The English eat fish and chips, stand patiently for hours in a bus queue, drink endless cups of tea, and talk of nothing but the weather. Oh, and the businessman in the City of London always carries an umbrella and a copy of The Times, and wears a bowler hat! This is what many people who live on the other side of the English Channel think. But is it all true? Let’s see…
For a long time, fish and chips was indeed the English national dish, but about fifteen years ago it was replaced by chicken tikka masala. Now that sounds very much like an Indian curry, which it is, but in fact it was first made by an Indian cook in Glasgow, Scotland. That’s not all! Two years ago an English newspaper claimed that Chinese stir-fry had gone to number one on the culinary chart!
For nearly two hundred years, no English person would ever dream of drinking anything but tea (with milk, of course). In the last few years, though, coffee sales have been going up and tea sales down. It must be admitted that a lot of the coffee is of the instant variety, which makes coffee purists throw their hands up in horror. However, this does not hide the fact that tea consumption is not what it was.
Perhaps the English talk about the weather a lot because it is a good conversation opener and it is very useful to have a neutral topic to talk about in difficult situations. What is more, the weather is often a topic of conversation is because of geographical reasons. Great Britain is an island in northwestern Europe, and the weather changes constantly. Sometimes there is sun, rain and even snow on the same day, and the temperature can change very quickly too.
What about the classic City of London businessman? He hasn’t been seen for many years and is probably an extinct species by now. A lot of workers in the City carry an umbrella, yes, but the newspaper is being replaced by online news, and the bowler hat is much more likely to be worn by Quechua women in Peru than by the ‘city gent’.
That just leaves queueing for a bus, and that is certainly something the English still do. It is considered polite that the first person to arrive at the bus stop is the first person to board the bus, then the second, and so on. People who ‘jump the queue’ will probably be told off very severely. Good manners everywhere are not what they were, but it is necessary to keep as many as possible, and perhaps the English lead the way in this!
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