“British Values”

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It’s not often that I’m not clued up on a British news story, but there is one this week that I refuse to read more into. There’s a big hoo-hah about something to do with non-Christian faith schools and something to do with Trojan horses and Britain being a Christian country.

I dunno, it just seems like casual racism – the kind that made me nervous to come back to England. Anti-Islamic feelings are pretty high right now, perhaps as high as they were before, but people are being more vocal about it. Someone on my Facebook last week posted something asking why 9000 people had died on D-Day when we still have halal meat on sale in the UK and people get sent to jail because others find their tweets offensive. I did try to correct him, but to be honest, it was a post that had been reposted from somewhere else – with no doubt thousands of others also reposting it. There’s no way to help these people.

This morning in the Guardian there was an article which I did not read, about Mr Gove who is Britain’s education secretary and all-round plonker, who apparently said that schools should be teaching “British values”. Awesome! So, here are some British values that I think kids should be taught in schools – the things that are really important to being British.

1. Complaining about the weather.

Every British person understands the importance of being able to complain about the weather, no matter what the weather is.

2. Can-based-meat.

Spam. Corned beef. I even saw bacon in a can in my family’s cupboard. All hail the canned meat!

3. Fish and chip shop loyalty.

Any British person will tell you where the best fish and chip shop is in Britain. Outside that establishment will be a proud sign saying that they are the best in the country. Until you go to one of the other “best in the country” places, that is… (For me and my family it’s always Aldeburgh).

4. The price of Freddos.

Something will will anger any Brit is the price of a Freddo. These chocolate frogs used to be just 10p back in our nostalgic childhoods. However, the price keeps going up and up – and the voices complaining about this get louder and louder. Freddos should be 10p!

5. Knowing the real meanings behind things.

If someone says “would you like the last biscuit”, they actually mean “I’m going to eat the last biscuit but am doing this polite gesture before I do so”. They do not, under any circumstances mean for you to eat the last biscuit. If they say “you’re welcome” without you having to say thank you first, it means that you should have said thank you. Knowing the meanings behind what we say is key to understanding brits.

Those are five of my British values. Are there any other brits out there who can offer up some more for us?




The other day I introduced a new co-worker to my pub quiz team. My American and German friend said that they really loved his accent; he’s a well educated British guy…well aside from the British and guy part, I said I assume he was well educated – you can tell from his accent. I was trying to explain to them that while, on the surface, it seems that Britain doesn’t have class systems anymore, you can tell a person’s upbringing, education and “class” by their accent.

Accent is a funny thing. I read a paper when I was in uni about how different accents make you feel certain ways, and so companies take advantage of this – for example, the Scottish accent will make you warm to the person and feel calm, so they put a lot of Scottish people in call centres. I had trouble in uni because of my accent – I have a typical RP, or “Queen’s English” accent, which usually tells people that you are well off and posh and stuck up. So this is how people thought of me, despite me telling people that I am normal, went to an average school and lived in some pretty rough areas when I grew up. People would take what I said and twist them to make it sound like I was looking down my nose at people, or just make rude and snide comments about my accent.

In Britain there is a north-south divide which I wasn’t even aware of until I went to uni. I’m from the south, and while people sometimes make jokes about Liverpudlians, or maybe about people from Newcastle, there’s rarely any bad mouthing of people from the north in general. The stuff I experienced at uni in Liverpool was just one part of it – when I was dating a guy from Middlesborough and I went to go stay with his family up there, his uncles and cousins had lots of stories and comments about how rude and stuck up and horrible southern people are. So when someone speaks the way I speak, all these images are brought up for a lot of people – even though I’m not like that.

On the flipside, my accent can (sadly) help me out in the working world – or at least in England. I’m not sure how true it is, but I’m told that people with RP accents are more likely to score top jobs and make good impressions in interviews. In an article I read this week, too, a brain surgeon comments that him being an East London boy is an unexpected thing, given his profession. Again, this comes down to accent – people don’t expect people with a “rough” London accent to do such a skilled job as brain surgery. Another good example is this woman from BBC News –

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Most BBC news presenters have “clean” southern accents, but she has a very strong northern accent. She’s the business woman on the show and often explains all the complicated¬†economical news, but some people find her accent very off putting, or out of place in this job.

Even my American friend couldn’t understand when I explained all this to her, so I think maybe, in the English-speaking world at least, it’s a British thing. Are there stereotypes or prejudice placed on certain accents where you are from?

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