Watching the English

Watching the EnglishThis book I chanced across in the library turned out to be a great read and I recommend that any foreigner living in London should read it (but it’s probably just as a good a read for English people as well). The premise of Watching the English, is the study of “Englishness” as researched and written by an English anthropologist, Kate Fox.

The author covers all aspects of modern English life included topics such as what constitutes valid topics of conversation, pub etiquette, queuing rules, dress codes and the English class system (that surprisingly has little to do with money). The focus of her research was to draw out the common but unique aspects that make English, well, English.

Part of her research method required her personal involvement along with her normal observations, and the author’s struggle against her “Englishness” added a lot of humour to the book as she describes forcibly attempting things that went directly against all her in-built mannerisms.

To some degree it explained a lot about the behaviour you see of ‘Brits Aboard’, especially their infamous Hen’s and Stag parties, as well as many other quirky behaviour foreigners typically comment on. At times her arguments fail to stand up as being exclusively English as there are always exclusions, but it is evident she made a strong attempt at keeping the focus on typically English-only behaviour. In many ways, you could interpret many of these common behaviours of people from ex-colonial countries as the influence of the English.

I think this book made a very enjoyable read and though the author attempted to formalise many of her conclusions, the humour and real life examples that she uses makes it very easy to digest. Many times I sat on the plane almost laughing out loud reading this book because it all too hard to live in England and not experience the very same situations she writes about. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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