The weird and wonderful Brits
Congratulations, Meghan, and welcome to the weird and wonderful ways of the British.
Yesterday I told my mum, two times zones ahead and clearly a few lightyears behind in Turkey, at the other end of the phone, “We’ll chat on Saturday; we will be home anyway – it’s the day of the wedding.”
“Which wedding?” she asked, surprised.
Had she been living in the UK, you’d be forgiven to think she was stuck under a rock since that fateful day last November Prince Harry and his girlfriend announced their engagement to the world.
Of course in Turkey, with the looming elections, the rising inflation and the constant geopolitical tension, the royal couple are lucky to get a look in edgeways on the last page of the papers, tucked in a little corner.
Of course in the good old scepter’d isle, and right across the pond, things are a little different. With weeks, days and finally hours to the big day, wedding frenzy has reached fever pitch. And by tomorrow it will be tomorrow’s chippy paper.
Cake eaten, champagne drowned, confetti scattered all around, and by Monday we Brits will be back to moaning about the weather.
I say “we Brits” while I acutely feel an alien – a “legal alien” in Sting’s words – a whole 19 years after moving to the UK as a starry-eyed girl in her early twenties.
The thing about living in the UK as a non-Brit is, whether you’ve been here two minutes, or two decades, you will notice the weird and wonderful ways of the Brits; if like me you’re closer to clocking decades, you will occasionally catch yourself partaking in peculiar behaviour.
So, Meghan, as Brit as it gets, my tongue-in-cheek wedding present to you is a short but sweet guide to the ways of the British.
If I put a pound aside for every time I have heard “I am not being funny but…” or “I don’t mean to be rude but..” I would be rich by now. The Brits rule at passive aggression which admittedly is the sneakiest, deadliest form of aggression that attacks on the defence and offends while taking offence.
Fascination with foreignness
Meghan, whether it is the slight texture to your hair, or what Daily Mail and other tabloids had a field day referring to as your “dusky” complexion, or your accent, anything other than the Brit norm is guaranteed to make you stand out like a sore thumb, leading to a long chain of questioning often along the lines of “What accent is that?”, “where are you from?”, “but where are you really from?”, “yes, but what is your heritage?” Even your father has put his foot in it recently by telling writer Anita Sethi “Well, you don’t look like it!”when she told him she was from Manchester.
Stiff upper lip
The great British summer lasts a total sum of two weeks – if you’re lucky, Megs. Which may explain why it is royal protocol not to step out bare-legged.
Incidentally, there is nothing better than a family day out at the beach on a typically and seasonably blustery and drizzly August day that depicts the British stiff upper lip.
We may be rained on, blown away by gale force winds, but we’d be darned to pack it in and go home. No, “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the hills” than admit we are having a piss-poor (literally!) time.
The British art of understatement
Ask any sane person of any nationality on a blustery August day how the weather is outside they’ll rattle a detailed weather report through clattering teeth.
Ask any Brit, the answer is most likely to be, “A bit breezy out there.” Before I discovered this, taking a Brit’s weather report at face value, I’d step out in a light jacket only to find heavy snow and freezing temperatures.
After a severe case of hypothermia and frostbite, you soon learn “a bit nippy” in British translates as “so cold your digits will drop off” in any other language.
The unique blend of British sarcasm
Megs, if you’re not used to this type of humour, better grow a thick skin, and fast. You can easily find yourself as the target of a Brit’s understated sarcasm.
Some conversations are so loaded with such subtle sarcasm that you may walk away feeling like a thousand bucks only to realise three days after the encounter that you were the butt of the joke all along.
Unlike the cosy fuzziness of Americans, with Brits, you will never know where you stand.
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