British-ness

The Sealed Knot

The Sealed Knot is a Civil War Re-enactment Group. When we talk about the Civil War we mean the one we had in the 17th century after which we gave up on republicanism as a bad job and set up a global empire instead. That turned out well.

I do understand that the rest of the world is not blessed with being British. In fact, I am not even sure whether I mean British or English when I say this. As a nation within a United Kingdom of other nations, I am so confused as to my national identity that I can’t even tell you where I am from. It all depends on context.

The question “Where are you from, EBL?” elicits one of the following responses:

If the question is asked by a foreigner and I am abroad, I will say British.

If the question is asked by a foreigner and we are in the UK, I will say English.

If the questioner is British and we are in England, I will say Yorkshire

If we are in South or West Yorkshire, I will say North Yorkshire

If we are in North Yorkshire, I will say “village near t’ Moors”

If we are close to my village I will say its name

If we are in my village I will say “I was born near London” and be subjected to much hilarity and ritual abuse. After that we all have a pint and take the piss out of Westies (people from West Yorkshire). It might be worth noting that the pint could comprise either tea or beer, but not usually both at the same time.

So imagine my joy at falling over a meme on Facebook about British Problems. I have to confess I am guilty of pretty much all of them, so now I know that I am in fact British.

It turns out there are lots of these on the web but I thought I would share a couple here as a warning to anyone who might be planning a visit to our sceptred isle, set in its silver sea.

I was looking forward to a nature documentary but when I sat down to watch it the narrator wasn’t David Attenborough

Honestly, if the national religion in this country is the NHS, then the national voice for all things furry, scaled, feathered or generally of the living persuasion is David Attenborough. You all know it’s true. The BBC exports enough of his stuff to the rest of you. His hushed tones allow you to share his reverence and awe for the natural world in all its quirky, stupendous glory. As a nation we are honoured to have him as one of our own.

If you visit us, however, we are not all like David. Oh no.

I live outside the UK so when I say “With all due respect” no one realises I’m insulting them

This is something visitors need to look out for. Listen for tone of voice or heavy sighs, and perhaps look for crossed arms or hands on hips. When Brits speak loudly and slowly it’s because they think you are slow of English or that you are a pain in the neck (or both).

Similarly

I phoned Netflix customer support, which is US based; they were so overly polite I thought they were being sarcastic and hung up

From this you can assume that customer service in the UK is of a different nature to that of the US. It might not be as bad as in Paris, but only because we keep apologising while stitching you up. I don’t know what your own country is like and I’m sure it varies in different parts of the world, but if you had a line representing the best and worst of US customer service, British customer service would be off the scale at the worst end. If we do it really well, you might not even know we are mocking you.

Don’t be fooled by the fact we apologise for everything either. In fact, I suspect the whole “Nation of Sorries” thing might take an entire new post, so that’s all for now. I need to go and tidy up before the cleaner gets here. I wouldn’t want her to find the house a mess.

How British are you? It’s not a matter of birth but of attitude!

Namaste

 

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8 thoughts on “British-ness

    • it’s all in the context, and who is playing whom in a sporting engagement
      If anyone tells you otherwise they are lying

      • I’m sort of glad that the US really only has American. Still, we co-opted that from the continent. If I go abroad, I’ll probably pretend I’m Canadian though.

  1. I found a really good diagram online a few years ago that broke down UK/British/English/all the others 🙂

    My grandmother was from England and, upon coming to the US after WWII, dropped her accent almost right away (some family members were ugly about it). So she didn’t sound.English/British, but she didn’t sound Southern either. My mother learned to talk that way (neutral, no accent), then I picked it up, so I still have nearly no southern accent at all. And there’s my random comment story.

    • Accents are odd. When I visited Canada as a child people thought I was Canadian after I had been there a week. Now they think I’m from West Yorkshire (it’s a different accent locally).
      And I guess that’s a bit of a random response 🙂

  2. I say I am from the UK, or if talking to someone in the UK I say the county I’m from, that’s about it. I like to maintain an air of mystery 🙂

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