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Showing 1-10 of 30 reviews(1 star). Show all reviews
on 13 June 2016
I can only confirm the utter awfulness of this books as written by others. Ms Fox is a genuine representation of the Islington guardian reading "intelligentsia" that portends that they know it all and are so educated than everyone else. It really made me feel like vomiting whilst reading her pseudo-leftist-psycho-babble. Most of her writing was totally incomprehensible and had the enjoyability of reading the Oxford Dictionary from A to Z.
From the start she proclaims how she would not touch any sensitive issues and be totally politically correct so as not to offend anyone! oh, and do you know her father is famous and she has lived in France and the US and can speak French?!?
The morality of the British elite has never been at such a low point. Is it any wonder that the UK is such a third rate nation with people like this supposedly our 'betters'...
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on 4 November 2009
Ermmm? Watching the English? Actually I can only think that Ms Fox was watching Eastenders and taking it frightfully seriously, in the pub culture part of the book she HAS been watching Eastenders and has not even bothered changing the characters names. Ms Fox, soap operas are NOT REAL, they are not documentarys, honestly! I really, really promise.

Never before have I read such utter patronising drivel, we have been observed on high from a very, very, very clever person (she thinks) I almost felt the urge to pick nits out of my neighbour's hair and eat them. Does Ms Fox ever change out of her blue stockings and enter the real world?

Reads like my O level sociology essays (and I got a C). I shall go off now and wear my cheap clothing and try to understand the British trait of 'buying a round' in the pub. Thank god Ms Fox was there to guide me, the whole process has left me baffled for years!
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on 22 July 2013
Picked this book up second hand and thought it would be a fun read on holiday. Very disapointed however as it consists of fake "scientific" observations on English behaviour. First the idea that "English" people behave in a particular way is stupid in any case. I am English by the way and did not recognise myself or friends in any of this. The book appears to be trying to be serious but the author keeps sticking in personal observations and she comes across as a total snob. It is worrying that the book has been translated as non English people might get the idea that this book is in anyway accurate of English life. The stiff upper lip is long since gone (if it ever really existed) and I think you will find that English people have the same ways of behaviour as people everywhere. Please don't waste any of your money on this book.
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on 29 September 2012
This book reminds me of the performance of the 'observational' stand-up comedian. The performer with the act of anecdotes about how people behave in a manner you had not found amusing until you had your attention drawn to it.

I was expecting the author to be as curious as I am about the topics covered.

For example, why do the English raise their voices to use their mobile phones when many foreigners drop their voices? Why do you pay for each drink as it is served in an English pub but pay at the end of the session in a continental bar? Why do the English delay getting to the nuts and bolts of a business meeting when other nations avoid the initial small talk? Why do we obsess about the weather when it is almost always irrational and unseasonal?

Maybe these answers are there, but I struggled to find them.

To me the reasons why things happen or are different are the raison d'etre of a book like this. That is research. All this book contains is reportage. To spend hours in a pub observing how people attract the attention of the bar staff is, to my mind anyway, not nearly as interesting as why. I can only assume Ms Fox does not know the answer. I eagerly await the book she publishes when she does.

In the meantime my advice to potential purchasers is, if you want to know why the English behave the way they do then this is unlikely to be the book for you.
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on 21 January 2008
Like many others who have posted here, I bought this book expecting original observations and examinations (with supporting facts and figures, please) of whether stereotypes about the British actually contained any truth. Instead I found myself ploughing through page after page of seemingly arbitrary value judgements and gross generalisations.

I quote: "You would certainly never boast about having spent an excessive amount of money on something...Only brash, crass Americans display their wealth by boasting about how much something cost them" (p. 230). I really, truly hope that Fox meant this in a tongue-in-cheek way, but having read the rest of the book and her gross class assumptions, I fear not.

The part about teens' attire left me cold: "Saskia and Tracey...may both have a short denim jacket from TopShop, but Tracey will wear hers with tight,slightly shiny, black lycra/nylon trousers and clumpy, black, high-heeled, platform shoes, while Saskia's identical jacket will be worn with a pair of cords, boots and a big, soft scarf wrapped several times around her neck." (pp. 284-5). I'm sure Tracey and her family would love the same soft scarf and newer trousers with more natural fibres but find that the family's purse-strings don't stretch to these lofty levels so they need to re-wash and iron Tracey's nylon trousers, making them even shinier, and put up with the value judgements that rain down on them from the likes of Royal Ascot-attending Fox.

Oh, one final gripe, although I could go on all night: the book is so South-centric! "Most Yorkshire people are probably no more blunt than any other Northerners" (p. 189). Ah, so it isn't people from Yorkshire who are blunt but ALL Northeners!! Nice sweeping judgement! I would respond with "our cynical English catchphrase: 'Oh, come off it!'" (p. 180), except it's a phrase which I would never use, sounding as dated as it does, much less call it our national catchphrase.

