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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour [Kindle Edition]

Kate Fox
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Why must they talk about the weather? Witty and wise, Kate Fox reveals the quirks, habits and foibles of English people. Putting the English national character under her anthropological microscope, she finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and bizarre codes of behavior. Through a mixture of cultural analysis and her own unorthodox experiments (using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig), Fox discovers what these codes tell us about Englishness. She demystifies the peculiar cultural rules that baffle us: The rules of weather-speak. The ironic-gnome rule. The reflex-apology rule. Class anxiety tests. The money-talk taboo and many more. Watching the English is a biting, affectionate, insightful and often hilarious look at English Society.

Editorial Reviews


In an insightful and engrossing book, Fox explains the puzzling behavior of her fellow Englishmen in an informal way that puts other social anthropologists to shame. While she uses some academic lingo, Watching the English is far from being a dry read or a clinical observation of a certain group of people... Despite being more than 400 pages long, Watching the English reads easily, but is still jam-packed with information and tidbits about the English, and non-English readers are bound to at least once exclaim, 'What?! The English really do that?' (Camille Tuutti-Winkler,


'If you like this kind of anthropology (and I do) there is a wealth of it to enjoy in this book. Her observations are acute...fortunately she doesn't write like an anthropologist but like an English woman -with amusement, not solemnity, able to laugh at herself as well as us.' -- Daily Mail

Product Details

  • File Size: 852 KB
  • Print Length: 427 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1857885082
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (May 25, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00486UF52
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,612 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
148 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tribal talent for avoiding fuss February 4, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Really, I don't see why anthropologists feel they have to travel to remote corners of the world and get dysentery and malaria in order to study strange tribal cultures with bizarre beliefs and mysterious customs, when the weirdest, most puzzling tribe of all is right here on our doorstep." - Kate Fox

WATCHING THE ENGLISH, by social anthropologist Kate Fox, is an engaging, perceptive, informative, and entertaining treatise on English (as opposed to "British") behavior in all aspects of life. At times, the author's style seems tongue-in-cheek. However, as she herself is English, this is simply a manifestation of her tribe's trait not to be seen as being too earnest and, while the subject is to be taken seriously, not too seriously.

In what must have been a prodigious research effort (yielding 416 pages of small type), Fox characterizes English behavior and attitudes as they relate to weather, social small talk, humor, linguistics, pubs, mobile phones, home, queues, transportation, work, play, dress, food, sex, secondary education, marriage, funerals, religion, and recurring "calendrical rites" (e.g. birthdays and holidays). Within these categories, Kate addresses everything from the pets and jam to the furniture that the English favor. And, since class consciousness is irrevocably embedded in the national social fabric, all is explained relative to the various classes: lower- and upper-working, lower-, middle- and upper-middle, and upper. As an example, when it comes to one's automobile:

"A scrupulously tidy car indicates an upper-working to middle-middle owner, while a lot of rubbish, apple cores, biscuit crumbs, crumpled bits of paper and general disorder suggests an owner from either the top or the bottom of the social hierarchy.
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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So true! November 17, 2005
I'm English, and having just devoured this book in a day or two I have to say that it is extremely accurate! It made me laugh out loud on the train while reading, which as you'll see from this book is an unusual occurrence for someone from my country...

This book describes the amazingly complex and intuitive set of rules by which we English live. It covers our obsessions with privacy, understatement, humour, anti-boastfulness, excessive politeness and all the other motives and societal rules behind the way we act.

Non-English readers will cry "What?! Is that really true? Do the English really think and act like that?!" - and I can assure you that we absolutely do...

An enlightening, funny, thorough and brilliant portrait of the English.
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122 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amusing and acute book about the English November 10, 2006
I started this book 3 days after returning from my first trip to America. Whilst in America I became aware of the huge cultural difference between the friendly people of the USA and traditional Brits amongst whom I've lived almost my whole life - I found much of American behaviour inexplicable and rather rude and personal towards someone they didn't know. I breathed a sigh of relief when returning to England, back amongst normal people who aren't continually nosy and telling you what they think about politics, religion and anything else the whole time.

I wish I'd read this book before I went. Not that I wouldn't have found a lot of American behaviour strange after reading it (I would still have done) but I would have been more aware of my cultural disabilities and how weird I must seem to them.

That's the power of this book - you can dip into almost any page, read a paragraph and say "that's me!" Kate Fox has studied the English for 10 years with remarkable acuity and she is able to identify behaviours that, to us, are entirely normal but are actually just part of our collective odd English behaviour patterns. When a man I had just been introduced to in America said "So, tell me all about yourself" I was left gaping at him in horror; `Watching The English' describes how people in the UK never share personal information unless they know someone particularly well - and in fact most people don't even introduce themselves to start with - my horror was expected and justified as I had never before been called upon to `blow my own trumpet' and it is completely counter to British reserve and our self-effacing nature.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prodigious - and prodigiously funny June 2, 2007
By Forza
As an American social scientist who has an English partner and has visited the UK multiple times, I found this book engrossing for many reasons. Kate Fox does the miraculous: she makes fascinating reading out of chapters on tea, queue-jumping, arrangements of knick-knacks, incessant talking about the weather, and myriad other English characteristics that so charm, frustrate, and baffle we non-English of the world. Moreover, her writing is hilarious - she has a droll, tongue-in-cheek, utterly English sense of humor that had me laughing through every chapter.

The book is incredibly useful, too. I read it after my English partner recommended it to me, saying he had never read anything that captured the English so well. The insights in the book clarified several things to me and greatly reduced the quantity of cultural faux pas on my part. It also gave my partner a great deal of insight into his own personality as well as his interactions with Americans. Plus, it led to many, many fascinating discussions between us about (among other things) the markers of class and attitudes about it, the nature (and point) of politeness, and how it is that societies can make us who we are.

The only shortcoming of the book is that I still don't understand Vegemite, but I think that may just be beyond comprehension.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars very intersting and as funny as Monty Python's
All said up in the headline! What more could I say as a learner of English as a second language? My English is not as good as that.
Published 8 hours ago by Kazunori Takahashi
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh thank God its not just ME !!!! I loved reading this book.
This isn't comedy , or meant to be but it is spot on . As a British person living in America for over thirty years I have noticed a lot of her observations are true of me. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Geva
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!
I recommend this book to all Americans heading 'across the pond.' Of course, not everything will apply, but it does teach you (us) how to not act like a typical (humor intended,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow... Amazing
Have lived and worked with English for 12 years... wish I had read this earlier. Absolutely brilliant insight into cultural subtleties.
Published 1 month ago by Lucas Rockwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious self-reflection, superb anthropologu
For any Englishman or woman, Anglophile, or even tourist - this is your defintive guide for understanding "us"

I laughed out loud at our hilarious quirks and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ben Hanbury-Aggs
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Slightly better than "The English and their Manners" only with considerably more humour and irony. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dag Krokaa
5.0 out of 5 stars funny
I got this book and I felt in love with it right away. It gives you everything secret about British culture! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Wendy Wang
4.0 out of 5 stars I could have used this 2 years ago!
A great book for anyone thinking of visiting England or already living here and wondering what the hell is wrong with everyone.
Published 3 months ago by Skullie
3.0 out of 5 stars So so
Nothing really groundbreaking....harps on the same theme chapter after chapter, weak attempts at humor. Same summarization after each chapter. Typical.
Published 3 months ago by Prosaic
4.0 out of 5 stars sort of like a textbook
A good read, but a little on the long side. Fox will reiterate stuff from earlier chapters which keeps you on topic but serves to lengthen the book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by R. Plut
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