How to tell if you're English
by Justin M.
We're rapidly becoming the Are You A ... Empire here at Metaverse.
Here's the latest counterpoint to my E-Z home test for Americans.
You may want to contrast this one with the Scottish one.
Justin is a lawyer, who does an odd bit of
singing and other things musical on the side.
He believes he is the only person in England who actually likes the French.
If you're English...
Where do you find these blokes?
- You're not a committed republican (which in England means "opponent of the monarchy", not "conservative"). You think that the Queen hasn't put a foot wrong, and you may or may not think that Charles will make a particularly good king, but you can't imagine having a president instead.
- You're familiar with Eastenders, Coronation Street, Who Want to Be a Millionaire?, Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity, as well as the classic comedies which are to be worshipped like minor deities: Fawlty Towers, The Office, Only Fools and Horses, Monty Python and (for the older generation) Dad's Army.
- It's likely that you'll also enjoy American imports like Friends, The OC, ER and Frasier, though, if over a certain age, you may be slightly sniffy about American TV.
- You're not all that interested in baseball, basketball or American football. If male, on the other hand, you know everything there is to know about real football, which you would never dream of calling 'soccer', and perhaps cricket as well. Middle-aged men may diversify into snooker and/or golf.
- You count yourself fortunate if you get five weeks of vacation a year.
Tories and Whigs... or is that Tories in wigs?
- You probably have a vague belief in God, but you prefer not to talk or think too much about such matters. You think that the Americans are far too religious, and, while you're respectful and tolerant towards British Muslims, you know that you'd never take your faith (if you have one) as seriously as they take theirs.
- You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. as cheap food.
- You own a telephone and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine. You don't kill your own food. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table (or around the TV), sitting on chairs.
- You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food, though traditional English regional fare does include some exciting surprises like tripe and onions, saveloys and jellied eels.
- You refer to the smallest room as the 'toilet'. Cockneys (speakers of the famous/notorious London dialect) have traditionally called it the 'khazi'. You prefer to reserve the term 'bathroom' for the room, possibly separate, which actually contains the bath (note: there are no bathtubs in England).
- It now seems natural to you that the telephone system, railways, car manufacturers, airlines and power companies are privately run. You may be able to remember back to the pre-Thatcher era when things were different, but you can't see things changing, and you don't have very strong feelings on the subject anyway.
- You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine.
- The train system, by contrast, is dreadful. Trains go much faster than cars, but never run on time.
The old school tie
- You find a three-party system natural. You probably vote Labour, for reasons which may include a general satisfaction with the Blair government, tribal loyalty, a preference for the lesser of the three evils and/or a feeling that there's no realistic alternative. You may, however, consider voting Conservative now that, under David Cameron, they're becoming more moderate and liberal (which in England means 'centrist', not 'left-leaning'). If you're middle-class, you may vote for the Liberal Democrats if you think of yourself as socially concerned and/or you opposed the Iraq War.
- You don't expect to hear socialism seriously defended, except by pensioners like Tony Benn and eccentrics like George Galloway.
- You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.
- You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.
- You'd respect someone who speaks French, German or Spanish. You probably learnt a bit of French at school, but everyone speaks English nowadays, so what's the point of learning foreign languages? Best of all, the advance of English has gloriously succeeded in really annoying the French, a major ambition for any red-blooded Englishman. If you went to public school - that is, private school - you may have been forced to study Latin for a year or two.
- Income tax has been 22% at the basic rate and 40% at the higher rate for years, and you don't expect either rate to change any time soon. Famously, the highest marginal rate immediately before Margaret Thatcher took over was 99%, but that's part of history now.
No burned bacon, please
- School is free up to age 18, unless your parents choose to have you educated privately. University or college is subsidised by the State - the headline rate that students are required to pay is £3000 per year (even at Oxford and Cambridge), and there are special arrangements for those from genuinely poor families.
- College is (normally, and excluding graduate study) three years long.
- Mustard comes in jars. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in glass bottles, plastic bottles or cardboard cartons.
- The last appliances you've bought came with plugs, but until around 15 years ago you had to hunt through the house for a plug whenever you got a new TV or something similar.
- The date comes first: 03.09.39. (And you know what happened on that date.)
- The decimal point is a dot. Certainly not a comma.
- A billion is a thousand times a million. But it used to be a million times a million.
- World War II was a just war, and (granted all the suffering of course) ended all right, if slightly belatedly because of the traditional American dithering (cf. World War I). It was a time when the country came together and did what was right. You still have your (grand)father's North African medals, and you have an aunty who was bombed out in the East End (of London) and knows lots of stories about the Blitz (that is, the most severe phases of the German bombing of Britain).
- You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Getting married by a registrar is an option, but not a requirement: many marriages happen in church, but mainly for the photos or to please the parents. You have a best man and several bridesmaids. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time.
- If a man has sex with another man, he's gay. When he finds the right guy, he might decide to make an honest man of him under the Civil Partnerships Act.
Contributions to world culture
- Once you're introduced to someone (up to and including the Prime Minister), you can probably nowadays call them by their first name, unless they're in a position of marked seniority over you at work or you're in the smoking room at the Athenaeum Club.
- If you're a woman, you might go to the beach topless.
- You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes.
- If a politican has been cheating on his wife, your thoughts and feelings would be severely conflicted. Part of you would wish that the media would adopt a more mature attitude to this sort of thing and stop intruding on people's private lives. The other part of you would delightedly devour every last morsel about the affair that your tabloid of choice served up.
- Any store - or rather, any shop - will take your credit card.
- A company can fire who it wants - up to a point. There is a reasonable amount of employment protection legislation both in national law and in EU law, and people are legally entitled, for example, to redundancy pay and to protection against unfair or discriminatory dismissal.
