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Watching the English - The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

121 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0340818862
ISBN-10: 0340818867
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Editorial Reviews


She has not only compiled a comprehensive list of English qualities, she has examined them in depth and wondered how we came to acquire them. Her book is a delightful read. The Sunday Times I loved the section on mobile-phone etiquette. Shrewd ... I liked the chapter on English humour. This is an entertaining, clever book. Do read it and then pass it on. Daily Telegraph Amusing ... entertaining. The Times Watching the English ... will make you laugh out loud ("Oh God. I do that!") and cringe simultaneously ("Oh God. I do that as well."). This is a hilarious book which just shows us for what we are ... beautifully-observed. It is a wonderful read for both the English and those who look at us and wonder why we do what we do. Now they'll know. Birmingham Post Fascinating reading. Oxford Times An absolutely brilliant examination of English culture and how foreigners take as complete mystery the things we take for granted. Jennifer Saunders, The Times 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

About the Author

Kate Fox, a social anthropologist, is Co-Director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. Her work involves monitoring and assessing global sociocultural trends, and has included research, publications and broadcasts on many aspects of human behaviour including: social aspects of drinking, sex differences, flirting, body image, pub culture, gossip, eating, health issues, taboos, horseracing, mobile phones, email, stress, drugs, crime, violence and disorder.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperback (April 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340818867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340818862
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 117 people found the following review helpful By T. Edwards on November 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
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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155 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 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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128 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Helen Hancox on November 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Forza on June 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
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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