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Do you know what British people are like?
Hi, and welcome to episode two of the Spoken like a native Podcast. Today, it's going to be part one on a series about myths and stereotypes about Britain, British people. This is going to end up being quite a long series. But for today, we're just going to cover by the way you can also get in touch with your own stereotypes. Don't worry about being offensive. We can handle it. We are quite good at laughing ourselves.
Okay, so number one I'm going to talk about is that British people are very reserved, or and possibly more negative light. People from Britain are cold and unfriendly.
Number two, British people aren't very polite.
Number three, Britain is always cold and rainy.
Number four, is that British people drink way too much to the extent of being alcoholic. What springs to mind when you hear those who think?
Yeah, that's them. I know the British they're just like that. But before I get into saying why you might be right or you might be wrong. I'd like to quickly just talk about something which is a big bugbear of mine. If you don't know the word bugbear it means in French is bad Noir. It's like something that really annoys you really grinds your gears it gets your goat irritates you, because you're like it. I know it's wrong. And for me, that is when people from other countries like French speakers or Spanish speakers will talk about Britain and instead of saying jolla McNeil Rhino needle, they say hola there, or Inglaterra.
Okay, though, that country exists. England is a country. However, it's not the same as Britain. So for a person who comes from Britain, you have to know where they come from before you call them English. Now, you might be very good with accents. Or you might know some information about them and say, okay, that person is from London. They're from, I don't know, Cornwall, they're from Liverpool. Okay, you know their English.
But if you don't know where they're from, you don't recognize their accent. You could be putting your foot in your mouth. If you say to someone, oh yeah, you English people are like this, even if you're just making a friendly joke. Talk about living in England or English culture, English customs. Because it's not England. It's Britain and Britain is united in in many cultural aspects.
But what makes us work as a nation is that we have different identities, even to each individual region of the individual countries. They have their own identity. I myself, I'm from Scotland. I was born in Scotland. I lived in various other countries when I was a young child. And then I spent some time in Scotland later on, and then in England, I lived a lot of time in England. And something that I find irritating is when people talk to me, and they refer to Liz anglais.
Nothing less is Inglaterra and onglet. There. And really, they're talking about the British Isles, maybe even there, including Ireland in that to a telling example of this for me. I was in Spain. Not long after the Queen died, Queen Elizabeth a second died. People were referring to her as the Queen of England. But she was the queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That's the name of of our country. It's not England.
So I would give you some advice. If you can do it, please, when you're talking about British people about Britain, please use the correct word. If you're speaking English, say Britain, British people, if you know more about that person, you know, say, okay, as an English guy, if he's actually is English, for example, or you know, in French, you want to stay at home with me.
And in Spanish, you want to say right now neither, and not say, England. And another reason that people talk about England is that is that England has the biggest population. And of course, the parliament, the government is situated in London, in the Southern, there is a lot of controversy about how the UK most parts of the UK don't get as much power or as much money as much attention as the southeast of Britain.
So London and kind of East Anglia, southeast area, they get a lot of funding, and they're really nice places to live, very expensive, but lovely if you can afford to live there. But there's lots of very deprived areas that don't have a lot of power or, or attention or don't get a lot of coverage in the media always.
Anyway, English, England has the largest population, and it has a large proportion of recent immigrants or people who are in second or third generation immigrants. So when you say British, you could be talking about a Scottish person, a Welsh person, someone from Northern Ireland, or someone from England. Equally, all of those national code categories could also be composed of a dual identity, for example, someone whose grandparents are Indian or from Nigeria, from Hungary, or from a wide range of other countries.
Therefore, a large number of people identify as having both a non UK and the UK, nationality, and cultural identity as British culture has been very accepting of a big range of people, lots of different people. We have seen very prominent examples recently with figures in the UK Government, such as Rishi Sunak, who's the current prime minister, in fact, the current conservative cabinet so there's, you know, a, a center right government in the UK, there's not a left wing government, they have a five out of 22 of their members are not white. So that's 23% of the current government in a country in which only 14% of people are non white people.
