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Destroying Stereotypes of British People

Ask anyone from around the world about the stereotypes of British people, and you’ll get things like ‘everyone wears tweed jackets and says weird things like toodle pip and poppycock.’ Regarding habits, they’ll say ‘they’d win the tea-drinking Olympics and their food is just not okay’ and ‘they love to queue (in the rain).’ While some have an element of truth in them, the general rule is that stereotypes are massively exaggerated. So let’s just set a couple of things straight about these classic misconceptions.

To begin with, stereotypes are called that for a reason – they grossly generalise and under-represent the population. They generally describe the well-heeled landed gentry that live in small pockets of the home counties, those who probs form a very minor percentage of Brits. For a start, tweed jacket wearing is obvs in the minority when you look around the streets, in any area. Stereotypes function as handy labels for ‘good’-natured mockery, but they just don’t work as a representation of the whole truth of a population.

As with tweed jackets, your everyday person wouldn’t exclaim ‘oh poppycock!’ if they stubbed their toe, even if some Lord or Lady out there does. That’s not to say, though, that there aren’t some odd sayings out there. Prior to coming to the UK, I would’ve thought ‘I’ve had a mare’ would have been a reference to the previous ownership of a horse. A ‘brew’ surely refers to a witch’s potion and what even is ‘bollocks’ or ‘scrummy’?? But we’ve gotta remember that every country has its fair share of unique sayings; one of my favourite Aussie ones being ‘chuck a uuey’ for ‘do a U turn’. The stereotype of British people saying weird things therefore just doesn’t stack up, coz let’s face it, weird is everything that isn’t normal to us. Deep…

Tea drinking is our next British stereotype. Up and down the country, tea is hugely popular. Hugely is perhaps an understatement. Sure, not everyone drinks tea, and some water is necessary for survival, but I refer you to the one weekend when two (the Brits) of my housemates weren’t in Durham. The kitchen bench – normally populated with used mugs, stray teaspoons and weathered tea bags – was clear! Real shock I tell you. However, in 2014, it was in fact Turkey that took out 1st place for the nation with the largest tea consumption per capita, with 6.96 pounds, followed by Ireland, with the UK coming in 3rd on 4.28 pounds. So, while yes, the stereotype holds that some Brits love a good brew/cuppa/tea, they certainly aren’t the only ones, nor are they the largest number. 

And the food. Word on the street back at home is pretty much ‘bring a huge tub of vegemite when travelling to the UK so you can add flavour to the food’. To be fair, mushy peas and limp beans might not be high on the food bucket-list of global tastes, but then neither is vegemite or lamingtons (permission to take a sneaky Google break if needed); Aussie food can be seen as weird too. In fact, in my experience, the Brits have got it pretty right. Take, for example, all the pastry items, the classic breakfast and classic roast, fried Mars bars (Scotland, you have done yourself proud), all chip-featuring dishes etc., namely chips and gravy – whoever is the legend came up with that idea, I owe them a personal congratulation. The ‘borderline inedible’ stereotype just doesn’t stand, coz I guarantee you there’ll be something in this country that you’ll like.

Finally, the queueing. Yes, people can be happy to wait in line, come rain or shine. People will offer places and be kinda polite about the whole thing. But do they actually? Is the Tesco reduced section at 4.30pm on a Sunday a polite or patient location? No. People don’t queue for trains, they huddle like anxious penguins laden with luggage, often openly risking not minding the gap between the train and the platform. And people jump at the chance to grab a queue-jump wristband to Klute. Overheard in a lecture: ‘I have a stash of queue-jump wristbands’. The queue then is defs not all-inclusive behaviour.

A stereotype isn’t supposed to be inclusive of every situation, I know. But that’s why we use them: to make fun of what we don’t know or haven’t experienced. We can’t deny that they have no basis in fact, but they aren’t wholly representative which makes them relatively untrue, for whichever country. Most Aussies don’t put shrimps on the barbie, and nor do most Brits exclaim ‘toodle pip’. Fact. 

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