On Englishness and Britishness

National identity and characteristics has been something I have been asked about. There's two major issue areas here: I will try to find some things which are true about England

English people drink tea
English people are reserved
... but tolerant

English people drink tea...

Yes - this is true. To get an understanding of the correct depth, you must understand that "having a cup of tea" is the solution to many situations. If a building was hit by a huge meteorite and the survivors crawled out from the rubble, the assembled survivors would conclude that it is time for a cup of tea...

Another thing which would put this in perspective is that tanks -that's right; those rather heavy armoured things - of the British Army come equipped with a kettle so the crews can make tea. So a rather large many-tens-of-tons heavy tank comes equipped with a kettle, which is probably more than can be said for many "RV's" (Recreational Vehicles - "motor-homes") sold here in the US. Don't think this is empty hearsay - I checked with the manufacturer and they were happy to confirm that the "Challenger" tank does indeed come with a "boiling vessel". Apparently it is one of the most contentious design issues that the "boiling vessel" is mounted within the turret - one assumes this makes it difficult to finish making your pot of tea if the vehicle comes under attack and the turret is swinging around!!!

English people are reserved

English people are generally rather reserved. I have been mistaken for other nationalities, even while in England. Greetings and bidding farewell tend to be very clipped - the opposite of effusive (almost like acting as a counterbalance to the Italians). My landlord here was thinking of flying to England and felt almost aggrieved at the brevity of the greetings I suggested as appropriate...

On the plus side, you are not obliged to "have a great day" or even a just plain good day or nice day. Americans who are poets, philosophers, artists or other folk who have difficulties with the all-day-with-a-wide-smile culture can find it very pleasant to be allowed to be moody without anyone giving them a major-league pain-in-the-arse (= butt) hard time about it.

English people are tolerant

It has been commented by many travellers that English people in general do not seem to "raise an eyebrow" about anything.

Someone describing travelling on "the Tube" (= the London subway train), which was largely full of people returning from work, observed that no-one showed any surprise when someone got on the train wearing a full suit of Medieval armour. On the same theme and even in the same setting, here is a link to an article accompanied by a picture showing the enormous reaction (not) to someone travelling on "the Tube" who regards clothing as an optional addition - the subject made the news because the jury was also equally disinterested...

Warming up on a subject area I often delight in:

A few years ago two people (a man and a woman) ended-up in trouble and being fined or some such similar punishment in a magistrate's court. It seems though that the legal system's preoccupation did not match the issue which brought the might of public opinion crashing down upon them. Here is what happened:
After a works outing to Southend (a seaside resort near London) two of the party realised a mutual attraction they had not previously been aware of. To fulfil this, they set off to a First-class compartment, which on these trains where closed compartments on one side of the First-class carriage accessed through an entrance door from a corridor down the other side of the carriage. Pulling down the blinds and binding the door shut, they proceeded with consumating their new-found one-ness. However, annoyed at observers trying to look through gaps at the edges of the blinds, they stomped into the main open-design standard-class carriage and completed consummating their new understanding, right there amongst families returning from Southend with children running around. Now, the error they made which brought the ire of public opinion crashing down on them was that after completed their act of love they sat back and lit-up post-coital cigarettes - and this was in a no smoking carriage!!! This was the unacceptable behaviour which got the conductor called, after which the police were called, etc, etc...

Now really getting moving on the general theme, I was watching a documentary on The Obscene Publications Squad of the Police Force and the difficulties they faced, not the least of which was getting cases past a jury, however well-presented. A detective described how they had been trying to "get" a company whose business was the purveying of "erotic" literature and video material. Knowing the ambivalence of the public in Mainland Britain, they waited looking for an opportunity to claim some major transgression and though they had this when they raided the place and found amongst other things a video showing a sex scene involving a fire extinguisher!. Now, the role it played was not explained and I for one am not sure that I even want to know. This viewpoint seems to be representative - the jury were "visibly shocked" but also "clearly felt this was none of their business" (they returned a "not guilty" verdict).

Returning back from my flight into topics I tend to favour and getting onto more mainstream issues:

Broadly it is generally the case that Britain is easy-going.

I don't want to overly push it suggesting Britain is a totally brilliant and faultless place, but it is not bad...