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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour Paperback – April 2, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful introduction to a remarkable culture. If you are interested in the British, I highly recommend.Published 28 days ago by Celine S.
It's a very interesting book, and it inspired me to think a lot of those hidden rules in my own culture. I wish there were more books like this.Published 3 months ago by Linda Bu
I was given this book from a friend upon finding out I'd be moving to England. It's absolutely hilarious, and is a must-have for anyone adapting to British culture. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Courtney Fleming
Hours of fun and soft laughter as well as reflection on Englishness.Published 6 months ago by Kate S Laing
I love this book. It is insightful enough to be serious but also humorous, and not at all dry. I read this book for the first time ten years ago and have thought about it many... Read morePublished 9 months ago by C. Nelson
Watching The English is a very insightful and funny book for any one with an interest in our Brit cousins. Found it thought provoking and humorous at the same time. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Daniel Davis
A thoroughly entertaining read that served well as a case study for my anthropology class. I highly recommend this to any prospective anthropologists or anglophiles out there.Published 11 months ago by Shyann