25 January 2007

What do they know of England?

The media is often keen to point out, gleefully, how bad we are at many things in the UK. Whether it's the worst hospitals, lowest skills, highest teen pregnancies or inability to take penalty kicks, we suck. And to cap it all we're now not even any good at the one thing we should beat the world at: being British. We're so bad at it, apparently, that we need to be taught about it at school:


However, I would argue that, in fact, we're too good at being British. For example, today I was eating lunch at a pub near my work. It is a pub that has a lot of "character". This means the staff do what they like to the customers and everyone is supposed to enjoy the dingy interior, bad service and grumpy staff, only pausing to grumble about it for five hours after they leave the place. At the table behind me, the surly waitress tipped oyster juice an American customer and muttered an apology in the manner of a railway guard announcing a late train.

To everyone's mortal embarrassment, the American lady followed the waitress into the kitchen loudly demanding a meaningful apology and redress. The sense of shock and wonder in the hearts of the British patrons was palpable, and probably a sneaking admiration that made them wish they could do That Sort Of Thing without guilt.

I don't think it is lessons in Britishness that we need. A few crammer courses in Americanness would do wonders for national morale.

1 comment:

PW said...

In some parts of the States, I guess the lady would have pulled a .22 out of her bag and sought redress in a more dramatic fashion, Hoffy.