On my way down from Edinburgh, I finished “Watching the English” by Kate Fox. This was recommended to me by Geoff Arnold. The book is bloody funny and so true. Its written by one of Britain’s leading social anthropologists, using her science to observe the English. She has the grace to start her book with a discourse on the “Participant Observer” paradox and manages to be funny about this as well.¬† The book covers manners, class, the pub, queuing, language and dress, together with some other issues that I can’t remember, but always returns to our humour.

She has a long section on queues and queue jumping. She doesn’t categorise this by which supermarket you use, which is a class thing; I’ve always found the queues in Somerfield friendly and co-operative and even occasionally been allowed to overtake someone when only buying a couple of things. (I always use cash at these times to speed up myself and my benefactor), but this never happens in Sainsburys. She also accurately identified the huge amount of status invested in a man’s (and I mean a man) car, however I’m really unclear that a Mercedes, even a relatively cheap one, has less status than an Audi. When did that happen?

Interestingly, I fail to score highly on some aspects of my “englishness”, I’m told its because of my families immigrant background, and I usually describe myself as British.

This book should be read by anyone that knows the English and needs a good laugh or by those who are mystified by the way we behave.

“Watching the English”, Kate Fox, Hodder & Stoughton , ISBN 0340818867


Originally posted on my sun/oracle blog, republished here in March 2016

Watching the English
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