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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour [Paperback]

Kate Fox
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 April 2005

In WATCHING THE ENGLISH anthropologist Kate Fox takes a revealing look at the quirks, habits and foibles of the English people. She puts the English national character under her anthropological microscope, and finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and byzantine codes of behaviour.

The rules of weather-speak. The ironic-gnome rule. The reflex apology rule. The paranoid-pantomime rule. Class indicators and class anxiety tests. The money-talk taboo and many more . . .

Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments (using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig), Kate Fox discovers what these unwritten behaviour codes tell us about Englishness.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (11 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340818867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340818862
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Fox, a social anthropologist, is Co-Director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. Her work involves monitoring and assessing global sociocultural trends, and has included research, publications and broadcasts on many aspects of human behaviour including: social aspects of drinking, sex differences, flirting, body image, pub culture, gossip, eating, health issues, taboos, horseracing, mobile phones, email, stress, drugs, crime, violence and disorder. Her publications have included Pubwatching with Desmond Morris, Passport to the Pub: The Tourist's Guide to Pub Etiquette and The Racing Tribe: Watching the Horsewatchers. Kate is also an international consultant on the prevention and management of violence, and has written and produced training programmes and videos on the subject. She is co-author, with Dr Peter Marsh, of Drinking and Public Disorder.

Product Description

Review

She has not only compiled a comprehensive list of English qualities, she has examined them in depth and wondered how we came to acquire them. Her book is a delightful read. (The Sunday Times)

I loved the section on mobile-phone etiquette. Shrewd . . . I liked the chapter on English humour. This is an entertaining, clever book. Do read it and then pass it on. (Daily Telegraph)

Amusing . . . entertaining. (The Times)

Watching the English . . . will make you laugh out loud ("Oh God. I do that!") and cringe simultaneously ("Oh God. I do that as well."). This is a hilarious book which just shows us for what we are . . . beautifully-observed. It is a wonderful read for both the English and those who look at us and wonder why we do what we do. Now they'll know. (Birmingham Post)

Fascinating reading. (Oxford Times)

An absolutely brilliant examination of English culture and how foreigners take as complete mystery the things we take for granted. (Jennifer Saunders, The Times)

If you like this kind of anthropology (and I do) there is a wealth of it to enjoy in this book. Her observations are acute...fortunately she doesn't write like an anthropologist but like an English woman -with amusement, not solemnity, able to laugh at herself as well as us. (Daily Mail)

Book Description

The hardback bestseller now in paperback: 'An entertaining and clever book. Do read it.' -

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People-watching at its best 31 Jan 2005
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Kate Fox is a well-known anthropologist who now turns her attention to the very strange behaviour of the English people. The book's chapters cover various aspects of this one by one, including mobile phone use, dress codes, food rules, rules of sex, driving and many other topics. Her basic conclusion is that the English are a buttoned-up race who use many displacements behaviours to cover up their essential embarassment in all social situations. Remove from us our dogs, our gardens, our pubs and our "weather talk" and you uncover a people who would run a mile rather than engage realistically with their fellow humans.
Kate Fox intersperses her study by telling the reader about the research she undertook and it is amusing to read of occasions when she deliberately bumped into many English people to see whether they would say "sorry" (the invariably did). Her visits to pubs result in some instantly recongisable behaviours which seem to have the force of law behind them for woe betide anyone who transgresses.
I enjoyed reading how humour suffuses all English social situations. It is impossible to interact with the English without making jokey, ironic comments, as anyone who works on a daily basis with English people will testify to.
The book is itself humorous and light-hearted but is by no means light-weight for it has some serious messages which will interest anyone who is English or who has to deal with the English in daily life. By the end I admired Kate Fox for providing us with what is really quite a scholarly study, but one which draws you on chapter by chapter, smiling at her insights as you read.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book 18 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a foreigner living in the UK this book helped me a lot.
Now, it's much easier to understand why English people behave in certain ways that differs from my culture.
I can now go to a pub with my colleagues, talk about the same subjects and also talk to strangers saying something like "nice weather, isn't it"? (Read the book and you'll understand why)

