitude.)

Overall, a highly recommended book although at 400+ pages of small type, it takes some time to get through.

Other reviews of this book:
1) The anthropology of contemporary culture: Grant McCracken
2) The English and the magical properties of tea: Mind Hacks


Anonymous said...

Nice Post
Steven Spurrier

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Vic said...

Hi Martin, although I have not yet meet a lot of British, I know they are good. And when it comes to humor...hmmmmm I love Mr. Bean.

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