Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

Kate Fox

Language: English

Pages: 440

ISBN: 1857885082

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A runaway bestseller in the UK, Watching the English is now available in the U.S. for the first time! Witty and wise, Kate Fox reveals the quirks, habits, and foibles of the English people. Putting the national character under her microscope, Fox explores this strange and fascinating culture, governed by a complex set of unspoken rules and a bizarre code of conduct. Through anthropological analysis and a series of unorthodox experiments (often using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig), Fox discovers what these unwritten codes tell us about Englishness: the rules of weather-speak, the ironic-gnome rule, the reflex apology rule, the paranoid-pantomime rule, class anxiety tests, and the money-talk taboo, among others. Watching the English is a biting, affectionate, insightful, and often hilarious look at English society.

Ordinary People and the Media: The Demotic Turn

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (2nd Edition)

Cultural Populism



















complained to me that the owners’ relationship with their dogs was ‘abnormal’ and ‘unhealthy’ and ‘dysfunctional’. ‘No, you don’t understand,’ I explained. ‘This is probably the only normal, healthy, functional relationship these people have.’ She was, however, sensitive enough to have picked up on an important rule of English ‘petiquette’ – the one that absolutely forbids criticism of a person’s pets. However badly your hosts’ ghastly, leg-humping, shoe-eating dog behaves, you must not speak ill

impossible to determine, but that does not prevent us pronouncing the patient to be autistic, or agoraphobic, or whatever. Those were supposed to be random examples, but now that I come to think of it, the English social dis-ease has some symptoms in common with both autism and agoraphobia. But let’s be charitable and politically correct and just say that we are ‘socially challenged’. Whatever we choose to call it, the symptoms of the English social dis-ease involve opposite extremes: when we

more obviously a direct descendant of pagan mid-winter festivals, uncluttered by Christian meddling with the imagery or sanitisation of the rituals. As with Freshers’ Week, office Christmas parties and most other English carnival rites, the extent of actual debauchery and anarchy tends to be greatly overestimated, both by the puritanical killjoys who disapprove of such festivities and by those participants who like to see themselves as wild, fun-loving rebels. In reality, our New-Year’s-Eve

are all sham, pretence, dissimulation – an artificial veneer of harmony and parity masking quite different social realities. But I have always understood the term ‘hypocrisy’ to imply conscious, deliberate deception of others, whereas English polite egalitarianism seems to involve a collective, even collaborative, self-delusion. Our politenesses are evidently not a reflection of sincere, heartfelt beliefs, but neither are they cynical, calculating attempts to deceive. And perhaps we need our

irony. Hockey cites a satirical article in the newsletter of an infantry battalion, the 3rd Battalion Royal Green Jackets, which mocks the over-zealous, excessively conformist and earnest approach to military appearance and discipline of a ‘rival’ battalion, the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, at the time serving alongside them: At Echelon they have a rather unorthodox regiment – 1 Para stationed with them. They look smart, have short hair, wear funny-coloured berets with badges above the left

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