(photo credit: www.foodanddrinkguides.co.uk)
What is it to be British? What are those peculiarly British traits which set us apart from other nationalities? What is a cliché and what is actually for real? Here is a definitive guide to the basics of being British.
• We actually do love talking about the weather. This is not a cliché - we genuinely seem to find our weather systems infinitely fascinating. Just as hairdressers always ask you about your holidays so we Brits talk about the weather. We all have a view and we are very happy to discuss the intricacies of weather fronts with whoever can stay awake long enough to listen. It is of course imperative to moan about the weather - anyone who is too positive is quite unworthy of the "British" label. It is worth noting that a Brit will always find hot weather "too hot", cold weather "too cold", wet weather "too wet" and dry, sunny weather..."well, it won't last and apparently we're getting the tail end of Hurricane Humongous tomorrow".
• We rarely say what we mean. This is due to the infamous British stiff upper lip, our mastery of the understatement and our core value of "manners maketh man". Take the greeting "How are you?" This is nothing more than a formality. The questioner is not remotely interested in how you actually are but politeness requires the exchange of words - "How are you?", "fine, thank you". Nothing more, nothing less. No Brit would make the elementary error of launching into a detailed diatribe on the most recent entries in their medical history. Even if you have had an arm amputated that morning, a triple heart bypass last week and a terminal diagnosis just an hour ago...still the answer "fine, thank you" is all that is expected.
• We are always apologising but actually very rarely think we are wrong. Saying "I'm sorry" is more of a verbal tic than any recognition of fault. Take two supermarket shopping scenarios: you're pushing your trolley along the aisle minding your own business when someone else comes barging down and pushes you out of the way, knocking you into a pile of carefully stacked "Baked Beans" tins which scatter on the floor - if you are British, you will apologise - this will be your first instinct even though it was not in any way your fault. Imagine then that you only witness this whole incident from further up the aisle by "Green Giant Sweet Corn" and "Tinned Plum Tomatoes" - you are in no way involved, you didn't even touch either involved party nor the "Baked Beans" tins but if you are British you will apologise all the same as though witnessing is enough to require apology. It is some form of apology Tourettes that Brits have and it should be noted that it is often accompanied by "Don't worry, it's not your fault", when it quite patently is.
• We love queuing. We really do - we have some sort of Q DNA in our genes which means we can't walk past a queue without ascertaining it's reason for being and considering joining it - at the end of course. There is a whole other blog post to be written about what I like to call Quettiquette but suffice to say the rules are golden and we Brits know them all: don't queue barge; don't be a space-invader by standing too close to others; by all means chat but expect to be listened too; don't appear to be listening to others even when you are; don't open up any food with overpowering smells whilst queuing and don't expect anyone to know why you are queuing or how long the queue will take. Remember most people - if they are British - will have joined the queue for exactly the same reasons that you did - ie there is a queue and your genetic make-up urges you to join it.
• We actually like our food swimming in grease and heart-attackingly high in cholesterol. We have even coined a name for establishments that peddle the Great British Fry-Up - the Greasy Spoon. We take pride in our national delicacy which in most other countries around the world would not be considered fit for human consumption. Any self-respecting Brit will order the Full English Breakfast - anything less is a sign of weakness and a crisis of national identity.
• We, on the whole, like our animals (particularly dogs) more than our families. Only in this country could a dog win Britain's Got Talent - twice. Surely in a country of nearly 60 million humans,there is one human that has got more talent than a dog that appears to dance...badly? In many families it is only on the death of a dog that one might see a man's stiff upper lip tremble - not on the death of any close family member, not at all, but the dog...well that's a different matter altogether.
So take a tip from me: if you want to pass muster as a Brit then I suggest you get yourself a dog, join a queue in the local greasy spoon, trade some inanities about the weather with the person who serves you and then apologise profusely when she gives you £10 change instead of the £20 change you are owed. And remember, above all, that "How are you today?" is not in any way an invitation for you to divulge your entire medical history - you do that and your non-Brit status will stick out like a sore thumb (as it were!).