Watching the English
The hidden rules of English behaviour — Kate Fox
"I don't see why anthropologists feel they have to travel to remote corners of the world and get dysentery in order to study strange tribal cultures with bizarre beliefs and mysterious customs, when the weirdest, most puzzling tribe of all is right here on our doorstep."
In Watching the English, Kate Fox takes a revealing look at the quirks, habits and foibles of the English people. She puts the English national character under her anthropological microscope, and finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and Byzantine codes of behaviour. Her minute observation of the way we talk, dress, eat, drink, work, play, shop, drive, flirt, fight, queue – and moan about it all – exposes the hidden rules that we all unconsciously obey.
The rules of weather-speak. The Importance of Not Being Earnest rule. The ironic-gnome rule. The reflex-apology rule. The paranoid-pantomime rule. Class indicators and class-anxiety tests. The money-talk taboo. Humour rules. Pub etiquette. Table manners. The rules of bogside reading. The dangers of excessive moderation. The eccentric-sheep rule. The English 'social dis-ease'.
Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments, using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig, Kate Fox discovers what these unwritten behaviour codes tell us about Englishness.
Watching the English is written with an insider's knowledge, but from an outsider's perspective. If you are English, it will make you stand back and re-examine everything you normally take for granted, discover just how English you really are – and laugh ruefully at yourself. If you are not English, you can laugh without squirming, you will finally understand all our peculiar little ways, and, if you wish, you can become as English as we are. Englishness is not a matter of birth, race, colour or creed: it is a mindset, based on a set of behaviour-codes that anyone can decipher and apply – now that Kate Fox has provided the key.
Independent – Extracts from Watching the English – 22.04.2004
Bound together with bricks and mortar. What does our property obsession, and the way we express it, tell us about who we are? Social anthropologist Kate Fox has the answers
…Almost the entire population is involved in DIY. The most common motive is that of "putting a personal stamp on the place". This kind of obsessive territorial marking is an obligation, something we feel compelled to do. "You've got to rip something out when you move in," one young man said. "It's part of the move, isn't it?" This can be a problem for those moving into new "starter homes", where it would be ludicrous to rip out virgin bathrooms and kitchens. Yet, during our research, we found the DIY temples full of such people, eager to make their mark on their bland new territory. A house that has not been tinkered with barely qualifies as a home.
"When Kate Fox describes the ordeals she put herself through in the name of research, I can only gasp at her audacity" Sunday Telegraph
"Intriguing new book [from a] renowned people-watcher" Daily Express
"A delightful read" Sunday Times
"A leading anthropologist reveals the rules of Englishness" Mail on Sunday