So what I mean to say by that is that Britain is incredibly diverse. And so anyone who's lived here for a long time, or who, who was born here is British, so it's, it's actually a very diverse country.
Okay, with all of that long winded preamble out of the way, let me talk about Myth number one, British people are cold and unfriendly, okay, or reserved. So, I think most of these myths or stereotypes will have an element of truth to them.
Actually, this idea about being reserved is strongly linked to point to Myth number two, about being polite politeness, how important politeness is what can come across as being unfriendly.
So, come across means to convey to communicate to, to seem, what can seem unfriendly is in reality, what British people see as being respectful of the other person and of not, intruding too much into another person's business. This is particularly true within England within the south part of England.
So this apparent on friendliness is not universal. If you go to most parts of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the north of England, you will not get the impression that people are unwilling to talk to you or to make your acquaintance. That's because in these parts of the UK, it's more normal to speak to strangers and to easily make friends. These cultures are more direct, there's more chatting in Scotland, there's, there's words for these things like the the banter, the patter, paving, we have different ways to talk about, you know, the fact that people just talk to each other a lot.
However, despite the people of the South of England, taking their time to be more informed You so that that is true. If you're in the south of England, it does take a few more steps to become intimate to become really a good friend. This is all to do with respect. It's, it's respecting someone's personal life, their privacy is a very important value in England.
However, being generous generosity and kindness with strangers, is a feature of everywhere that I've ever been.
In the UK, people are very helpful. If you ask a stranger for help in the street, people will bend over backwards to help you. So bend over backwards means go above and beyond do more than you need to assure I can show you where that is, I can walk with you there. Oh, it's over there. Let me show you on my phone, let me call my friend to help you people will help. Of course, not everyone. If you're standing in the middle of London, no one is even going to look you in the eye because there's just too many people and everyone's incredibly busy.
So in the middle of a busy city, and overpopulated city, you're not going to have that easy exchange, but your you will usually find someone who will be able to help you. So the smaller places have medium sized city, in those places, people are incredibly friendly, and they will help you. So this British reserve is also known as the stiff upper lip, which is not something that most people nowadays really subscribe to.
But it's a pretty, pretty classic trope. And that's something connected I think to do with the Victorian era. And to do also with the the first world war in the Second World War, where there was a lot of difficulty, and people had to put a brave face on things and it was believed that you should hold back your emotions because by sharing your emotions, if you were upset, you would be affecting other people too much.
And so I think there in some ways, there is still a hangover of the idea. You know, if we really compare, okay, I do think that British people are not as reserved as they have an impression for and you know, especially in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, people are more open about emotions. But still, I think there's definitely a hangover from this idea of the stiff upper lip and being able to keep control. So this idea that you are somehow polluting the general emotional shared space by unburdening your feelings.
So, that's an that's not just about bursting into tears, or having a wobbly as we maybe call it, when you have either you scream at someone or you, you start crying. It's not just about that, but it's the idea of like, you know, if you're quite angry or irritated, you're gonna be careful about showing it. If you're in specially if you're in public, if you're in a shop, or you're at work, or you're with friends, until you know someone extremely well, it's rare that you will really share something like, Oh, you're an idiot, put in swear words here. Or I'm really, really cheesed off, you're not going to see that too much.
And if people do that, and they share their emotions, and they just stick you late doing gestures, it does stand out. And it's something that I didn't really notice. Until I had more and more contact with Spanish speaking people.
And now living in Spain, I noticed that a lot more that there is a lot of much more open as much more easiness to show, oh, I'm superduper happy Oh, I'm really really unhappy. I'm really angry. You're, you're great or you're an idiot. In Britain, we we tend to hide these feelings or translate these feelings through different kinds of language structures or by just using by just keeping things to ourselves and hoping that the other person will self reflect and think better of their actions.
But of course, it doesn't really work like that. But, but for us, I think we find it more comfortable for people to sit in the studio in silence knowing that someone's annoyed about something and B kind of work out what's going on privately, rather than one person exploding because As them that becomes very embarrassing for us. Okay, Myth number two is very much related to this. Okay? The idea that British people are extremely polite. Okay. So it links on to what I was saying about not wanting to burden other people with your emotions, if you're angry, or you're really excited, it's a bit upsetting of the general piece. So there is a bit of an imperative in the culture to be a bit more understated. So how are you doing? Yeah, I'm okay, thanks.