I wish I'd bought A Thousand Splendid Suns instead.
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on 31 March 2008
I have never been compelled to review anything before, but this really is utter dross and people need to be warned to steer clear of it, unless perhaps you enjoy a spot of casual bigotry, Daily Mail reading or similar activities.
A hideous mish-mash of 'pop anthropology' and aspiration to genuine academia is best summarised by a footnote which refers to a paper that the author herself wrote, which in the context of a supposed light read seems rather pretentious, except don't worry: 'the paper is 'alot less pompous than the title makes it sound'. Well thanks for that little disclaimer, I would now rush out and find it, were I not already totally convinced of your pomposity thanks to reading the rest of Watching the English.
The book is a supposed overview of English etiquette, habits and behaviour: it doesn't fail totally in this respect, except that most English people would realise it all already, and most foreigners would be put off by the length and needless detail.
But it is the tone of the book that is, as the review title says, unbearable. I would hate to meet this woman. I cannot believe that she would ever want to mix with the 'lower classes', as she repeatedly calls them. An undeniable tone of snootiness permeates every page, and if you scan through the pages to see how many times the word 'I' appears, as I did when I first realised what was putting me off, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that she really does think alot of herself, and her husband who graduated with a First from Oxford, as she wastes no time in telling us.
Please leave it on the shelf.
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on 19 March 2009
This is the worst social science book I have read in years.

It started off well, but became very very tedious far too quickly. There were far too many sweeping generalisations, and an underlying smug tone that made it unreadable after a few chapters.

Although she makes some good points, it is clear from the start that Ms Fox considers herself to be in the upper-middle class category and annoyingly feels the need to remind the reader over and over and over and over. It's painfully obvious that her social status has pre-disposed her opinions on certain matters, making her book totally unscientific and barbaric in it's judgements.

Consquently the book reads like a set of rules for desperate social climbers and wannabies. Unless you consider yourself to be one of these, don't waste your time reading it.
22 comments|31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 December 2009
I found this book very irritating. I was extremely disappointed by what seemed to me its mishmash of trite stereotypes, mundane observations and pure speculation masquerading as a serious analytical treatment of English culture. If you are a socially awkward upper middle class person with conventional views and a limited experience of the world, this book may well comfortingly reaffirm the things you perhaps already think about your own narrow milieu. If you are anyone else, having the benefit more than a superficial exposure to English or British culture (from within or without), you're unlikely to learn anything from it and you may well marvel that someone can dress up such a reheated bag of tired clichés as serious anthropology.
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on 22 October 2007
Having received this 'free' as part of a three for the price of two in a bookshop and attracted by the concept I sat down to read through what I thought would be light hearted 'humorous' 'social anthropology lite' look at English behaviour - good for relaxing beach reading.

Being a social scientist myself I had no illusions that it would offer any profound insights but was prepared to give it a go.

I wish I hadnt bothered and resent the small amount of money I may have given to Kate Fox in the process of buying this book.

As I made my way through the book I got more and more annoyed - at Fox's writing style which is Daily Mail-ish in its populist, 'common-sense' approach and lack of insight, at the old cliches that were wheeled out - yes we all know that they contain an element of truth but we want to go beyond the standard thought to gain a deeper understanding and the endless repetition of apparently significant English traits which gets extremely tiresome. When you add in the endless self promotion for Fox's company which apparently carries out social science research studies this book has very little going for it.

On several occasions I wanted to throw this book into the sea, so annoyed was I with the author's tiresome 'insights', but I persevered until the end thinking that it would get better - it didnt. This book adds nothing to our understanding of Englishness - merely a series of cliches laid out in an annoying 'ok yah' headgirl style which soon begins to grate.
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on 6 September 2012
This is not a book to read from cover to cover as it's just too dense, even dipping in and out reading the chapters that interest you is trying. The main problem is that it's wrong and so wide of the mark on "Englishness". It tries to distil all of our behaviours into ill-fitting, ill-thought out "rules" such as English people find meeting new people so excruciatingly embarrassing that they dare not ask what they do for a living or even their name, instead making small-talk about the weather for fear of causing offence!! It's just rubbish. I found myself getting angry with the book and was unable to recognise the vast majority of characteristics covered. I am as English as they come - parents from Cornwall and Derbyshire, married to a Yorkshireman, live and work in London, educated in Bedford and Cambridge and I had nothing in common with the so-called English traits Kate Fox has singled out in her "anthropological" study. Rubbish, populist, hackneyed book, don't bother.
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