“Ask any man what nationality he would prefer to be, and ninety nine out of a hundred will tell you that they would prefer to be Englishmen.” – Cecil Rhodes
Being English is an art. A subtle one at that. One that many “English” people themselves unfortunately fall short of, yet one, perhaps most importantly, that can be learned if necessary. And in today’s growing society of international minglings, it seems rather necessary indeed. Oh, to belong to that exclusive club of gents and ladies, blokes and birds, kings and queens, who distinguish themselves from the British ever so slightly, yet prominently by delicate subtleties and cultural divides! Yet one need not be born and bred on the great island to be deserving of the English title. No matter where first he came from, a person may distinguish themselves as part of the beloved nationality which the Prime Minister, the Queen, (God save) and Stephen Fry himself all belong to by simply observing a few essential traits. After all, to be English means to live each day by the founding principles and unspoken delicacies that have governed the country’s greatest for hundreds of years, and will continue to define all that is good and worthy in the word “English.” For Queen and country! Read on.
Step one: speak English. The Queen’s English that is. Do not be fooled by other impostors claiming to speak the same tongue. There is only one true English, refined throughout history from its Anglo-Saxon roots, and which many other countries now claim for their own and disastrously distort. Be wary of these said differences, in ‘Zed’s, ‘U’s and pronunciations. Be cautious of the influence of the media, in which the barbaric “American” dominates all, slurring T’s and leaving out consonants altogether! When in doubt, consult the Oxford English Dictionary; it can always be trusted as the ultimate authority on linguistic affairs.
Step two: Be polite. Always. Choose indifference over keenness any day and never get involved in anyone’s business unnecessarily. Propriety is key, concern acceptable, enthusiasm discouraged, for the chance of seeming overly impertinent. A simple “good morning” etc. is always welcome, along with a nod of the head. Consequently, the weather is always an acceptable and often riveting topic of conversation to be reverted to in the presence of uncomfortably personable company.
Step three: Drink tea. But if you must drink coffee, at least do it indoors, where you are at the least risk of being seen, or sip your preferred beverage in a generic drink holder, as to disguise the nature of its contents. You especially don’t want someone making the mistake that you are French.
Step four: Develop a healthy appreciation and understanding of your culture, heritage, and politics. Subtle forms of patriotism, without making a fuss, are acceptable pastimes. These include enjoying quintessentially English foods like Marmite, sticky toffee puddings, and fish and chips when the occasion so arises (while always finishing your plate), as well as showing regard for your selected region’s sports teams, and paying tribute to capricious English entertainment like that of Doctor Who and QI. A commitment to the BBC, the NHS, and support of the Royal Mail are essential aspects of English loyalty, as is an acknowledgment of the Royal Family’s role in keeping the monarchic legacy alive.
Lastly, and perhaps above all, keep calm and carry on!
Following these steps, you will be English before you know it; though others will undoubtedly recognize the admirable qualities of the Greats who have helped shape this country, and count you among them. No top hat required.