|The British Page|
|By Finn Skovgaard Follow @Finn_Skovgaard|
Britain is a nation unlike any other. They point their fingers at the French, who in turn have nicknamed them les rosbifs (the roast beefs). God knows why, since the British don't know how to cook a roast beef - or maybe that's why! The British do indeed have some peculiar habits. Margaret Thatcher said in 1999 that Britain is still quite the best country in Europe. I'll leave it to the readers to judge for themselves.
This page is not meant to be a source of immigration or travel information. Its contents are based on real experiences or knowledge and a bit of exaggeration. I hope you will have a good time reading the stories. Remember, there's no smoke without a fire. In case someone wants to accuse me of chauvinism or xenophobia, I would like to point out that my native country, Denmark, has been through the same treatment.
Den der kun tager spøg for spøg og alvor
kun alvorligt, han og hun har fattet begge dele dårligt.
( People who take fun only as fun, and serious matters only seriously, haven't fully grasped either one.).
Table of Contents for this page
The British are incredibly conservative. If something has been working during hundreds of years, why change it? That applies to cooking, the water supply, the tax year, the attitude to Europe (which when said by a Brit means Continental Europe, since they don't consider themselves European), and everything else. The British take pride in being different from other nationalities, except that they envy the way things are done in the United States. The British have great difficulty deciding whether Britain should have been the 51st state of the USA or if they should improve the links with Europe.
The Obsession with Dress Codes
Britain is one of the last countries where dress codes are still in use. School children wear school uniforms, and employees in many companies must abide by detailed dress codes. The more snobbery that is associated with a business or a category of business, the stricter the dress code. Banks in the City of London would have some of the most rigorous dress codes in the civilised world, for example. Whereas in most other countries, dress is left to the common sense of the employee, employers in the UK find it necessary to dictate every detail. In many companies, it doesn't matter if the employee spends all his day behind a desk in a corner or if he is a sales person with regular contact with clients. The employees' reaction to such senseless dress codes is to buy one suit, one white shirt, one tie and wear that every day. After these items have been in use a few years, they start looking a bit tatty, but it doesn't matter, so long as the letter of the dress code is followed.
Dress codes are taken very seriously by corporate management. IBM UK, for example, introduced a pilot project of allowing "smart casual dress" in its Portsmouth headquarters in 1994. A few progressive managers allowed their staff to apply the same, casual code in other locations. In 1996 (or 1997), the dress code was abolished altogether, after IBM UK had hired IBM Canada's CEO as CEO for IBM UK. Apparently, this guy brought along a more casual style of work culture. IBM UK had quite serious economic problems during these years, and one cannot help but wonder if corporate management should not have focused more on improving turnover rather than editing dress codes.
I asked a British IT contractor about his view on dress codes, and he said that dressing up made him feel more professional. I myself find that wearing a suit and tie at a desk only made me feel restricted in my movements, restricting body ventilation and overall uncomfortable. I'm sure my work output suffered by this, but never mind, so long as the dress code was respected.
Richard Tomlinson, the runaway British spy who published a book about the British secret service, told in his book that he had run into serious disciplinary problems because he once during a mission in the war-ravaged Yugoslavia got an oil spot on his tie while looking at a car engine problem and had to remove it before a meeting with seniors. Never mind the quality of his mission - the man didn't wear a tie, and so he was no good.
During fights in Europe under the second world war, a front line division urgently needed a map to continue. Everything else was ready. A lieutenant went back to another division to get a map, but he was first refused entry into the camp and then to the headquarters, unless he shaved and dressed up in a clean uniform. He eventually got the map, but valuable hours were wasted.
As we can see, it's not quality or output that counts, in Britain, it's form. You will see more of this in the chapter The Work.
