Not Saussure

September 11, 2006

Well, they wouldn’t get the joke, would they?

Filed under: Foreigners, Opinion polls, press, UK — notsaussure @ 8:38 pm

The Telegraph reports:

They love our Royal family, our ancient traditions and our historic buildings. But if there is one thing the foreign tourist does not like, it is the character of the British people. Much as we may try to be welcoming, visitors from abroad remain distinctly unimpressed, according to the organisation responsible for promoting Britain overseas.

   
‘You have absolutely no sense of humour’: Italy rated us the second least funny people in the world

 

Fawlty TowersIn the eyes of the world, the British people – and in particular the English – are arrogant, unfriendly and have almost no sense of humour.

Research carried out by VisitBritain found that visitors from 35 different nations listed Britain a poor 16th overall on a list of countries likely to offer the most friendly welcome. And it is some of our nearest European neighbours who are particularly scathing about our national character.

The French had particular problems with the English – rather than the Scots and the Welsh – and were the least likely of any of the countries surveyed to visit the United Kingdom, despite their close proximity.

This exemplifies the problem, I think; if you’re British you’ll almost certainly find this story amusing, but few foreigners will quite understand why.

I’ve frequently confused Americans, in particular, by quoting Cecil Rhodes’ observation that ‘To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life’ (though I usually alter it to ‘British’, to include the Anglo-Irish like myself in this); ‘do you really mean that or are you being ironic?’, they ask.

Both, of course, just as we all know that Flanders and Swann’s Song of Patriotic Prejudice is obviously a joke and also completely serious.
Who can disagree that

And all the world over, each nation’s the same
They’ve simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they’ve won
And they practice beforehand which ruins the fun!

The English, the English, the English are best
So up with the English and down with the rest.

It’s not that they’re wicked or naturally bad

It’s knowing they’re foreign that makes them so mad!

 

Interestingly, at least to me, a Russian friend of mine thinks it’s a brilliant song, because — according to him — Russians think about Russians and foreigners the same way. He wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Donald Swann was born in Llenlli to Russian parents.

Rather less amusingly, though, the survey also reveals

Many of the respondents surveyed were similarly unimpressed by Britain’s system of government, its record on human rights and its foreign policy stances. Tony Blair’s support for American foreign policy and the invasion of Iraq appeared to have damaged Britain’s standing.

 

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