- You hadn't come across crispy bacon until a few years ago. You prefer your bacon limp and fried in a frying pan.
- Labour Day is (technically) the first Monday in May, but everyone's always called it 'May Day Bank Holiday'.
Sending Johnny Foreigner to an early grave
- You have a slightly chauvinistic pride in the success of British films like Four Weddings, The Full Monty, Bridget Jones (I and II) and the Harry Potter movies.
You've no time for Hollywood distortions of history, à la Private Ryan.
You've seen and enjoyed all the old American movies like Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Psycho, The Great Escape and (for the
grandmothers) Gone with the Wind.
- You know the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, The Who, David Bowie and Queen. Alternatively, you may prefer Motorhead, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
- Privatisation of the National Health Service is absolutely unthinkable. You can count on excellent medical treatment - in an emergency. If you've just got something minor but painful (or something not-so-minor but less-than-imminently-lethal) you know you've got a wait ahead of you before you receive NHS treatment. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.
- You went over English history, and some European, in school, not much American, Asian or anything else. You did Hitler and Stalin in particular because they're memorable and easy to teach, or else the years around the Reformation for similar reasons.
- You expect the military to fight wars, not get involved in politics. You couldn't name many serving soldiers, sailors or airmen - General Sir Michael Jackson, perhaps, or the flood of SAS men who wrote their memoirs in the 90s.
- Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation, at any rate since 1066. (William of Orange (1688) doesn't count - he was invited by the ruling aristocracy to deliver free, Protestant England from the darkness of Popery under James II, though no-one remembers that now except a few oddballs in Northern Ireland.)
- You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy.
- You may still mentally measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons, though this will depend on your age, and the EU has made metric measures mandatory for most things. You'll definitely still think of distances in miles and order beer in pints, though.
- You're not a farmer - not being a grumpy, tight-fisted old curmudgeon who constantly complains about the weather. You may be aware that English farmers have very well out of the country's membership of the EU, but you know that their margins are under serious pressure from the buying power of large supermarkets.
- There aren't any really popular talk shows ('chatshows' is a more comfortable term in British English). The people who appear on such programmes would include entertainers, sports personalities, authors, or rather strange individuals. Certainly not, say, politicians.
- You drive on the left, but you're well aware that foreigners drive on the wrong side. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them. (You might well also cross when a green is showing - getting into trouble for jay-walking is unheard of.)
Outside the M25
- You think of the French as the tribal enemy, people who are (in the words of Edmund Blackadder in the TV comedy) into 'cruelty to animals and urinating in the street'. The Germans are little better, and you may not be above the occasional cutting reference to the Wars or to Germany's defeat in the 1966 World Cup final (at football). If you're middle-class, you may holiday in France (and it's conceivable that you might end up buying a home over there). If working-class, you may prefer somewhere on the Mediterranean. On the other hand, you may prefer somewhere further afield - the United States, perhaps, or the Seychelles.
- The Scots are tight-fisted, humourless, savage and wear skirts. They play ridiculous, cacophonous musical instruments and eat stuffed sheep's stomachs.
- The Welsh are all excellent singers, eat leeks all the time and start speaking Welsh whenever an Englishman (detected by some kind of telepathic radar system) walks into the shop. If they come from the 'valleys', they are probably hopelessly inbred.
- The Irish drink lots and lots of Guinness and whiskey, are all devout Catholics (unless they're equally zealous Protestants), and until recently used to set off bombs in Belfast and London every so often. They still shoot each other from time to time in order to keep up the tradition. A Catholic priest in a TV drama or comedy is quite likely to have an Irish accent or an Irish name.
- Having said all this, you're unlikely to be a jingoistic nationalist or a xenophobe. Politically, for example, you probably don't belong to the small minority of 'Little Englanders' who are rabidly opposed to 'Europe' ('Europe' is not just a geographical expression - it's journalistic shorthand for issues relating to the EU and European political integration). It's quite likely that you're opposed to further integration, or are unhappy about the present extent of the EU's power, but it's also plausible that you're quite keen on 'Europe'.
- All Americans are terribly wealthy, so an American
accent acts on a shopkeeper or stallholder just like the sound of the
feeding-bell did on Pavlov's dogs.
- You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a reasonably small car.
- The police in general aren't armed, but all police forces have armed response units, and whether all officers should carry guns is a legitimate subject of debate.
- If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
- The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
- The nationality people most often make jokes about is the Irish.
- There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
- You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened to enough in Westminster (where Parliament sits), Whitehall (the street where the main government departments are situated, leading up to the Parliament building) or Downing Street (where the PM lives, just off Whitehall).
- You wouldn't expect both inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 10%) at the same time.
- You don't care very much what family someone comes from, unless they're in Burke's or Debrett's (directories of the aristocracy).
- The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children (that is, if there's any money left after they've had to pay their nursing home fees - the government only pays once your savings are down to £14,000).
- You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments. It's not likely that you're a regular theatre-goer either.
- Christmas is in the winter. Unless you're Jewish, you spend it with your family, give presents, and put up a tree.
- You dimly remember hearing about a time when the established Church of England had some political influence.
- You'd be hard pressed to name the leaders of all the nations of Europe. The capitals you could probably do.
- You've left a message at the beep.
- Taxis, particularly in London, are generally operated by fascists who entertain you with their quirky views on immigration and penal policy. They do know the city, though (it's called 'The Knowledge' - every would-be cabbie supposedly has to acquire a detailed knowledge of the capital's geography).
- You think that the Welfare State is a necessary part of a civilized society.
- If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a Master's first.
- Being a lawyer is still an honourable profession, sort of. Trial lawyers (who are called barristers) and judges still wear gowns and wigs.