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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
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)...
Published on 18 July 2009 by Italian In London

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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrated
It all started well enough. An uncanny and well presented articulation of my own foibles was most amusing - in particular when on the train reading about commuters on trains, I did actually laugh out loud. But after about a third of the way through I started to feel slightly patronised and troubled by repetitive clichés and references to Jeremy Paxman. I felt the...
Published on 21 Jun. 2007 by Simon Osborne


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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and instructive, 31 July 2009
By 
Paolo Spalla (Florence, Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
To a foreign person English are often indecipherable, even when the language is not a firewall. This book is a very good instruction manual of the Englishnes and in addition to that it is absolutely very funny, being nevertheless scientific and correct. All my English friends have been a little bit disappointed to have been revealed so openly.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed by this book, 24 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
I hadn't realised how old this book was and so when I read it I began to wonder if her findings still hold good in 2013.
One of the major differences I would say is that it is no longer so easy to judge a person by the way they speak. Our current Prime Minister, and his predecessor, have tried really hard to cultivate what they consider to be classless accents. Even Princes William and Harry adopt this way of speaking. And as for Zara Philips, I heard someone describe her as 'Common as muck' recently (although I think this is good old British irony at work).
The 'sorry' rule is something else I would challenge. It is true that there is still a lot of 'sorrying' going on, but it does seem to be more prevalent amongst females of a certain age and type. A quick trip to Tesco and the idea that we are all a nation of apologists will be sorely challenged.
I did not laugh out loud although it did raise a smile once or twice. And as for Class. I began to find all the class references quite tedious by the end, and had to make myself plough through to the bitter end.
My advice is look for a second hand copy or borrow it from the Library if you really want to read it.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Goes on and on!, 8 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
This book would be more readable if it stopped trying to be an academic tome. It should have been cut by 50%. Some relevant points are made but avoid the psychology, please!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 23 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
Item as described.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great seller, 6 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
Perfect. thank you
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding ourselves, 9 April 2008
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G. J. Weeks (London) - See all my reviews
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I recommend this book to anyone coming to England who wants to understand the locals and their strange behaviour. This book is a treasure. before I went to live in Africa I studied some social anthropology and how to prepare for culture shock. Here is the social anthropology of the English. It is acutely observed, fascinating and funny. I shall not forget the ironic gnome, the social differences in front and back gardens, how we apologise when others are in the wrong or the place we never queue. Most of us are seen as social climbers but the real upper and lower classes know their places and are secure in them.
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15 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice but dim!, 24 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
I was surprised that this book was written by an academic - in an attempt to dumb down, I think she went too far. Overall, I found it suited to Daily Mail readers perhaps. Not only was it full of sweeping generalisations,it was somewhat paradoxical that the author didn't want to write a chapter on class differences, and yet class issues were peppered throughout the book anyway. My recommendation would be to read Bill Bryson's 'Notes From a Small Island' or Jeremy Paxman's 'The English' for a much more intelligent and witty insight into English behaviour.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 13 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (Paperback)
An amusing read.
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14 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mainly interesting but fluffily padded, 5 July 2004
This book looks at the english from the perspective of a professional anthropologist. Its focus is the elucidation of the implicit rules of behaviour from observation - generally from the author's own people-watching.
This focus prvides the book with its main strength, the successful illumination of these rules; but also with one of its failings, a flat telling of the details with no real momentum.
There is some momentum to the exposition, provided by an ongoing attempt by the author to unite the various empirical results as manifestations of a small set of fundamental patterns of behaviour. However, any momentum provided is dissipated by the author's proclivity for including personal details of her life as "illumination" for the points she is making.
One or two indulgences would be forgiveable: unfortunately the author does not show much constraint in this aspect of her writing, with the result that the reader becomes increasingly annoyed whenever a new anecdote appears.
While some of the patterns of behaviour are so well known as to be cliches (e.g. talking about the weather), the author does discuss these and other less well known patterns in a quite refreshing way and the rules she digs out from her observations generally ring true with the reader's experience.
Overall then, despite some shortcomings, the book is successful and mainly enjoyable to read.
The principal framework for discussing variations in these rules is, from an english perspective, the most important: the class system. Possibly the book would have found it beneficial to use other frameworks like regional variation.