I'm not too bad. There's not too bad. It's very typical British can't complain, not too bad. I'm still alive, you know, maybe make a joke about how you know, everything's not really awful. Rather than say, Oh, I'm superduper. Great. I'm amazing, and wonderful, which is something you would hear more in the USA, for example, their culture where it's much more important, or it's more valued to say, I'm doing amazing. So there's a couple of more aspects I'd like to talk about in relation to the politeness that make Britain different from other countries. So one of them is about public displays of affection.
So as you probably know, when we meet people, new people, we don't kiss on the cheek, we don't kiss on two cheeks, we actually nowadays don't usually shake hands, unless it's a business event, or perhaps a job interview, you might shake the person's hand. But there's no usually there's no pressure to touch anybody. There are some parts, some sections of society, I would say that do like to kiss each other on the cheek or give each other a hug. You know, there's lots of different parts. As I mentioned, at the beginning, we have amazing cultural diversity. So you know, there will be people who are much more touchy feely, but in general, we meet people we don't touch. Sometimes people rarely have eye contact. But that's, that's possibly a bit on the extreme side. So what I found for me, as a British person being in Spain, and the fact that when you meet new people in Spain, you are supposed to touch them in some way, even give them a kiss on the cheek, or two kisses. It's actually something that's actually really quite difficult as a British person, because it feels really unnatural.
And I've been thinking a lot about why it feels unnatural. And it's to do I think, with different perceptions and different cultures of your personal space. So if I go in to give you a kiss, if I don't know you, it's like, I'm breaking this invisible barrier. And I'm going to close into your personal space. And of course, at the same time, I don't know you, so I'm entering into an unknown area. And enough for British people, we don't tend to let people in that close until we know them very well.
So whereas I think in Spain, and in Italy, and I'm not so sure about France, but I think it's similar, it's this indication of okay, we're going to be, we're going to get things off to a good start by by giving a kiss or shaking hands or something, some kind of conviviality. Whereas in Britain, it's more, okay, I acknowledge you, I'm going to leave you alone.
So you notice this about personal space, if you're in a shop, for example, you need something on a shelf, which is next to someone who's browsing there. And you can't just reach if you're going to be very close to that person, if you're going to touch them, or have a chance of being close to them. You should say something first, you should either wait for them to finish or say Excuse me, can I just do you mind if I get in there? In Spain, I notice people will just brush go right in, grab whatever they need. And or if you kind of bump into someone by accident, they'll say, oh, put a prisoner in Britain, if you kind of there won't be a reaction of oh my god, I can't believe you did that.
But there will be some staring perhaps some sense of Oh, don't you know that you're not supposed to get close to people? So that's one thing you have to give people. Space. If you're going to get close to someone say excuse me. and sort of, it's a bit like an asking permission, like, do you mind if I blah, blah, blah? Can I just blah, blah, blah, and maybe 99 times out of 100? The person's gonna say, Sure, okay.
Oh, sorry, I'm sorry. So apologizing for that kind of thing, you're in someone's way. It's a, it's a big deal. Apologizing in general is a massive thing. In the UK, you apologize for everything. And it all again, all of these things are related to not imposing yourself too much on other people. It couldn't come across, I think in all the examples that I'm giving, the people are a bit more in their own little world.
And it takes a while for people to form bigger groups or closer relationships. But yeah, it's a sense of when you're apologizing, you're saying, I didn't mean to affect your day in a negative way. Whether it's, oh, sorry, I, I was using something that you needed. There's this difference towards other people, this kind of needing to be thoughtful about what other people might need, which is, I think, is very valuable.
And it's something that I'm kind of quite proud of. But at the same time, it can get escalated to, some people take it too far. And they never do anything for themselves, they never asked for their own needs. And that can turn into a kind of passive aggression, either being completely passive or being passive aggressive. If anyone in the audience knows about psychology, you've probably heard about the different types of relationships that you can have is kind of is called transactional analysis where you have either you're having an adult to adult conversation, where you're both equals, or you're having a parent to child conversation.