If a product is not produced in the UK, or at least to UK standards, then it's crap. That seems to be what many Britons think. And it doesn't stop there. A large number of British companies refuse to sell to customers outside the Empire. Naive Europeans might have thought that the UK is a part of the European Union and thus the Single Market. Maybe they are, but only on paper. In practice, businesses behave as if a wall had been constructed around the British Isles. When you have found a provider of for example web site hosting that suits your purse and your needs, then they simply reply that the customer must provide a UK address. My American web hosting company don't mind where the money comes from, so long as I pay them. For the Brits, my address is more important than increasing revenue. Same story with mail order goods. The people you speak to don't know why. They just know that they are not allowed to sell to anyone without a UK address, so the last time I needed a particular circuit for my computer, it was easier to get it shipped from California to France than from the UK. We can only guess why this is so. Maybe the business manager's grand grand grand grand grand grand grand father had a feud with a Frenchman in the 17th century, and it's still not forgiven. Maybe it's because of the Napoleon wars. Maybe it's because they are convinced that people outside of the UK are not of a good character and all they want is to find a way to screw the UK business. In France, they eat frogs and stink of garlic, you know. How can you trust frog-eaters? And in Germany, they make world wars from time to time, so you can't really trust them either. The Scandinavians are certainly no good; their Vikings invaded England in the 9th century. The Americans stole a large, English colony. The Spanish are a nuisance with their claims on Gibraltar. The Indians revolted when they were shot in a massacre by the British army. So, you see, most of the world is against the British, and therefore, they can't really trust anyone.
But, on a more serious note, even I don't understand this. You propose a sale to a business, and they find the most stupid reason in the world to decline. I won't hear another word about crisis in the business sector. They are the creators of their own problems.
Moving to Britain is a nightmare. Most insurance companies will only hear of insuring your car if you have a full UK licence and a car bought in the UK. These companies will only take driving experience in the UK into account. If you drive outside of the UK, they add a daily surcharge, because you are almost doomed to have an accident in Europe, where they drive like savages and in the wrong side of the road. When you want to open a bank account or ask for credit cards, you have to provide a UK banking history - but you can't get one without having a bank account. Catch 22.
The Nanny State
British civil servants always know and enforce what is good for you. You must stick tight to the line, or you will be spanked by the Nanny State. Disorderly behaviour like it is practised in Europe will not be tolerated. Shell-shocked soldiers were executed by the British army during the First World War, leaving their widows and children in shame and without money. Tramps were locked up in public sleeping houses at night and during weekends in the beginning on the 20th century, and they were deprived of food even when available. We are talking about a centuries old mentality that hasn't changed much. Authors like Charles Dickens and George Orwell have captured this spirit brilliantly. Customs and Excise behave like a State in the State, making up their own rules on the fly and stealing cars and goods from cross-border shoppers at will. What are you supposed to do when Customs steal from you? Call the police? The newspaper the Daily Telegraph is leading a campaign for a Free Country. You see, I'm not the only one saying it.
Read this horrifying account from the Daily Telegraph of how British social services remove children from loving mothers, using Stalinist Gestapo methods worthy of an Orwellian Big Brother society. As in Danish justice, English courts just rubber stamp social or medical services' undocumented and distorted reports that don't provide any proof, and the victim is denied the right to prove his or her case or have witnesses heard.
The Fear of Litigation
The British are slowly, but steadily following the American lead in bringing litigation in more and more creative cases, where old-fashioned people would just have said it was an accident. We're talking about the type of case where someone buys a cup of coffee, spills it in her lap, burns herself and sues the restaurant because the coffee was hot. In this type of case, concepts such as "common sense" and "stupidity" have no place. In order to avoid litigation, more and more companies deliberately limit their activities or take excessive precaution.
For example, it is useful for people who are allergic to nuts to know if a food product contains nuts, but it becomes nearly surreal when on a packet of peanuts in a supermarket, you can read under the section with warnings: "Contains nuts". In other cases where a product should not contain nuts, you may find the warning "may contain traces of nuts" if the same factory is producing other products with nuts.
Once I needed to order a particular, prescribed medicine to be sent from the UK to France, because it is not sold in France, one of the two retailers in the UK, Boots pharmacy, refused to take the order, because if the medicine accidentally got into the wrong hands during delivery and someone eat the tablets, they might be sued. Fortunately, the other retailer probably had less effective legal advisors and didn't mind posting it.
