Chapter 1: MANNERS AND ETIQUETTE
Manners are extremely important to the English. Our speech is littered with how are you, please and thank you, although these are signs of politeness rather than of actual gratitude; we don’t really care how you are. We have a hatred of appearing to show off, even when we actually are showing off. Our Nobel Prize or Oscar can only be referred to indirectly and then placed in the downstairs toilet. Opening a car door is for gentlemanly reasons and not for sneaking a glimpse up a lady’s frock and we do not spit, belch, break wind or speak with our mouths full.
When it comes to manners, the Scots are rather more direct. In England the words ‘excuse me’ are usually used as a way to attract a person’s attention. In Scotland if you hear somebody say ‘excuse me,’ followed by ‘Jimmy’ it normally signals the start of a confrontation. There are also certain taboos running throughout Scottish society and mentioned in many guidebooks, the most important of which appear to be never turning down a drink if offered, always buying a round in return and, most importantly of all, never, ever calling a Scotch person English.
Another guide-book warns tourists to avoid football fans, recommends Irn Bru, encourages pub crawls, urges readers to become ‘merrily drunk’ on whisky, carry an umbrella at all times and avoid council estates. The guide-book goes on to say ‘please do not expect to receive the same quick, polite and accurate service here to compare with the service in Japan. Be patient anywhere in Scotland, this is not Japan.’ Wise advice indeed, apart from the Irn Bru part. Finally it explained that the Scots are a ‘low contact’ type of people and that, instead of touching or standing close, it is better to remain at least one arm’s length from a Scotsman. This is also good advice although, if you are English, you may want to make this at least a couple of miles.
An Englishman even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one. ~ GEORGE MIKES
When I first read this comment, I thought it was an amusing exaggeration but then I found not only that it was true, but also that I do it myself. When waiting alone for a bus or at a taxi stop, I do not lounge about anywhere roughly within striking distance of the stop as people do in other countries – I stand directly under the sign, facing in the correct direction, exactly as if I were at the head of a queue. I form a queue of one. If you are English, you probably do this too. ~ Kate Fox, Watching the English
I’m amazed by how compliant people are in this country. They go into service stations – “cathedrals of despair”, as I call them – where baseball-capped ghouls of the night lord it over their congealed bean kingdoms, their fried-bread twilights, their neon demi-mondes, tempting you to enter to become them, undead. ‘Ooh, beans on toast, £18.95, very reasonable. Oh no, I’m not going to complain. They probably pump them up from London in special tubes.’ ~ Bill Bailey
When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in Scotland. ~ Bette Midler
Once upon a time the English knew who they were… They were polite, excitable, reserved and had hot-water bottles instead of a sex-life: how they reproduced was one of the mysteries of the western world…They were class-bound, hidebound and incapable of expressing their emotions. They did their duty. Fortitude bordering on the incomprehensible was a byword: ‘I have lost my leg, by God!’ exclaimed Lord Uxbridge, as shells exploded all over the battlefield. ‘By God, and have you!’ replied the Duke of Wellington. ~Jeremy Paxman, The English
I was allowed to ring the bell for assembly [at school]. It was the beginning of power. ~ Geoffrey Archer
To be born English and healthy is to win first prize in the lottery of life. ~ Cecil Rhodes
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
Today, as most true Englishmen almost certainly won’t be aware, is St George’s Day and, like most true Englishmen, I’m not going to be celebrating it because we English don’t go in for that sort of thing. We’re aware that other countries like to set aside special days to paint themselves tartan or impersonate dragons or toast each other in poetic, but moribund, tongues and generally give themselves a big up for coming from somewhere obscure and ethnic. But we English, we don’t need to. When you spend 365 days every year knowing how wonderful it is to have been born in the land that invented pretty much everything that is good, beautiful and noble, why single out one day for special treatment? ~ James Delingpole, The Times
Let us pause to consider the English. Who when they pause to consider themselves they get all reticently thrilled and tinglish, because every Englishman is convinced of one thing, viz; that to be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is. ~ Ogden Nash
He was inordinately proud of England and he abused her incessantly. ~ H.G Wells
The English never smash in a face. They merely refrain from asking it to dinner. ~ Margaret Halsey
On the continent people have good food; in England people have good manners. ~ George Mikes
If an Englishman gets run down by a truck, he apologizes to the truck. ~ Jackie Mason
England is a nation of shopkeepers! ~ Napoleon
Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French. ~ P.G. Wodehouse, The Luck of the Bodkins
The Englishman who visits Mount Etna will carry his tea-kettle to the top. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The English are proud of their stoicism and resilience, though often in practice they are hypochondriacs. ‘Musn’t grumble,’ the English say straight after grumbling…’ ~ Henry Hitchings
Thistle vs Rose (700 Years of Winding up the Scots) by Albert Jack is available now
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