Culture clash

Sunday’s Foyle’s War, always watchable at the end of the weekend, was largely about the tensions surrounding the arrival of the Americans – which (of course) led to violence and murder. Along the way came an amusing scene of Anglo-American dispute and reconciliation through fly-fishing. ‘You Brits like everything old’/ ‘You Americans have to keep changing everything’/ ‘But thank goodness for diversity’, etc. (Ah, and it was the trusty old British rod that caught all the fish…)

Which reminded me of the delightful little book I picked up before Christmas: Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942 (publisher’s page), extracted from a pamphlet distributed to GIs who were being sent to Britain.

Most ‘little books’ are, of course, utter bilge. But this one definitely isn’t. Much of it feels like another world, a marker of how much has changed in the last 60 years; yet some of it is oddly familiar; and definitely funny. And so, a few quotes…

THE BRITISH ARE TOUGH. Don’t be misled by the British tendency to be soft-spoken and polite. If they need to be, they can be plenty tough. The English language didn’t spread across the oceans and over the mountains and jungles and swamps of the world because these people were panty-waists. …

The British have great affection for their monarch but have stripped him of practically all political power. It is well to remember this… Be careful not to criticize the King. The British feel about that the way you would feel if anyone spoke against our country or our flag. … [British] customs may seem strange and old-fashioned but they give the British the same feeling of security and comfort that many of us get from the familiar ritual of a church service. …

Cricket will strike you as slow compared with American baseball, but it isn’t easy to play well… The big professional matches are often nothing but a private contest between the bowler (who corresponds to our pitcher) and the batsman (batter) and you have to know the fine points of the game to understand what is going on. …

You will find that English crowds at football or cricket matches are more orderly and polite to the players than American crowds… you must be careful in the excitement of an English game not to shout out remarks which everyone in America would understand but which the British might think insulting. …

The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.

Go get yourself a copy. It’s great fun for a fiver.

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10 Responses to Culture clash

  1. I heart Michael Kitchen. I don’t know why. And I’ve seen that pamphlet — almost bought it, too!

  2. Sharon says:

    Michael Kitchen is a national treasure. :)

  3. tony says:

    I like Foyle’s War, but I’ve never been able to watch a whole one. Something about that laid-back 1940s Britishness is just too soporific, specially at 9 p.m. on my “busy day”.

  4. Brett says:

    Foyle’s War rawks! Wish they’d hurry up and release it on DVD over here.

  5. Netflix has the first couple series

  6. Brett says:

    Oh, thanks ADM – but when I said “over here” I really meant “down under”! :)

  7. Aha! I think I knew that, but forgot. I guess I just think of ‘over’ as being somewhere in the same latitudinal area ;-)

  8. Sharon says:

    Isn’t blogging cute? In one short comment thread you can have people in the USA, Australia, England and Wales. Can we improve on this?

  9. I hope so … the cutting of distance is the coolest thing about the internets!

  10. Pingback: The Elfin Ethicist

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