When calling larger companies like insurers and banks, it is becoming increasingly common that each call starts with a computer reading up a few minutes of legal disclaimers to avoid future lawsuits, informing you that your call is being taped, that your data will be shared with other companies unless you object etc. When after 5 minutes you've finished the legal lecture, you'll bet aken to a multiple-choice system asking you to push a few buttons on your telephone. When you've made your choice (which is frequently "other", because there is no option about the subject you want to talk to them about) you'll get into a queueing system for another 5-10 minutes during which the computer will repeatedly assure you that your call is important to them.
Imperial measures are still being used in Britain, even though there's no empire any more. European legislation is slicing the official use of these awkward measures away bit by bit, but speed and distance are still measured in miles and beer in pints. A road sign saying "Wickhill 1m" doesn't mean that you'll find Wickhill 1 metre ahead of you, but 1 mile. Angry readers have complained to newspapers for years about the ongoing conversion to the more practical metric system. The official use of the Imperial measures may go away, but try changing it in the heads of the British.
For those who are not familiar with the Imperial measures, let's take some examples:
There's no point in continuing. You've got the point, haven't you? You have to be British or American to appreciate such measures. Now try to calculate the price per kg for a piece of meat that costs £5 and weighs 1 pound 3 ounces.
Obviously, if Imperial measures were to disappear completely, daily language might suffer a bit. Instead of saying "the cat was inching its way across the lawn", one would have to say "the cat was centimetering its way across the lawn", which sounds a bit awkward. Also, "yardstick" would have to be "metrestick", you'd have to order 568 millilitres of beer instead of a pint at the pub, and airmiles would become air1.6kilometres. Car mileage would become 1.6kilometreage and a milestone a 1.6kilometrestone. The English language might end up taking up as much space as French, so many Britons might wonder if the metrification is just another French plot meant to reduce British competitiveness.
The real problem that the British have with the metric system is that it was invented by the French and so by definition must be suspicious. While trying to figure out where the catch is, the British prefer playing it safe and stick with their Imperial measures that have served the Empire so well for centuries.
The Road Traffic
Motorways are constantly congested in Britain due to a lack of investment. This has led to a phenomenon known as road rage, where a driver goes berserk and attacks a fellow driver, sometimes killing him. This is becoming quite normal in Britain, so you shouldn't make too much fuss about it. Just keep a stiff upper lip. But some companies offer "defensive driving" courses to their employees. At such courses, you learn how to avoid annoying your fellow drivers and keep a low profile. The problem is not likely to go away, because the public transport system is in serious disarray, so most people have no other choice than using the car, thus clogging up the roads.
Good food is served in London and at least a dozen other places in Britain. That is, unless you prefer Indian food, which you can get on every street corner. English breakfast is egg and bacon. Lunch is a packet of crisps and a soft drink. Dinner is unspecified meat, boiled a few hours, with boiled cabbage without herbs or spices. A tasteless, brown goo-like substance called gravy covers up any trace of taste accidentally left in the meat. It doesn't matter what sort of meat was used to begin with, because it all tastes the same when the dinner is ready. Note that the difference between sauce and gravy is that sauce has a taste, while gravy simply covers the food in an unspecified, brown substance.
The questionable quality of food explains the many hooligans found in Britain. Without knowing it, they suffer from a life-long trauma of not having access to good food like the French. That's also why Brits don't like the French. They're envious of the food.
An advertisement in France for Eurostar trains going to London showed a half bald, elderly English gentleman in a suit with a loose tie, looking a bit tatty. He had a smile like if he'd just finished two pints of beer. The caption said Pour un bon rosbif, comptez trois heures (for a good roast beef, count three hours). That's the time it takes for the Eurostar train from Paris to London and the time a roast beef is cooked in Britain. The Brits say about cooking that if you're in doubt, better give it an hour more. Thus, food in Britain is cooked until it has no taste or substance any more.