Now, you're not actually a parent, and the other person is not a child, but you're acting as if you are the boss and the person, the other person is a kid that you need to tell what to do. Or you're acting like the child or someone treats you like a child, and the other person is a parent. passive aggression is an example of that kind of one being a bit of a parent, kind of, well, you should do things that way. But without wanting to directly say, you should do things that way, or I'm annoyed at you for something. This kind of we're overthinking about what other people need.
Putting the general good ahead of your individual needs can lead to for some people, passive aggression, it can also be like, yeah, they're completely non assertive about things. They don't know how to ask for what they need. And then this can come out in some kind of other toxic weeds. But I think overall, in general politeness is a pretty good thing. Yeah, it varies from from place to place. Another big thing in terms of the politeness is turn taking. And conversation is something that I've also noticed, we let people speak. Of course, there's always different people within every culture. But if you're listening to someone, you're having conversation with them, let them finish what they're saying before you start giving your opinion or responding with your connected story. Interrupting is kind of a no no.
And I know from personal experience, that that is not the case, in every culture. In many places, it's completely fine to interrupt. In fact, it's the only way to speak, is to interrupt because if you don't interrupt, the other person will keep speaking forever. But in Britain, you just need to wait on the person will stop. After a while. There'll be a little gap and then you can speak so we like to give people a bit of space. Again, I'm just gonna add this disclaimer again, that I am just one person. I think I know what I'm talking about in terms of being British having experiences British people and people with other cultures. So but these are just my opinions at the end of the day.
So if you're a British person, and you were really open and you talk about your emotions, and you don't care about politeness and you love to interrupt other people well no you do you finally long last let's get past the politeness the reserve the on friendliness and get to some other topics. So what was number three again? Oh, yeah.
Britain is always cold and rainy. Of course, you know, I'm going to say the truth is more complicated than that. So If we talk about the south of England, we'll find temperatures in the summer, which are much warmer, much milder. remember being in Cambridge, in recent summers, where it was really hot, like, it was quite exceptionally hot for the UK, to be honest. But he got up to I think 38 degrees in the summer and all the grass everywhere was completely yellow. And you can it's quite a humid country. So it was pretty hard work.
So in the south of England, especially Yeah, it can be pretty warm. Most of the while not mostly there are there are cold parts of the winter and the autumn. But in the summer, it can get pretty hot. Do you know not rain for a long time. However, the further north we go, the colder is likely to get in autumn and winter, and they won't get hugely warm in the summer either it will get milder. So when we talk about the temperature not being too cold, we call it mild. It's very mild today. And if you want to talk about being actually being cold, you can say oh, it's a bit. It's a bit chilly. It's a bit nippy out. It's a bit chilly today. So there's another couple of words you can use instead of the typical ones.
So when I was growing up between the ages of about 12 and 18, I lived in the northeast of Scotland, in Aberdeenshire. And we had several winters where we were snowed in. So that's when, you know you open the door and there's just snow outside, covering your door. So you have to start digging a pathway. The roads are all blocked, and eventually the local council will come round to clear everything. And they put down like the salt is called Grit so that you can walk or the cars can drive. But yeah, that's after a bit of work. You know, it would usually snow in Aberdeen. Sure, it would usually snow in the winter.
But we weren't. Well, it wasn't always two extremes. But yeah, I remember opening the door and being about four or five feet of snow. What's the incentive he was I guess, like 150 centimeters, something like that. It's no, we even had a Christmas where we had a power cut. And we had no electricity. And I remember taking our dogs to the golf course the local golf course because it was a great place for them to run around. And for us to go sledding. This is really cute to see dogs in the snow they they go crazy. They love it. And my poor mum had to cook Christmas meal for six people on a set of gas hops. So the thing that you cook on top of if you go into your oven, not in not inside the oven, but on top, where you're going to boil water or or maybe fry something that's called a hub. So when it's yeah, we can say it's a gas hub if it's powered by butane, gas or an electric hob if it's, you know, one of those flat plates. And yes, and Scotland, Wales and north of England, probably Northern Ireland as well. It does rain quite often. But however, I did some research quickly, nothing too much detail.
