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Watching the English

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Yesterday, whilst browsing in the Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill, I picked up a rather interesting book titled "Watching the English", by Kate Fox (she's an anthropologist, probably best known for essays on the unwritten rules of flirting in bars and such). Anyway, this book attempts to codify the unwritten rules of behaviour and social interaction in the English culture, in a professional, anthropological fashion.

So far, it's pretty fascinating. The book starts discussing the phenomenon of talking about the weather, identifying it as a social grooming ritual, going over the acceptable and unacceptable responses, the hierarchies of types of weather to be discussed, and also mentions the BBC's Shipping Forecast being a national ritual. Just from the subject of talking about the weather, she manages to get several tendencies, such as dislike for extremes, acceptance of eccentricity and social inhibition.

I skipped a bit further in the book, and a passage caught my eye arguing that the public mourning over Princess Diana's death, then decried as an "un-English" expression of sentiment, was characteristically English, in that there was very little wailing and no rending of clothes or melodrama, but rather a lot of orderly queueing.

I look forward to reading the rest of this book.
Current Music:
July Skies - The English Cold
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On April 22nd, 2005 12:07 pm (UTC), icecreaman commented:
it is interesting to note differences in what is the norm or what is acceptable in different cultures. I wonder what our own quirks are...
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On April 22nd, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC), kineticfactory replied:
I think much of Australian social norms are at least English-compatible. There'd of course be differences due to some combinations of Australia's different social history, geographical conditions, climatic conditions and the influences of other ethnic cultures (such as Mediterranean European cultures).
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On April 22nd, 2005 11:52 pm (UTC), reddragdiva replied:
Australians in England rapidly learn the art of carefully applied rudeness. It's like a superpower one brings out only when absolutely needed or for the fun of it.
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On April 23rd, 2005 12:01 am (UTC), kineticfactory replied:
How so?

What I heard is that a lot of Australian blokes (at least the working holidaymakers) do the Barry McKenzie thing; they assume the yobbo stereotype, drink fuckloads of Fosters, crack unsubtly onto any remotely convenient female, and generally make arses of themselves in a way they wouldn't do back home. Presumably it's the well-established disinhibiting effect of being somewhere that needs a passport to get to.
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On April 23rd, 2005 12:08 am (UTC), reddragdiva replied:
I mean for those of us that actually live here. A touch of carefully-applied bluntness can do wonders. It helps to be from a country that knows what customer service is, unlike the UK.
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On April 23rd, 2005 12:14 am (UTC), kineticfactory replied:
Given how many of the people in service industry jobs are recent immigrants themselves (I can't remember the last time I heard an English accent from someone serving me anything), would that really have much power to shock?
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On April 22nd, 2005 12:14 pm (UTC), hazyjayne commented:
That's us English people, crazy about our queuing ;)

Could I borrow it when you have finished it?
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On April 22nd, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC), kineticfactory replied:
Sure.
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