Pubs in particular are places where traditional British food is served. Such places, foreigners should be aware that when specifying how you want your meat cooked, you cannot simply look up in a dictionary to find the corresponding word in English, because the concepts are differently applied. For example, the following table is a helpful guideline for Frenchmen ordering a steak in a British pub. When ordering, it is normal to be asked how you want your steak cooked.
Visitors who want their steak cooked more like home should go to a decent restaurant. Basically, the more decent the restaurant, the more the cooking will correspond to the French cuisine. But watch your wallet.
The following table would typically apply to a semi-decent restaurant:
If you really want your steak bleu, go back to France.
After the hijacking of an Afghan aircraft ended in Britain in 2000, a returning Afghan hostage said about Britain that "the weather was depressing and the food was awful".
A notable exception to the misery is cheesecakes, puddings, cakes, deserts, pies and biscuits. Here, it's the French who don't know a thing about making them. This is also what keeps Britain going. At school, children are threatened with pudding deprival if they don't behave. Since that's the only edible food they get, they immediately obey. Later in life, the now unconscious fear of being deprived of their pudding make them tolerate almost anything from their employer.
Well, things are not really that simple any more.
I must admit that things are moving. While the French cuisine is in steep decline and the French care less and less about what they eat, the opposite trend can be observed in the UK and amongst expat Britons. Briton has a wide choice of ethnic food and restaurants on offer, and food traditions from all over the world meet and mix in the UK. It doesn't mean that the gravy has gone or that the pubs know how to cook a beef steak, but it's becoming more and more difficult to make fun of la cuisine anglaise. And, as a reader said in the visitors' book, it should be pointed out that gravy in itself is not bad food if well cooked. He's perfectly right, of course. The gravy I referred to earlier was mass-produced canteen gravy. The Britons are becoming more and more aware of culinary pleasures, while some restaurants in France buy pre-cooked meals to heat up for the tourists.
Beer lovers going to Britain should be aware how to order real beer, or they are likely to be severely disappointed. The following table is the beer drinker's first aid:
Because of the excessive excise duty on alcohol and tobacco, many Brits go to France to shop for less than half the price. Bootlegging is rife, and customs are clamping down on crime. Unfortunately, they are also clamping down on law abiding citizens who are doing nothing but exercising their right to buy goods where they want within the EU. Customs and Excise confiscate scores of cars from people who legally import alcohol or tobacco. Despite a ruling from a British court that confiscating a car is out of proportion, the British government persist their illegal harassment. The European Commission is threatening legal action. Yet another example of governments' abuse of power. This is not a matter of taxation; it's robbery.
Houses are small and tatty. A lounge is frequently the size of what others would use for a bedroom. Different types of houses strictly belong to a category:
The British don't like to live in flats without a garden. Many failed concrete blocks of flats have been flattened. In many gardens, you find gnomes standing around the pond, or other equally tasteless decoration.
The Water Supply
Most houses are still equipped with a water tank on the loft. All or some of the water consumed in the house passes through this - normally open - tank for some obscure reason from a past century. This leaves plenty of opportunity for insects and animals to pollute the water. I wouldn't drink it. Since the shower is fed from the tank, the pressure is very low, and you'll see many "lazy" showers. This problem has created a market for power showers in the UK, unseen and unnecessary elsewhere. A power shower increases the water pressure in the shower, so you can get a real shower instead of dripping water. If you want to fill a bathtub, it's important to start with the cold water, and then fill up with hot water. If you do it the other way around, you'll empty the hot water tank, which then fills up from the water tank on the loft. When you're done with the hot water, there's no more cold water left in the tank.
The mixer tap does exist, though rarely seen. Normally, there's a cold water tap in one side and a hot one at the other side. In houses where a tap is connected directly to the water supply, bypassing the loft tank, the pressure of the cold water is much higher than that of the hot, which comes from a tank fed by the loft tank. Thus, the cold and hot water don't mix well. Either the cold water will take control and keep the hot water back, or the hot water will dominate, since you have to close for the cold water to allow the hot to come out. In a shower, this gives a unique burn-freeze effect that's certain to wake you up. You certainly want to get out of the shower as quickly as possible.
