Monday, July 12, 2010

A foreign guide to the UK

Bad teeth, bad food, football hooligans – that's the press the Britain gets in other countries. It’s also a nation where those types are often imagined to be living harmoniously alongside distinguished, posh middle-class men in top hats and women with parasols.
The White Cliffs of Dover from a ferryImage via Wikipedia

But stereotypes aside, what information is really being fed back to our foreign friends about us Brits? We scoured the travel guides to see how we're really perceived by the rest of the world.
The people
"Calmness in the face of adversity, a laconic sense of humour, a sense of decency and fair play, and mastery of understatement are all fundamental facets of the British character – at least, as seen by the British themselves. Ask the French and you might get a rather different list of attributes that includes stand-offishness, anti-intellectualism, public drunkenness and being crap at cooking." - Lonely Planet, Great Britain, 8th Edition
Bit harsh. We're not that bad at cooking. Thanks to our calmness in the face of adversity and laconic sense of humour we can laugh that kind of misconception off. Not that there aren't ways to make us cry...
"The nostalgic English – especially after a few pints – can get downright weepy about their White Cliffs of Dover." - Frommer's England 2010, published in the US
Those white cliffs - get you every time don't they?

'The White Cliffs of Dover'Image via Wikipedia

The culture
"The British are famously addicted to forming orderly queues, be it for buses, train tickets, or to pay at the supermarket. The order is sacrosanct and woe betide any foreigner who gets this wrong. Few things are more calculated to spark an outburst of tutting – about as publicly cross as most Brits get – than 'pushing in' at a queue." - Lonely Planet, Great Britain, 8th Edition
Yep, queuing – we love it. Can't get enough of it. Unless it's getting dangerously close to 4pm and it's not looking like we're going to be back in time to boil the kettle...
"From the lowliest 'caff' (cafeteria) in the working-class districts of Birmingham to the Queen's posh Buckingham Palace suite, class tradition melts at four o'clock every afternoon as the nation pauses to partake of its most beloved ritual: Afternoon Tea." - Frommer's England 2010, published in the USA
Although not 100% factually accurate there are worse descriptions of collective England out there:
"England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts" - Rough Guide to England, 8th Edition – published in over 200 countries
Alright, Rough Guide, don't hold back.
The places
"Liverpool and Manchester are as depressing places as you're likely to find anywhere... whilst the locals can be entertaining on a good day, the weather is shit, heroin is epidemic (but meth is catching on) and you've got a better chance of thugs putting you in hospital for no apparent reason than in any other part of England – and that's saying something." - US website Road Junky Travel
Calm down, calm down. That's one way to look at two of our most happening, cosmopolitan cities. But what is the international conception of England's capital?
"When a yobbo in a car - radio on full-blast, mobile glued to the ear, indicator controls untouched - nearly runs you over at a pedestrian crossing and you protest, he dissolves into road rage as only Londoners know it." - Lonely Planet, London
Enough said.
The food
"Brits love a big hearty feed of bangers and mash, fish and chips with mushy peas, pork pies or pasties. Curry also rates highly (a popular import from colonial days in India) along with loads of other dishes reflecting Britain’s multicultural population. With all that good food going around, it’s hardly surprising more than 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese." –, travel magazine for Australian, New Zealand and South African expats
"With all that food going round?" It’s not like we eat it all at once. At least some guides are beginning to realise that the UK’s culinary habits are changing, and our reputation for bad food is no longer justified...
"If you want to see what Britain is eating today, just drop in at Harvey Nicol’s Fifth Floor, in London’s Knightbridge." – Frommer’s England 2010
Absolutely – it’s where we eat all the time!

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