As illustration, although most of the rules arrived at successfully capture the reader's everyday patterns of behaviour, as noted above, the author's discussion of tipping bar-staff in pubs is inadequately observed and misses some important points of the basic mechanics of the transaction, points that would have been discernible if she'd observed differing practises in english cities.
Still, if you enjoyed Paxman's book, you'll find this book a worthwhile read.
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45 of 78 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not A Critical Bone In Sight, 19 Jan. 2005
Few people like to be put under the microscope and even fewer like it when they do not know someone is observing them in the first place. Estate agents may be highly disliked by the English, perhaps because they put a price tag on our private lives, as the author claims, but social anthropologists are usually considered to be as pleasant and reliable as snoops and gossips who talk to you as if you truly were an interesting person and then end up telling the world about your dysfunctions in a book. They are a bit like psychoanalysts but without the plush leather couch. This is the common, very short-sighted and superficially sketched picture that a large share of the market abides by. Unfortunately, while this book had all the chances to captivate readers from varied backgrounds, it has fallen flat on its face while trying.
One can only commend a project that took such a long time to complete. The depiction of the English people is as accurate as one would expect it to be. After all, the author wasn't at it for a month or two but for ten fat years, for the amount of time it takes lesser researchers to complete two PhDs, a couple of oil paintings, an unpaid fortnightly column for an obscure website, and the Times Literary Supplement weekly quizzes (and over ten years that makes an awful lot of questions to answer, I can tell you that). The book as a marketing medium is off to a great start, with that intelligent-tome-look that publisher Hodder & Stoughton is always so keen on, and with a jacket that sings the author's praises from high above ("Fox is a social anthropologist, but this does not prevent her from writing like an angel", The Sunday Express muses. I wonder whether the whole social anthropologists category takes this as a compliment). The text itself is off the marks with an example of cosy imagery that any bored out of his brains commuter will be familiar with, at least in his fantasies:
"I am sitting in a pub near Paddington station, clutching a small brandy. It's only about half past eleven in the morning - a bit early for drinking, but the alcohol is part reward, part Dutch courage. (...) I am now about to return to the train station and spend a few hours committing a deadly sin: queue jumping."
This sets the tone for the rest of the text which is always quirky and subtly amusing and which sometimes lightly stings without ever patronizing. As one reads through the introduction and then moves onto Part One: Conversation Codes, the impression truly is to be holding the most modern study of English behaviour The Sunday Express has ever come across, a revelatory text which is about to set all wrongs right and which will also put a few idiots in their place in the process. Off we go.
But we don't actually get anywhere. The book slowly but steadily crumbles chapter after chapter, its core, whatever that may have become, getting diluted in lengthy descriptions which, as accurate and as amusing as they are, do not and cannot sustain this study by themselves. Like a PhD downgraded to MPhil at the last hurdle, Watching The English has a deep enough introduction, a very good review of what the English do, but ultimately lacks the depth of analysis one would expect from it. Little method is displayed in the sections that each chapter devotes to its findings, and these are no more than a rehash of what has already been blabbed about. The true shock of course does not occur until the conclusion which should spell out what Englishness actually is. A book that took 400 pages to come together winds itself up with an analysis that is barely 15 pages long and comprises of what can only be described as a drawing that is as superfluous as the primary school explanation that follows it. Not that one expects Lacanian graphs at every page, but surely three bubbles all pointing to a "Social Dis-ease" plonked in the middle is not what I would define as acceptable at this level. Although the author herself points out that such diagram (and even by calling it so, we are pushing it) "will disappoint those readers who were expecting something more complex and difficult (...), [because] Englishness cannot be shoehorned into any existing scientific models", one should really wonder what prevented Fox from coming up with a fitting scientific model of her own, rather than being so preoccupied with the existing unfitting ones so that a laughable drawing proves to be a better option. The conclusion is not a conclusion at all and therefore turns the study into a piece of work that lacks originality, twist and, more importantly, a convincing denouement.
Last but absolutely not least, Watching The English suffers from atrocious editing. From missing apostrophes ("The Rules Rule" for one), to poor punctuation, stylistic inaccuracies and annoying repetitions (there actually ARE synonyms out there for "knee-jerk", "knee-jerking", "shiny" and even for "but"), the book is in shambles and although Fox may write like an angel, the finished product suggests that whoever the almighty above her may be, he is definitely not good at proof-reading.
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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox (Paperback - 11 April 2005)
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