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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior Paperback – Jul 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 583 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing; 2 edition (July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185788616X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857886160
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 13.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Edition Hodder Paperback, First Edition 2005. The new and unread book remains in very good condition. Immaculate throughout. Dispatch from UK

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gives any NON-ENGLAND natural an undersatnding on why they (the english) behave like they do.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Nation of Eeyores 9 Oct. 2014
By takingadayoff - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm a fan of these anthropological studies of non-traditional subjects, such as the two studies of Wall Street (or similar) traders, Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London by Caitlin Zaloom and Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (a John Hope Franklin Center Book) by Karen Ho. In Watching the English, social anthropologist Kate Fox studies her own tribe, the English, in impressive detail.

She stalks her subjects in their native habitats, such as pubs, train stations, at school and work, in their homes, at the race track. She examines their driving behavior, their flirting habits, meeting strangers, talking about the weather, avoiding eye contact, devotion to pets, and more. Much more.

It's all quite fascinating, although the detail could get tedious if Fox didn't employ a typically English sense of humor about the whole thing and throw in ironic and self-deprecating comments throughout.

Two observations stand out for me -- the first is that, along with only Japan among industrial nations, the English are "negatively polite," which means that rather than showing politeness in overt ways, such as saying "hello" to an acquaintance you see in a store, for instance, the English don't say "hello" because you want to give others their privacy as they shop for underwear or whatever. Here, we would surely consider that rude, to ignore an acquaintance in a public place, but in England, it's considerate to assume you'd be intruding by saying hi. The other observation is that the English are typified most accurately, according to Fox, as Eeyore, the morose donkey in Winnie-the-Pooh. "Expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed" is apparently the English way of thinking.

Great fun and even if you don't plan on moving to England, it's essential if you're a big fan of British television. It really explains a lot.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Close observation and keen analysis 5 April 2015
By Michael K. Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
Fox is a noted anthropologist (as are her father and her sister) who decided to forego South Sea islanders and African tribal villages for the study of her own country. Her objectivity (always a problem for an anthropologist) was enhanced by the fact that much of her childhood was spent in the States, and then in France. Her books on the culture of horseracing and the life of the ubiquitous English pub have already become classics. Still, she was startled when the first edition of this book, published in 2008, became a best-seller. It was even informally adopted by visitors as a guide to what to do (and what not) while visiting England. This new edition is both an update in data and observations and a response to questions raised by readers of the first one. And it's thoroughly fascinating.

The first thing to grasp in trying to understand a society is that every human culture, and every smaller subculture within it, is governed by rules. Not rules imposed from outside but standards and practices and customs that have evolved from within. We grow up learning those rules without being aware of it. We know what constitutes expected behavior in almost any situation within our own group, and we identify "outsiders" by the fact that they *don't* know the rules. Every Englishman knows he's expected to wait his turn for service, or to board a bus, or to buy a ticket. Queuing is a fundamental part of behavior and no one has to think about it. And that, like so much of the English personality, comes down to a passion for fairness, which underlies everything. An Englishman also hates to stand out, which he accomplishes by continual self-deprecation. (This is a real problem when you have to "sell" yourself to a personnel manager.) And above all, there's humor, of a particularly Eeyorish type. You can't take yourself -- or anything else -- too seriously. Not even in the face of trauma and tragedy.

That's just the tiniest tip of the iceberg, though. Fox approaches her subject in a highly organized and thoroughly scientific fashion. She carries out field tests in bumping into people, to see how many will say "Sorry" for having been the bump-ee (nearly all of them), she asks forbidden personal and serious questions in pub conversations just to see what will happen (horrified looks), and generally accosts strangers and makes herself obnoxious, taking notes all the while. And she admits that this was very, very hard since she's as much a product of her culture as everyone else.

The results divide (though with many overlaps) into chapters on conversation (and the function of meaningless small talk as grooming behavior), how cell phones have changed things, the rules of driving, work and play, dress and food and how class radar works (the U.S. doesn't really have "class" in the traditional English sense), and the social rules of sex and of rites of passage. Her style is both light and serious, leavened with a quirky sense of humor. This is a book to read in small bites and to think about. And it doesn't even matter whether you know any Englishmen yourself.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic book about English behaviour 1 Jan. 2015
By Liverpool Lass - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Explains why English people behave so strangely! Read this if you're moving to England or have been living there for a while. You'll discover how to tip a barman, why they don't like compliments, and other fun things. Useful for anyone who wants to blend into English culture, or just learn more about them.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
English Humor vs American Humor: Worth the read to understand the difference. 15 Sept. 2014
By Judith R. Covington - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A word of caution: If you haven't been to or lived among the English for a specific period of time, these books may not appeal to you. But if you have, and found the change of atmosphere and humor and down to earth funniness, these books are a delight.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Witty and informative 19 Oct. 2014
By Paolo Cielo - Published on
Format: Paperback
Amusing reading, with some incisive depictions such as the "importance of not being earnest", referring to the reluctance of the English to show their emotions.
As to their social awkwardness and love for small talk, I once heard a joke: "No wonder the English always talk about the weather. In public, they need to keep a stiff upper lip, chin up, and use a deeper tone of voice. They cannot remember all that, and still have time to think about something meaningful to say..."
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