19 abril 2006

Here's how to act British (for US citizens)

I will confess that my first impression of Britain, after arriving from America at the age of 27, was neither poetic nor original. Looking out the taxi window, I did not at once apprehend the air of pervasive melancholy, or remark upon the begrimed splendour of London's glowering facades. I just noticed how easy it would be to amend all the TO LET signs so they read TOILET, and wondered why no one had bothered. "What is it with these people?" I thought to myself. "Have they no sense of humour?"

Americans don't travel well. We are one of our least successful exports, to the extent that the US State Department, in conjunction with US businesses, has issued a 16-point pamphlet telling its citizens how to avoid behaving idiotically while abroad. It advises them not to brag and not to lecture. It says it is inappropriate to tell people about the Bible "unless you are a professional missionary identified as such."

This is a good idea. There are undoubtedly some Americans who will look at the tips and decide against travelling at all - if they can't bore on about the Superbowl or walk around Paris recommending the Bible to people, what's the point? But it doesn't go far enough for American visitors to Britain. If you want to avoid being openly hated, by all means take the State Department's advice, but if you wish to escape being secretly loathed, you need to take the following extra precautions.

Don't bring along any articles about British food clipped from the travel section of your local newspaper. The information therein does not apply. People rarely eat any of those foods with quaint names - Plum Duff, Spotted Dick, etc - commonly associated with Britain. They are being laid on for your benefit, or rather as a sort of prank.

In the UK overt displays of friendliness are taken as a sign of brain damage. This sounds horrible, but actually it's a fairly good rule of thumb. Try to match your moroseness to those around you. Occasionally you will run across that rare British person who is not just friendly but outgoing, helpful, charming and loquacious. He is a con man.

Try not to walk about dressed for several competing extremes of weather. This is an insult to the natives. You're making it look as if their country is barely habitable. Also, check to see what your clothes are advertising: is it a software firm in your home state, or a local roofing contractor, or your Bible studies group's rafting weekend? Contrary to popular belief, such T-shirts are not conversation starters.

Finally, ask yourself: do you hate George Bush enough to travel? You may think you hate him a lot, but once abroad your denunciations of the man and his policies will have to be forthright and tireless. Every time you want to say, "So you guys say crisps for chips, and chips for fries, right?", stop, think, and then say "George Bush - what an asshole" instead. Soon people will start smiling at you on the bus. But don't take it too far: America has her spies everywhere.

[From the Guardian]
[I found the Guide]

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