Recently, I contributed to the blog of a fellow British person. One of them was about the strangest thing you have ever picked up in your travels written by myself and other bloggers, and the other was about “who would you like to sit next to on a plane?” The bloggers name is called The Guy@FlightsandFrustration. One other post he wrote was titled “Excuse me. I’m British!” and it got me thinking.
I’m lucky to be a citizen of one of the most respected and most admired nations in the world: Great Britain, also known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Yes, we are an island and yes, we think we’re the best thing since sliced bread, but you have to admit that without Great Britain there wouldn’t be any United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and a whole host of other nations that have been historically bound to England or have the Queen as it’s Head of State.
Heck! Without Great Britain, there would be no England and without England, the English language wouldn’t exist. Yes, English. The most sought after and beloved of languages. Of course, not everything is or was all sugar and spice and you only have to look at the history and issues of colonisation for that.
This post is not about politics but about culture, and let’s be honest here, most of it being culture derived from England!
My name is Victoria.
I was born in Manchester.
Therefore, I’m British.
So many people have strived and toiled to understand what being British entails and what it means, and it isn’t that easy. If you’re an expat like me, it hurts because everything I need to continue my British lifestyle is difficult or expensive to get or to have. Difficult, but not impossible.
Oh yes. By the way. I live in Berlin.
That’s in Germany.
Here we go:
1. To be British you have to understand our relationship with tea: Tea isn’t just a drink. No my good man. It’s a way of life. It’s something to have when everything else is going under, getting on your nerves, or stressing you out.
You’re tired? Have a cup of tea.
You’re confused? Have a cup of tea.
You’ve just had a hard day at work, your wife is nagging you, and the kids have blown up the kitchen? No worries. Any one for tea?
Made from the kettle, put in the teapot to stew, served preferably with milk and sugar, in a tea-cup not in a mug, and drunk quietly!
2. To be British, you must know how to queue: Queuing or Queueing, being in a line, or standing in single file is one of our pet peeves. You must understand and learn to queue.
The act of fair play is very important in our culture and when we observe that an individual or groups of individuals can plainly see that others are waiting in the line, queueing and patiently waiting, and they still PUSH IN.
It simply isn’t acceptable.
It isn’t the done thing.
We consider our National Health Service (NHS), one of the best in the world because it has no favour with colour, creed or wallet. You register and you wait for when you can have your operation, because there is a queue. And that’s fair.
If you have a problem with that, go see a private surgeon!
3. Shop at Marks & Spencers: Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer started out with a market stall in Leeds, 1884. Marks & Spencers soon became one of Britain’s’ most beloved retail institutions that reeked of a certain standard of local and international food, great value and quality of clothing and home products.
The simple fact is, you know where you stand with Marks & Spencers but most importantly, you can trust it.
Marks & Spencers won’t let you down in service, expectation, or experience. What you see is what you get and this is where you can get your tea and biscuits, cheese and crackers, and plain cotton underwear that won’t scratch!
4. Custard: Custard is a type of dessert made from egg, milk and sugar flavoured with vanilla. You do not have it cold and it is not “vanilla sauce.” It’s custard.
Served with pretty much every British dessert under the sun, it’s an accompaniment to such fare as:
5. Being polite: There’s an easy way to know if someone is British or not, by the way we’re always polite. We tend to say “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” and “Please” a lot. I didn’t really notice this was any different from other nationalities until a junior member of staff asked me why I kept saying “Thank you.”
She was German!
I also say “You’re welcome,” Would you mind if I took this seat?” “Could I have a cup of tea?” “I’m awfully sorry, but I wonder if I could ask you something about this incredible piece of art!”
6. Try not to get excited or emotional: Keeping a stiff upper lip is quite important if you want to be British. Try not to laugh too loudly. In fact, try not to laugh!
Smile discretely instead. And please don’t cry. Crying is for babies and children who haven’t been taught good manners.
Don’t shout across the street or in your mobile or cellular phone. If something awful has happened, grin and bear it.
We don’t appreciate the emotion.
7. Understand the art of small talk: I live in Germany. The German people don’t understand what I mean by “small” talk. They think we British people are trying to evade the subject. They believe in speaking plainly and clearly about what is on their minds!
I once had some random stranger who stopped me on the street and told me that he didn’t like my hair style!
See. Plain and true. No beating around the bush here!
I personally prefer the description of “ice-breaking”. In breaking the ice, we need to find a common subject to talk about with people whom we don’t know or are meeting for the very first time. Talking about the weather is an excellent subject. At least, in England it is.
Our weather is so unpredictable that you just can’t be wrong and everyone is always right! Not so much if you’re in Australia.
Talk about the family, sport and leisure, holidays, current affairs, jobs, fashion and hobbies.
Please don’t talk about money. It’s vulgar.
Don’t talk about politics or religion. It’s quite rude.
Don’t talk about your personal health. We really don’t want to know.
Learn to queue instead.
And whatever you do, please don’t hug.
We don’t like it.
8. Be proud of your home and garden: We British people love our gardens. In fact, I spent a considerable hour or two pottering around my garden just this very morning. Pulling out the weeds, pruning the plum-tree, and deciding where to put the flowerbeds this year.
We also love our homes and to prove it we have dinner parties.
These parties are not just about “dinner.” oh dear me no. They are about you and where you stand.
Did you make the dinner yourself or did you “order in?” Oh, you didn’t. Oops!
Have you got the wine with you? The right wine. Oh, what a shame!
Have we got the right numbers for our table setting? Oh, you brought the children with you. Uninvited.
Do you ski, play tennis or golf? Are you going to France, Italy, New York or California, for the summer? What? You’re going to Romania!
9. Have an affair with your pet: We love animals and Britain is very famous for being a nation of animal lovers. if you want to be British, you must have a pet.
More than 50% of British families own a pet with favourites being cats, dogs, budgerigars, goldfish, tropical fish, spiders, reptiles, farm animals, horses and snakes. In fact, in many cases, we love our pets more than we love our children!
When I was a child, we had dogs, cats, goldfish and a tortoise.
We forgot about the tortoise in the attic so it died!
10. Honour your queen and country: If you are going to be British, you have to accept the fact that we are a monarchy and have a queen. Not just any queen mind you, but The Queen. She is the second longest-serving monarch after Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 7 months!
Her name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, also known as Elizabeth II.
Her Majesty The Queen, is the Head of State of the United Kingdom and 15 other realms from the Commonwealth which include Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. She is also the Head of 14 British Overseas Territories including Gibraltar, Bermuda and the Falkland Islands, and the Head of seven Australian external territories, two New Zealand dependent territories and two New Zealand associated states.
Queen Elizabeth was also the Head of Hong Kong, but it was ceremoniously handed back to China in 1997. Not only that, but Queen Elizabeth is also the Head of the Commonwealth which consist of 54 independent countries!
Queen Elizabeth is the eldest daughter of King George VI from the true-life story in “The Kings Speech” fame and has been Queen since she was 25 years old. She is married to His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and has 4 children and eight grandchildren. She is the grandmother of His Royal Highness Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry of Wales, and the great-grandmother to His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.
And finally, whatever you do in order to be truly British please don’t talk about The War. “Well, if you don’t know what I’m talking about then I simply can’t help you.
To sum up, An American expat living in England reminded us of a quote from a writer called George Mikes who said you can always tell an Englishman because, “An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.”
Now that’s being British!
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Next week, I’m going to watch a basketball game for the very first time. Not only that, but it’s the game from the Harlem Globetrotters! Watch this space!
This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my absolute own.
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See you in Berlin.
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