And the rainfall if we take an average for the UK, is the same, very similar to France. So to say that the UK is a wet country, it depends on what you're comparing with, you know, if you're comparing with Brazil or I don't know, Saudi Arabia, then of course, so very wet country. But if you're comparing within Europe, there's not much not too much of a difference there. But the defining feature of UK weather, I think, is that it's very changeable. So that means that it's unpredictable, you might go out in the morning and it could be absolutely freezing, or it could be raining and then it will completely change within a couple of hours. So if you go out to work, you might need to take several, you know you need to think do I need a rain jacket? Do I need an umbrella or do I need something else to change into so that sometimes that can be a bit of a headache? Yeah, I remember being on the Isle of Skye on a holiday that we went on and walking around the island. The weather literally changed from beautiful clear, blue sky, sunny, really beautiful. You could see the locks you could see the beautiful grass with Heather and sheep and very, very idyllic and then suddenly it was cloudy. overcast and raining.
And then a hail storm and then back to sunny again. So especially in Scotland, it can really change. You have to be prepared for anything. And yeah, it can be. I mean, you might think I'm crazy, but I think that's something that's interesting. I think that is why British people talk about the weather is not because we're obsessed with it, it's because it changes.
And it can be different in one place to another, you know, but in general, you know, as we can see, in a lot of places throughout the globe, the summers seem to be getting warmer and the springs and autumns are getting a bit milder. Right? So, we get to the last stereotype for this part one about myths and stereotypes about the UK and British people. British people are all alcoholics. So where does that come from? We have an image of people between 18 and 25 on holiday in, Maga aloof or Ibiza. Tenerife, getting absolutely wasted, and behaving pretty badly. So there are those people who do that, as also, you know, there's a quite funny TV programs you can watch in the UK, which show, like what goes on at the weekend in various town centres.
But those are people that obviously that's not everybody. I think the UK does have a problem with drinking, it does have a problem with binge drinking. But is it specific to the UK, I'm not so sure. So the idea of British people drinking loads drinking excessively, it's a stereotype which has, it's an exaggeration with a grain of truth to it. So most stereotypes have something true, which is then exaggerated and made more extreme for, for fun, or to differentiate. As with most Western countries, drinking is a major part of social life and has been for centuries. In fact, in the past, before everyone had safe drinking water, there were the reason that we had such a thing as a pub, which means public house is that it was a place you could go and drink something.
And the water that had been made into beer was safer to drink, because it had been distilled than the water that you would get in your bathroom. So it's funny to think about that, you know, in the sort of Shakespearean times, and even later that people, most people walking around, just slightly tipsy a little bit drunk almost all day, you know, it's not, it's not as strong beer, they would give something called small beer, which is very, very weak, which is just kind of like, you know, having a cup of tea. So people would drink that, instead of, you know, you couldn't go and buy a bottle of water or turn the tap and get fresh water that wasn't going to give you cholera, dysentery or something. There was a lot of, yeah, there's a lot of risk involved with the water system, as I'm sure in many countries. So yeah, the public house, the pub, it was a place you could get something to drink, which wasn't going to kill you. How ironic. So I think binge drinking is thought to be perhaps a bigger phenomenon in the UK than in other countries.
But actually, as a teacher meeting lots of people from different countries around Europe, for example, it seems clear that among young people in almost every country, getting absolutely hammered, drunk, another word for drunk we have lots of word for drunk at the weekend, is a rite of passage in most countries. So it's something that you you have to do. It's, it's a part of growing up is to, to drink a lot. I have left a few links in the description, which should be quite interesting if you want to do your own research about where you come from.
And that includes one for a fascinating world map, which shows alcohol consumption marked on a country by country basis. So that's really interesting. And we see that worldwide. UK is slightly higher than average. But we see obviously, the average is brought down by countries where they don't drink any alcohol at all or almost no one drinks alcohol. For example, in Muslim countries where people don't drink alcohol at least Still, only a tiny minority of people would do so. And in terms of alcoholism,