Royal Mail are proud to lose only 14.5 million letters a year. They are proud because they lost 26 million letters in 2002. That means that their customers pay £4 millions a year in postage for deliveries that are never done. According to rumours, they are employing staff of foreign origin who are not yet able to read English correctly. I somehow doubted if that could be true until in 2007 I sent a packet from France to the UK but had it returned with the tracking message saying that the addressee declined to receive it because he had not ordered anything. Well, it was a present, and it would be clear to anyone that it was not a mail order packet. Furthermore, the addressee told me that the packet had never been presented to him and that he was having problems with mail to them that was not being delivered. It's just an ordinary house on an ordinary street in an ordinary residential town area, so it should be very simple to find. The packet was delivered when I sent it a second time, insisting not to pay a second time.
You would think that seen in that light, Royal Mail would be a bit lenient if you made a mistake and put too little postage on a letter. But no. I've more than once received a letter from the UK with a sticker on it from Royal Mail saying that the sender put too little postage on it and so they had "had to" use an alternative way to send it. In practice, that means a delay of 2-3 weeks. I'm scandalised about such pettiness that in some cases could cost the receiver money in lost interest, lost opportunity of whatever. If they wanted to recover the missing pence, they could request it from the sender. But I somehow believe that petty employees take a hidden pleasure in demonstrating their power to ruin other people's matters to take revenge for 2 pence. This sort of nitpicking mentality is very British and however much there is to criticise in France, it would never happen there.
The Tax Year
The British tax year goes from the 6th of April in one year to the 5th of April in the next. This is due to the error introduced by the Julian calendar. The error was corrected in 1582 in Roman Catholic countries by Pope Gregory XIII. Only in 1750 did Britain introduce the correction by law. The law ruled that the day after September 2, 1752, should be September 14. This resulted in riots because people believed that their lives were being shortened by 11 days. Others complained that they had to pay a full year's taxes for 354 days. The government thus decided not to shorten the tax year, but extend the tax year 1752-53 by 12 days, from March 24, the day before Lady Day, to April 5. This of course doesn't explain why the tax year ended on March 24 before 1752, but that's another story. The logical consequence of the tax year dates is that many companies offer employment beginning on the 6th of the month; not the 1st. British logic, that is. An article in the Daily Telegraph sheds further light on the origins of this mess, going back to medieval times.
Working in Britain can sometimes best be characterised as informed slavery. The employee is expected to tolerate almost any abuse from the employer, including bad or illegal working conditions and frequent or constant overtime, unpaid of course. The slavery is kept up by the tyranny of references. In order to get a job, you must present good references, or a prospective employer won't even talk to you. In order to get a good reference from your present employer, you cannot afford to make any fuss about anything, however grotesque. In case of lack of or bad references, the employee was in the wrong, and the employer in the right, per definition. If you want to make a revolt, your future career will be abroad - or unemployment. Illness is viewed with suspicion. The employer and colleagues think it's a bad excuse to take some extra holidays. The only way to avoid being marked down in the mind of the employer and colleagues is to show up at work with something that visibly indicates illness, such as a broken arm.
