Aug 202013

3994565602_21b9cc43ccI found lots to enjoy in this article from the New York Times Sunday review. One of their foreign correspondents, Sarah Lyall, spent 18 years living in London and she refects on the experience as she returns home.

I was surprised to read Sarah say that Brits are unduly exercised by the “special relationship” but then read:

— endlessly deconstructing what it meant, for instance, when in 2009 Gordon Brown, then the prime minister, gave President Obama a handsome penholder made of wood from a Victorian anti-slave ship, while Mr. Obama reportedly gave him a stack of movies that were incompatible with British DVD players.

Ha! I’d missed that story, but it is so funny. And yes, the Brit in me would want to endlessly deconstruct that too. Now why?

There are ways in which Brits can be surprising (some might think)  hard to offend. Consistently portray Brits as baddies in your movies, and we’ll just find you amusing. Rub our union jack in the mud and set fire to it and we’ll think you must be a bit upset about something without getting slightly miffed ourselves. No, the way to elicit a rise out of us (or our eyebrows at least) is to  give us a pile of DVDs we can’t play in return for our thoughtful gift. But look at the joke in that story – isn’t it at Obama’s expense?

I think playing the role of the unpopular kid with a much more popular friend might actually feel rather comfortable to us in an odd sort of way. If you’ve been brought up with a diet of self deprecating humour, it seems to offer a lot of potential for amusement – just so long as you can secretly feel superior.

Sarah described another incident that tickled me:

I got a friend at a party we were having to go up to a man he had never met. “Hi, I’m Stephen Bayley,” my friend said, sticking out his hand.“Is that supposed to be some sort of joke?” the man responded.

Ah wonderful! Click here read more on our greetings customs.

 Posted by at 9:57 pm

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