From the accents, to the culture, to the obsession with tea, it seems there are few elements of being British that go un-fetishized by other cultures. So, if you, like me, are on the outside looking in – or you’re already British and would just like to know how to upgrade your Brit game – take a look at these tips from an American who’s been not-so-subtly studying the English since her arrival in Southampton last year:
About everything. Always. But only subtly. If you’re doing it right, the tutting of a few hundred indignant British people can fill a room with the same low, threatening buzz made by many bumblebees. Not sure what to complain about? Try a few of these standard go-tos: Too hot? Complain. Someone turned on one of the country’s rare air conditioners to alleviate the heat? Insist that you are now in danger of freezing to death. Bus is late? Oh, the state of buses in this country! Bus is early? See, this is exactly why transportation is so bloody unreliable. However, when asked if anything’s the matter, you are bound to smile, nod, and be passive-aggressive as soon as the inquirer is gone.
Be painfully awkward
Not only are you morally obligated to spontaneously combust at the first sign of human contact, but accepting compliments, smiling at strangers, and being able to speak to people in shops are also off the table. The simple good wish, ‘Have a great day!’ can make you curl into a ball of confusion. At best, you are capable of having a day, but only one with no specified adjective. In short, just imagine living with an already severe anxiety disorder… and then throw an extra heavy diagnosis of additional anxiety on top.
Live and die by queues
Although only number three on the list, do not mistake the rules of queuing for being inconsequential. Largely unspoken and almost impossible to read, the rules of queues are not only sacred, they are magically imparted to the souls of every newborn British person and are as definitive of their British nationality as their passport. If someone else skips the queue and you tolerate it, your citizenship may be revoked. Likewise, if you give so much as the appearance of jumping a queue yourself without having a nervous breakdown and never returning to that pub again, your citizenship will most certainly be in question. A special hearing may have to be called. However, you can make up for it by incessantly explaining how to queue to every American you meet. Trust me, even if it’s the 95th time, they’ll still appreciate it!
If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s probably because it’s my own invention, based on extensive personal experience. However, the most important thing you need to know is that it’s the new man-splaining and just as welcomed everywhere! Whether you’re explaining the flaws in American culture (and to be fair, no one’s likely to disagree with you), quibbling over the right way to make tea, or explaining why your culture is simply better, the good news is that no one from other cultures will mind – they’re too busy falling in love with your accent!
And on that note, I must add that though there may be some truths present in this article, the points listed here are in no way holistically representative of the kind, lovely, and genuinely friendly British people I’ve met since arriving in Southampton. Even though all my British friends have proudly told me that making fun of me is England’s new national sport.