A guide to understanding the English (Part 1)

As part of my ‘I’m on holiday and therefore most likely unable to access the internet’ defences, I have set the publishing date for this one to approximately halfway through my holiday. If I’ve managed to post between this post and my slutty clothes post, then clearly, I have internet and this whole intro is useless. Sadly, I cannot see the future, so what luck! You can all read random musings that I’m sure ended up forgotten in my drafts folder for a good reason.

I am chronically unable to self-promote. It’s an occupational hazard of being English. You see, in England, it is considered the height of rudeness to mention that you are pretty good at something. I have been known to actively deny that I am good at playing the piano, while playing the piano and being told that I am good at playing the piano. And I’m not good at playing the piano (I had to say that to prevent myself from falling into a spiral of despair and self-loathing due to the fact that I just implied that I might think I was good at playing the piano).

A major unspoken rule for English people is that when talking to someone, you never mention any issues to do with their appearance. This isn’t just a case of not pointing out that the person you are talking with has bad breath. That’s just common politeness. This is where you are not allowed to make any comment on that person’s appearance besides how nice they’re looking today. If, for example, they have a bit of food in their teeth you do not comment on it. Here’s a live example: I was talking to my piano teacher, and squirming my way through the conversation because I could see that she had a tag hanging off her top. However, because I am English and therefore unable to communicate through my bad teeth any sounds other than ‘Haw-Haw, righto, chap’, I literally couldn’t say anything to her. As soon as she noticed the tag, she ripped it off and asked why I hadn’t told her sooner. My piano teacher is South African. From there the conversation dissolved into the differences between South African and English etiquette.

As an English person, I am literally unable to express pleasure in anything. Unless it’s tea. Then, it has to be English tea (Earl Grey or PG Tips), made by an English person, in the English (ie correct) fashion. We will have no ‘putting your tea leaves in the coffee machine’. Iced tea is not tea. Iced tea is upmarket squash. Tea does not belong in a plastic cup. Unless your tea is in a flask (or at worst, a polystyrene cup), the container must have a handle. Otherwise how else am I supposed to sip tea with my little finger stuck out?

I am obliged to be mildly condescending to any foreign person or thing I encounter. I am not allowed to praise anything foreign, because that would be disrespectful to The Mighty England. This includes the Scottish and the Sheep Shaggers Welsh. Every time I am in a foreign country, I am only allowed to be comfortable if I have created a bubble-shaped miniature outpost of England around me. This requires a copy of The Daily Telegraph, a mug of tea, a lobster-like sunburn and an air of discontented disdain combined with a hint of fish-out-of-water. I must also complain loudly about cultural differences and ‘why can’t they just do things properly, like at home’. This especially applies if the service in question is considerably better than in England (see French vs British train services as an example).

This is an incomplete list, but I hope it will begin to break down the icy-cold barrier that is the stiff upper lip (although I’ve always thought it should be the stiff lower lip, as that’s the lip that normally wobbles when some sodding bugger won’t let you play tea-parties with them).

PS. The introduction was incredibly hard to write, as I had to write it in the present tense when I really wanted to use the future. I keep forgetting that this is not going to be read until a week after I write it.

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2 thoughts on “A guide to understanding the English (Part 1)

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with which I could identify more! You’re so English! I was sat here, drink earl grey from a bone china tea cup and saucer with my pinkie sticking out, lamenting a debate I had the other day with my friends at school over the importance of The Royals (they’re perfect, they’re English, they ‘summer’ in Balmoral and ‘take tea’) when I saw a description of myself – all that englishy stuff in this post. Your blog’s now a firm favourite. Also, hope you got into Royal Holloway – I live in Berkshire and can understand the beauty of that uni, with its Hogwarts buildings.

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad you like my blog. Earl Grey is the best tea, full stop! I haven’t applied to uni yet, but I’ll be doing it this year, so fingers crossed I can get to Royal Holloway. It’s absolutely gorgeous – I love the Founder’s Building!

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