When I arrived for the second round of employment with IBM UK in 1996, I was told that they presently didn't have any space for a desk for me, so I should walk around the offices in the morning to try to find an empty desk where someone was out of the office. So I did, and after 4 months, I was suffering quite severe muscle tensions because I was unable to adapt seat, terminal and keyboard heights to my height of 192 cm. I regularly kept management informed about the development of these problems, but nothing was done. The local company doctor was informed as well and put some pressure on management to get it solved. One day, I got news from my manager that my colleagues had told him that I was "not there". True. Since there was no desk nearby, I had to sit in the far corner of the building. One Sunday night, I should have updated a system. Because the system was running a critical application, maintenance slots were 2 hours every Sunday night and 5 hours every 2 months. I had to phone in and cancel the 5-hour slot because I was terribly sick with migraine and what follows. The desk problem not having been solved, I had frequent migraine attacks. The following Monday, my manager showed me a complaint from another manager, calling me "incompetent" and criticising that I had not organised someone else to come in. I protested, but my manager didn't want to make a fuss. I'm not sure how I should have found someone else and explained a complicated migration to him over the phone while spending half the time in bed with serious migraine and the other half of the time emptying the contents of my stomach. Such details don't matter to British managers. Calling in sick is a sign of bad will and should be treated most seriously. The last "excuse" coming to a manager's mind is that the employee was actually sick. A couple of gossipy women I worked with didn't help. They'd rather see the back of me, and so they did all they could to obtain that. Why? Well, I don't think it was personal, but one of them had been spending years telling management how busy and important she was and how good results she obtained despite being alone on the task. She'd been asking for a second person to help. When she was finally listened to, and I was assigned to do part of her tasks, she didn't seem happy at all. That wasn't what she really wanted. By working late and all that, she wanted to improve her career. Because she didn't want me to snoop around in her affairs, she systematically kept all e-mail correspondence about her tasks to herself, did all planning alone and called me only in the last minute before the actual execution. Whenever she found an occasion to gossip negatively about me, she did it. Finally, after 15 months, I was given a proposition to resign, and I was only too happy to accept. To be fair, I had no such problems during my first round of employment with IBM UK in 1994. While my experience may be isolated, it showed that management was totally incapable of dealing with such problems, partially because they seem to be brought up with the thinking that the employee is always wrong. If you install a computer but fail to ventilate it, it will burn down. If you expose an employee to bad conditions and he doesn't seem happy, it's the employee's fault. British logic!
As I mentioned in The Obsession with Dress Codes above, form is much more important than quality and output in the UK. To be successful in a British company, you must be seen to be enthusiastic and busy, preferably taking your lunch, often consisting of a sandwich, a pack of crisps and a soft drink, at your desk while hacking away at the keyboard and looking stressed. Walking briskly around in the corridors with papers a few times a day will make you look busy and important. You should never criticise anything, even constructively, so employers are missing valuable input from employees that could have helped eliminate time-wasting procedures and much more. When you speak to employees at British call centres, you can even feel this. The person in the other end of the line gives a damn about your problems. All he worries about is to be seen as behaving correctly and taking his specified number of calls an hour. You will rarely be able to engage in any sort of sensible conversation with a person on a helpline. The person has procedures to follow for everything, and he will be damned if he does anything he was not told to do.
Conversation and Humour
English humour is famous and doesn't need much discussion. Combining sarcasm, exaggeration, taking situations to the absurd, often using stereotypes, and blending many other ingredients into a variety of situations, has proven a successful recipe. It's not nearly as simple as that, but these are some of the elements.
However, one may be forgiven for thinking that the English humour has developed to cover up their feelings. Many conversations are no more than banter. Chit-chat with jokes and all sorts of light-hearted remarks is often as far as you can get. Try to start a more serious conversation, and chances are that it will immediately be derailed with a smart remark or a joke about something you said. Many Britons seem to dread real conversation, but why? Not just about personal feelings, but about any serious subject. Your esteem in certain social circles depends on how many jokes and smart remarks you can crack. Saying anything serious will make you stand out as a bore not worth frequenting, some sort of retard who hasn't understood what British culture is about. Conversation simply doesn't seem to be part of modern British culture as it is part of French culture.
There are some subjects they are ready to talk about, though. For example about how dreadful the European Union is. It is dreadful in many ways indeed. But ask some Britons, and many of them will say that nothing good has ever come out of the EU. It's all rubbish. It can be seen through black and white spectacles only. They are so traumatised by the experience of once having had to convert some of their awkward imperial measures to metrics that there is space for nothing else in their brains boiling with rage. They are only alert for the moment the French will impose Napoleonic law in Britain. Horror of horrors. If someone tries to moderate the suggestion that everything is rubbish from start to finish and suggest some advantages, he will immediately be told what he says is rubbish. If he continues his serious arguments, he will be told he is arrogant, left-wing and patronising, suffering delusions about misplaced intellectual superiority (apart from being told every time that what he says is rubbish). When you tell these types that they are little Englanders, they'll go into fit of rage and tell you to learn how to debate without insulting people. If you're in a pub, the fight is ready to begin, particularly after eight rounds of lager, as alcohol helps avoiding confrontation with any serious thoughts. You get the intellectual level.
