The Undeniable Social Awkwardness of the British.
“To many, no doubt, he will seem to be somewhat blatant and bumptious, but we prefer to regard him as simply being British” — Oscar Wilde
If I say ‘British’, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The odds are pretty good that you answer will include at least one of the following:
- Tea drinking
- A love of queueing
- Moaning about the weather
- A diet of fish and chips
- Speaking like Hugh Grant
- Playing Bridge with The Queen every other Wednesday
- Excessive alcohol consumption, for no reason at all.
“What do you mean it’s the third anniversary of your uncle’s mother’s best friend’s nephew’s christening? Let’s get shitfaced.” — All British People
If you said any of the above, give yourself a medal. I’ve had three cups of tea today and it’s not even lunchtime. My parents drink around ten cups per day, so when they come to visit I joke that they should bring their own mugs. Seriously.
Is There More To Being British?
While the world watches our politicians’ fumble their way towards some form of separation from the EU, there is a concern that the rest of the world will start to associate being “British” with the blustering, bumbling man we regrettably find ourselves calling Prime Minister.
Drinking tea, moaning about the weather and queuing etiquette are all quintessentially British traits, but we’re so much more than those classic stereotypes. We also happen to be some of the most socially awkward human beings on the planet. A bold claim perhaps, but I guarantee that any Brits reading the examples below will be nodding their heads in agreement.
1. We’re Unnecessarily Apologetic
You know that most of us are unfailingly polite. If I’m walking somewhere and bump into someone, whether it be my fault or not you can guarantee the first words from my mouth will be ‘Sorry mate!’ Yes, we often apologise for things that aren’t our fault.
Or perhaps you’re somewhere like a supermarket. You could have parked your trolley smack bang in the middle of the aisle, but you can be damn sure I’ll squeeze past you with a ‘Sorry…can I just…? Cheers, sorry about that.’, avoiding eye contact at all costs, and hoping that the ground splits open and swallows me whole. Look at me apologising again for something that isn’t my fault.
2. Encountering Multiple Doors Can Result In Dangerously High-Stress Levels
You’re walking behind somebody and they walk through a door, holding it open for you, as politeness dictates. You offer a customary ‘thanks’ and continue walking. You barely take another step before seeing something which fills you with utter dread: another door.
The door itself isn’t the issue. The issue is that having to thank a stranger twice in quick succession without repeating yourself.
Do you a) offer an incredibly awkwardly repeated ‘thanks’, b) try to mix it up slightly, opting instead for a ‘Cheers’ or slight nod of the head, or c) fake a heart attack? Any Brit will tell you that b) and c) are the only acceptable answers here.
3. The “Rule Of Three”.
Given that we are have already established ourselves as the most socially awkward nation on the planet, bear this in mind when I tell you that number three is perhaps the most horrendously awkward thing that can happen to a British person.
Here’s an example:
Michael and Sophie are new colleagues getting to know one another.
Michael: So, what’s your husband’s name?
Sophie: *mumbles inaudibly*
Michael: Sorry? I didn't catch that.
Sophie: *still mumbling*
Michael: I’m sorry, one more time?
Sophie: *STILL mumbling*
Michael has two options. Having already asked Sophie to repeat herself twice, does he: a) ask her to repeat herself for the third time, making himself look like an absolute lunatic? Or: b) pretend to hear her, smile politely, while making mental arrangements to flee the country if she ever mentions bringing her husband to the office Christmas party?
4. Abide by social norms, or be “tutted.”
Every nation has its social norms. In Japan, it’s considered impolite if you leave a tip in a restaurant. In Germany, you should never chew gum while in conversation. What’s ironic about British social norms is how anti-social they make us, dictating when and how it’s acceptable to strike up a conversation.
Which is almost never, FYI.
We’re fine in situations where social interaction is required. We don’t go to our doctor and wait in silence for them to figure out what’s wrong with us after all.
But try talking to a stranger on the London Underground? You’ll probably be met with awkward shifting in seats, wary sideways glances, and a chorus of every Brit’s favourite expression of disapproval: the tut. Public transport is for getting places, not for making friends. One doesn’t talk on the tube.
5. Our frustrations lead to unconventional tactics.
It’s no secret that we love to complain about pretty much anything. The weather, bad customer service, traffic, roadworks, and supermarket self-service tills are all top-tier topics for complaints. Most of us just have a quick whinge before moving on with our lives. But sometimes, something becomes an annoyance for so long that it actually starts to become comical. And British people…well, this is the kind of thing we do:
This is what makes our nation great. Other nations might file complaints to their local authorities, but the British? We’ll either hold a birthday party or draw a penis around it, either is acceptable and both are apparently a very effective method getting your local council to repair potholes in the road.
So there you have it, five things that you may or may not have already known about British awkwardness. Our Prime Minister might be a pompous man-child, us common folk? We’re just a bunch of tea-drinking, queue-loving, weather-moaning, fish and chip-eating Hugh Grant soundalikes, who are also terrible at handling the simplest of social interactions.
God Save The Queen.
Jon Peters is a soon-to-be 28-year-old who would love nothing more than to write full-time. You can get to his profile super quickly by clicking here. Thanks for reading!