Do you really understand the English and all their ‘Englishness’?

"Anyone for tea?"

If I start this topic I feel that I could be opening a huge can of worms on my blog. To all of the American readers out there this post is just a small taste of my view on the English and ‘Englishness‘. I have to admit that ‘Englishness’ seems even more English when compared with Americans. By that I do not mean any offence to Americans (just before you log off or start typing in a frenzy at me).

I am currently reading a great book at the moment calledWatching The English: The hidden rules of English behaviour‘ by Kate Fox. The book makes observations of the way the English talk, dress, eat, drink, work, play, shop, drive, flirt, fight, queue – and moan about it all – and it exposes the hidden rules that the English (including myself) all unconsciously obey. It is frighteningly true! Frightfully true! Goodness me….I’ve come over all English. I need a cup of tea, at once!

It is refreshing to read a book about the English (perhaps as I am English). OK, normally I would say that I am British, but as Kate Fox states in her book she is looking at the English side of British culture and life. Those from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have slight variations in culture, etc etc…..But, I’m not getting into that discussion today.

Working outside of England (I live and work in The Netherlands), and being a reasonably well-travelled person, I am always curious about people’s perceptions of the English. Quite often I feel that the English are misunderstood and too often taken at face value.  The same could be said for other nationalities too, but that’s another debate.  People in mainland Europe often think that the British are ‘reserved’, ‘polite’ and ‘well-mannered’ whereas others complain that the English are ‘rowdy’, ‘uncontrolled’ and ‘raucous’. We can’t be all of those extremes, surely? It seems that the English take criticism for almost everything they do. The book I am reading does have some contrasting examples of how the English and Americans are often poles apart when it comes to behaviour and attitude, yet both ‘get it in the neck’.

I remember back in 1998, the UK hosted the Eurovision Song Contest. (For those of you who don’t know, this is ‘allegedly’ a singing contest where countries of Europe compete against each other. The long-running TV competition is broadcast live around the world). During the opening minutes of the show in 1998, the host, Terry Wogan says to the loud and excited live studio audience (including myself) to “Hold it down to a dull roar……… The rest of Europe thinks the British are reserved”.

Film and TV portray an ‘Englishness’ which fits into such a cliché. The accent is always ‘BBC English‘ or RP. It frustrates me that the English person (in American films) tends to have the ‘stiff upper lip’ or ‘clumsy and simple’ character. Hugh Grant – you have a lot to answer for. We English are not all like that. We don’t live in pretty little cottages and drink tea with our scones at 16:00 sharpish. We don’t all know that one person that you may have met once upon a time in London.

I saw this video on YouTube which made me laugh at some of the more lighthearted differences between the English and Americans. Words. It is entitled ‘How to speak English’. I challenge you (American’s especially) to guess the meanings of the words. There are so many words which we do not share. OK, we share the majority of the language. However, over time there have been so many new words. Have fun watching the American guy trying to work out what these ‘typically English’ words mean. The YouTube blog http://www.youtube.com/user/charlieissocoollike is great fun!

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7 thoughts on “Do you really understand the English and all their ‘Englishness’?

  1. Being an English geezer (bloke/guy), I find it hilarious when Americans call their arse their fanny (for us its the female bits at the front). Similarly, when I was last in New York my brother wanted a cigarette and when I told the party at the table that he had ‘nipped out for a fag’, they nearly choked! I also remember being in Florida with my dad when he cut his leg, so we stopped at a store to try and find some ‘plasters’ – band aids – the checkout clerk thought he wanted to get pissed (drunk)!

    • The Charlie videos are really good fun. There’s a whole series of them on YouTube. I’ve enjoyed watching a few of them. Glad you liked it. Thanks for coming by. Jamie

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