The very beginning of the book is boring because she repeats all the time her methods. After that the reading is very pleasant and I enjoyed it a lot.
I think it deserves 4 stars and I definitely recommend to all foreigners living in the UK.
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142 of 156 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice weather if you're a duck. 11 May 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I heard there was a book coming out about English "quirks" I knew I had to get it. I love people-watching and love the idea that certain traits are inherent to the English tribe.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn't disappointed. This is a hefty book, and I'm not a "read-the-book-in-a-night" person, preferring to dip in and out whenever I get a chance, but I have found myself preferring to pick up the book rather than watch the TV. I've even missed breakfast a few mornings this week, preferring to sit with a cuppa and read so it must be good!
Have you ever wondered:
* Why we talk about the weather so much?
* Why we can't accept compliments without embarrassment?
* Why WE apologise when someone bumps into us?
* How we use humour/irony as a defence mechanism
And did you know, men gossip as much as women? The proof is in here!
The one that has made me laugh the loudest so far was the section on gossiping / bitching.
This is low-brow anthropology but don't get me wrong, it's not for stupid people! There's a lot of academic terminology, which can at times be confusing, but Kate follows this up with clear examples and definitions to clarify her points. The characteristics covered thus far, I have to admit, ring too true. Getting off the phone to realise I have just fulfilled so many "English" stereotypes is shocking but amusing. Kate’s style of writing is conversational, but not patronising. It’s intricate but not complicated. Her accurate observations are alarming, entertaining, and really quite fascinating.
I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in culture; tribalism; communications; sociology; or simply the English and our eccentricities.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rules about reading and reviewing 27 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback
The act of reviewing a book like Watching the English has, itself, certain rules. Hence I give it four stars rather than five. Five would be just too, well, 'showy'.
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92 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amusing and acute book about the English 10 Nov 2006
By Helen Hancox TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I started this book 3 days after returning from my first trip to America. Whilst in America I became aware of the huge cultural difference between the friendly people of the USA and traditional Brits amongst whom I've lived almost my whole life - I found much of American behaviour inexplicable and rather rude and personal towards someone they didn't know. I breathed a sigh of relief when returning to England, back amongst normal people who aren't continually nosy and telling you what they think about politics, religion and anything else the whole time.

I wish I'd read this book before I went. Not that I wouldn't have found a lot of American behaviour strange after reading it (I would still have done) but I would have been more aware of my cultural disabilities and how weird I must seem to them.

That's the power of this book - you can dip into almost any page, read a paragraph and say "that's me!" Kate Fox has studied the English for 10 years with remarkable acuity and she is able to identify behaviours that, to us, are entirely normal but are actually just part of our collective odd English behaviour patterns. When a man I had just been introduced to in America said "So, tell me all about yourself" I was left gaping at him in horror; `Watching The English' describes how people in the UK never share personal information unless they know someone particularly well - and in fact most people don't even introduce themselves to start with - my horror was expected and justified as I had never before been called upon to `blow my own trumpet' and it is completely counter to British reserve and our self-effacing nature.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A window on my own world
I have been an Englishman, an engineer from a middle-class background, for 70 years and I found that this book opened a window on my world through which I had not looked before - I... Read more
Published 7 days ago by A. J. Martyr
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly interesting, but very patronizing
There were a few interesting observations, but overall, I found the writer's tone to be very patronizing as she is, as she clearly points up, upper class. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Katherine E. Porter
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative
Marry to English man and now also living in England, but I still need this book as guidance to understand the culture. Been waiting to get this book cheaper :)
Published 8 days ago by Linda Hale
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved it
I read this some ten years ago and am considering purchasing the book so that I might re-read. Everyone likes to know what they are like (provided it is not too uncomplimentary)... Read more
Published 13 days ago by opus
4.0 out of 5 stars I know no better account of how we behave
Looking forward to the next edition due in April.2014.Fox displays an excellent understanding of the traits of our national characteristics. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Eric Cowin
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
Item arrived safely and efficiently. I am totally satisfied and happy with my purchase. A good service all round and a totally satisfied customer.
Published 22 days ago by D. G. Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
Really interesting for those who are interested by the english culture , easy to read as well for non-native english
Published 25 days ago by Gaetan Nandelec
5.0 out of 5 stars Watching the English
Written in an intensely English style - humourous, ironic, self deprecating. I loved it and, if you would like to know a littel more about the English, read it now!
Published 26 days ago by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent
this book is in my bed table. I find it very usefull and helped me to understand a lot about English behaviour and culture. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Anna M. Giusti
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
was so good gave my copy to a business adviser for me, after reading it, thought he would benefit, thanks
Published 3 months ago by Nicola Jeffery-Sykes
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