Comments to online press articles are increasingly mean-spirited, attacking the journalist rather than debating the subject. If the reader doesn't agree with the journalist, then the journalist must obviously be an idiot with a one-cell brain like an amoeba. If another reader doesn't agree, then the virtual fight begins: "You're an idiot." "No, you're an idiot," sometimes stretching several pages. There is rarely any debate in British newspaper columns, even such reputed broadsheets as the Daily Telegraph. Expressions are often limited to personal attacks. What I don't understand is why moderators don't remove them. But then again I'm not English.
Fortunately, one size does not fit all, and a large number of Britons do not fit this stereotype, particularly those who have adapted to expat life.
No Sex Please, we're British
The British will probably never rid themselves of their Victorian heritage of prudery, even though it has nothing to do with modern Britons. The UK has Europe's highest number of teenage pregnancies. It seems that younger generations still can't handle that touchy subject in a mature way. Having dumped the older generations' no-no attitude, they seem to have let the hair down and let go of all the prohibitions. As it is the case with debate and conversation, it seems many simply can't figure out how to take this part of life seriously either, so it's all a laugh - or a fight, if it is not clear who 'belongs' to whom. For many of the young pub class Britons, the summer holidays are no more than one or two weeks of alcohol intoxication with a series of casual sexual encounters at a resort in Greece, Spain or similar. Rowdy British youth has become a problem for the locals at some holiday resorts.
It would be unfair to treat the entire British youth across the board as this, of course. As is often the case, you read most about the troublemakers in the press.
But in other contexts, the British remain as Victorian as ever. Let's take an article from the 1 May 2004, published in the Daily Telegraph, reporting that a house owner bad been told that he risked being arrested because of his indecent garden gnomes. Under the Public Order Offences Act, he could be reported unless he removed or covered up his gnomes. One of the gnomes was peeing in a bucket, a female gnome completely exposed and a third showing her breasts. It was reported that the pervert, offending gnome owner had given in to the pressure and covered the offending gnome parts with plaster and paint.
Does that mean that museum directors risk being prosecuted because of nude paintings by famous artists unless they put white paint on indecent body parts on the paintings, or that directors of travel agencies can be imprisoned if they fail to warn potential tourists to Brussels that they subject themselves to indecent exposure if they happen to pass Manneken Pis - the miniature statue peeing in a fountain? Will British tourists begin suing tour operators if during a trip to Paris they get into a cabaret by accident?
One would think that in a crime-ridden country as the UK, the police and courts might have more useful things to do than enforcing rules against gnomes, but then again, if such petty behaviour were to end, the British wouldn't really be British any more, would they?
Family life is something of no importance that can be practised if your employer permits. An employee is expected to work in the other end of the country with short notice at any time, and for unspecified periods, and for no extra benefits. Needless to say, a record number of marriages end in divorce when one of the partners forgets what his or her spouse looks like. If they ever got the time to produce children, the children will normally be seen drinking Hooch or other sweetened spirits somewhere in the streets, joy-riding stolen, high-powered cars, or simply looting. Since the parents have no time to bring up the children, the children bring themselves up in the streets. Friends help them by providing them with chemicals that ensure they have a good time and forget all about normal life.
The public health care system NHS (National Health Service) is a public disaster. Underfunded and mismanaged, you're lucky to get out of a hospital alive (5000 people die every year from infections acquired in a hospital) - if you were lucky enough to get a bed in the first place. That is, if you had the good luck that your doctor (GP - General Practitioner) discovered your medical condition during the three minutes allocated to each patient. Anyone who can afford private medical insurance from the price of 50 pounds a month and upwards is advised to do so. That gives you access to the doctors who know what they're doing. These doctors normally don't take patients under the public system.
