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

Kate Fox
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,755 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.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 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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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People-watching at its best 31 Jan 2005
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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147 of 161 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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96 of 107 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 1000 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 Love this book
Love this book. It was ironic that I saw someone else on the tube reading it at the same time as me… but then didn't mention it to him.
Published 5 hours ago by RJC
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
We English love our hidden rules! Thoroughly enjoyed reading about them - but we still like to queue!
Published 16 days ago by Mrs. K. J. Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars Great seller
Perfect. thank you
Published 23 days ago by Pete Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a must-read for any expat coming to UK
It's a very structured review of the most-likely british people reactions and behaviours in day-to-day situations. It gives a set of rules that is applicable for all. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Natalya Naryshkina
5.0 out of 5 stars Good humoured observations of native English behaviour.
This was recommended by a friend who lent me her paperback copy. Rather than keep it for too long I decided to buy it for my Kindle.
I've not finished reading it yet. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Stephen Griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars just delving into the first few chapters makes for better...
Very insightful book, just delving into the first few chapters makes for better understanding. Thank you for selling me this book.
Published 1 month ago by Patricia Bush
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I like this book.
Published 2 months ago by evelina
1.0 out of 5 stars Just to say thank you
I so much appreciate my what recieved. Very lovely
Published 2 months ago by STEPHEN OKWUDILI ILO
5.0 out of 5 stars arrived when expected and I am very pleased with this book
Interesting and well written. arrived when expected and I am very pleased with this book.
Published 2 months ago by Lorraine
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't sit in your front garden
One to dip in. Brilliant and fascinating. Love the excentricity clause. And dont' sit in your front garden.
Published 2 months ago by Bernard Doring
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