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Socialising with the Elusive English

Every culture comes with its own habits and differences. In the blog post the 7 habits of the Elusive English we talked about working with the English, this blog post will focus on socialising with the Elusive English. As discussed before, politeness and trying not to offend drives a lot of the English behaviour.

Humour is a key ingredient of social life and in English conversation there is always an undercurrent of humour. Self depreciating humour is common and it is used to create a bond and relaxed atmosphere. However it is best to avoid making fun of others or other groups.

Class rule
Although England has changed considerably in the last 30 years, class still plays an important role. Being a foreigner can be a big advantage as you can’t be easily pigeonholed as working, middle or upper class.

Be patient to get to know them
The English spend a lot of time talking about safe subjects; this is a way of putting people at ease and avoids getting too personal too soon. You may well find yourself spending quite a lot of time discussing sport, celebrity gossip and the weather before you get on to more serious subjects like work and their personal backgrounds.

Don’t be too direct
As mentioned above, the English are keen on not offending. Make sure you don’t ask them too personal questions at your first couple of social outings. Asking a direct question before you are a good friend may be considered offensive.

What they say is not always what they mean
The English are not confrontational so will not directly tell you if they do not like something. They will hint in a very gentle way like saying ‘something looks different’ when they don’t really like it. Try to read between the lines to get the meaning of what they are saying.

Eat well before you go out drinking
Make sure you eat before you make it to the pub after work. English tend to go to the bar until closing time without stopping for a decent meal. It is hard to survive on just eating crisps and peanuts the whole evening.

Rounds in the pub
In England it is very common to pay for rounds when you are in the pub with a group of friends or colleagues, instead of making a ‘kitty’ at the start. Make sure you get your round in early to make sure your round will be noticed. It is rude not to pay your round, although you can take a ‘rain check’ if you have to leave early.

Don’t expect an invitation
The English are private people and the English pubs are considered to be their second home and an obvious place to meet up. It takes time and effort to become good friends and to be invited to their homes. However once you are over this hurdle, you can be good friends for ever.

The English like their Sunday roasts. When invited for a Sunday roast make sure you have nothing else planned for the day. A Sunday roast normally starts around 12.30 and won’t finish until late afternoon. A Sunday roast usually includes a traditional chicken, pork or beef roast with roast potatoes and vegetables and will be served with plenty of wine. It may also include a delicious pudding, something the English are very good at making!

I’m not English
As a foreigner you should be careful about calling someone English – if they turn out to be Scottish, Welsh or Irish they will be insulted whereas call an Englishman Scottish and he will shrug his shoulders and say, actually I’m English. Hence, it is best either not to assume or if pushed to plump for Scottish, Welsh or Irish.

If you would like to read in more detail about the hidden rules of English behaviour I strongly recommend reading ‘Watching the English’ by Kate Fox.


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