As you know, Britain is a Great country, so you need a lot of information to find a particular address somewhere in all the greatness. Thus, British street addresses are little novels that describe the place and its history. A modest, British street address would consist of the name of the person, name of the company, house name, street number and name, name of the local area, town or city name, county name, and a postcode. Of course, it would take the postman far too long time to figure it out if he had to study all this information, so the postcode is enough to identify the street. Add the street number, and the postman doesn't need any further information.
Example of address
Mr. R. Herring
Mat F. from Australia - a part of the Empire that was unfortunately lost - sent me the following amusing anecdote:
I'm writing regarding British postal address observations. I wanted to share an example of cultural baggage... I had to deal with the British High Commission in Canberra last week and it was amusing to see that they have applied their highly redundant postal addressing scheme here. Australian postal addresses are efficient:
That's it. Sometimes people put the state between the suburb/town and postcode but that's just 2 or 3 letters. No big deal. So BURNSIDE 5066 becomes BURNSIDE SA 5066. So, the correct address for the British High Commission is:
British High Commission
But their version is:
British High Commission
Bloody Hell! :-) They can't help themselves. Plus it's actually wrong. There is no "CANBERRA 2609". And there's no excuse that it's to assist people with directions, because the short form plugs into the street directory (paper and online versions) just fine.
A Criminal's Paradise
Britain is one of the most crime-ridden countries in Europe. Particularly in the area of joy-riding, the UK has placed itself as a leading country. Being allowed the freedom of not strictly adhering to boring, constraining laws, British youth are thus enriched by an element of creativity that will no doubt be of immense benefit later in life. The occasional accidents during joyriding are best regarded as a regrettable side-effect in the larger interest of society.
The skills acquired during childhood are for example used to provide additional income during the early twenties, when life is difficult. Such income is typically achieved by visiting property and temporarily borrowing effects that can sweeten the hardship of the young fellows. In order not to disturb the occupants, such visits are normally unannounced. Such sociable behaviour witnesses the success of their upbringing. The more creative visitors will visit the same property several times, having figured out that occupants would not expect them to come back. However, should the occupants interfere with the good order of a visit, they must understand that they will feel the full weight of the judicial system. The first and foremost priority of the law is to protect innocent victims. Should an occupant be so unreasonable as to request visitors to leave their property, and should they accidentally touch a visitor, they will find themselves in court faster than an educated youth can say "joyriding".
An excellent example of this took place in 2000, when a certain Mr. Martin, who lived in an isolated house in the countryside, was so imprudent as to start doing the police's job. Having had several rounds of visitors, and not being content with waiting half an hour for a policeman to arrive, he had equipped himself with a gun. To "protect" himself, he said. Clearly, he must have thought he took part in a Wild West movie, as he should have known that such provocative behaviour would not be tolerated in quiet Britain. During a nightly visit, Mr. Martin shot at the visitors and accidentally killed one of them. While protecting your property is a citizen's right in the United States, the result of Mr. Martin's impatience was a predictable prison sentence, initially 20 years for murder but changed to 2 years for manslaughter on appeal. Let this stand as an example to manifest the rights of young visitors who need cash to survive. You'd make life much easier for everybody if you just put your stuff outside, so that visitors don't have to get into your house.
Putting such old-fashioned, reactionary ideas as the right to defend yourself and your property aside, and replacing them with modern thinking, is quite in thread with New Labour's modernisation of what is now called New Britain.
But wait a minute, you'd say - it's after all the police's responsibility to intervene even against uninvited visitors. Well, yes, they'd say, in principle, it could be argued to be so, but they are already overloaded with administrative and other important work that would suffer if they were to actively interfere. For example, they had to exercise such a noble deed as fining a driver who was waiting in her car at a red light because she took a sip of water while waiting. During the offending seconds of drinking, she was clearly unable to manoeuvre her car completely and constituted therefore a hazard to the surrounding traffic. In the interest of traffic safety, the police is clamping hard down on such abuse of the confidence it is to hold a driving licence.
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