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This extract from The Xenophobe's® Guide to the English is the copyright 2010 of Oval Projects Ltd and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. For more information on the Xenophobe's Guides please visit the publisher's website at: www.ovalbooks.com

Nationalism and Identity


UK map

The English have a natural distrust of the unfamiliar and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in their attitude to the geography of their own country.

The English population is 48 million (compared with 5 million Scots, 15 million Dutch, 39 million Spanish, 58 million French, 81 million Germans and 268 million Americans).

How They See Themselves

Xenophobia (Actually the English prefer "xenolipi" (pity for foreigners) but both words, being foreign in origin, are of limited pertinence in any case), although a Greek word, has its spiritual home in the English dictionary where it is drily defined as an "abstract" noun.

This is misleading. It is, in fact, a very "common" noun - an everyday sort of noun really, with nothing abstract about it at all. For xenophobia is the English national sport - England’s most enduring cultural expression. And there is a very good reason for that.

As far as the English are concerned, all of life’s greatest problems can be summed up in one word - foreigners.

Nine hundred years ago the last invasion of England was perpetrated by the Normans. They settled, tried to intergrate themselves with the indigenous population and failed.

The indigenous population then, as now, displayed an utter contempt for them not merely because they had conquered but more importantly because they had come from abroad.

Even today descendants of those Normans who think to impress with a throw-away remark about their families having "come over with the Conqueror" find themselves on the receiving end of the sort of English frost normally reserved for someone who has broken wind in a lift between floors.

The real English deal with them as they dealt with the Romans, the Phoenicians, the Celts, Jutes, Saxons and, more recently, every other nation on earth (especially the French) - with polite but firm disdain.

The whole thing is rather like cricket, the archtypal English game. It lasts all your life and it is apparently more important to play than to win - a sentiment which is more reminiscent of Confucius than Carruthers.

That is what you are up against. It is useless to imagine that you can succeed where so many have failed. But since it is the proudest English boast that they cannot begin to understand foreigners, it would be gratifying to steal a march on them by beginning to understand them.

How They See Others

English views on foreigners are very simple. The further one travels from the capital in any direction, the more outlandish the people become.

When it comes to their neighbours in the British Isles, the English are in absolutely no doubt as to their own innate superiority. This they see as no petty prejudice but rather as a scientific observation. The Irish are perceived as being wildly eccentric at best, completely mad at worst. The Welsh are dishonest and the Scots are dour and mean.

However, the Irish, Welsh and Scots should take heart. For most English they are not quite as appalling as their cousins across the Channel. They should also remember that "foreign-ness" for the English starts to a certain extent at the end of their own street.

The French and the English have teen sparring partners for so long that the English have developed a kind of love-hate relationship with them. The English love France. They love its food and wine and thoroughly approve of its climate. There is a subconscious historical belief that the French have no right to be living in France at all, to the extent that thousands of Englishmen try annually to turn the more attractive areas of France into little corners of Surrey.

As to the French people, they are perceived as insincere, unhygienic and given to sexual excess.

With the Germans the English are less equivocal. Germans are megalomaniac, easily-led bullies who have not even the saving grace of culinary skill.

Conveniently forgetting the fact that their own Royal family is of German descent, the English make no pretence at liking the Germans. Confronted with one, they will constantly be reminding themselves "not to mention the War" whilst secretly wondering whether he or she is old enough to have fought in it.

For the rest of Europe, as far as the English are concerned, the Italians are hysterical and dishonest; the Spanish, lazy; the Russians, gloomy; and the Scandinavians, Dutch, Belgians and Swiss, dull. Further afield English odium is no less concentrated. Americans and Australians are vulgar, Canadians are boring, and all oriental peoples inscrutable and dangerous.

You will only find this out, of course, by listening at keyholes, for to your face they will always be charming. They appear to be tolerant to a fault. In actually, they only value foreigners for their backs - which they can use for talking behind.

Special Relationships

The English have a natural distrust of the unfamiliar and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in their attitude to the geography of their own country.

Since time immemorial there has been a North-South divide in England. To the Southerner, civilizarion ends somewhere around Potters Bar (just north of London). Beyond that point, he believes, the inhabitants are all ruddier in complexion, more hirsute and blunt to the point of rudeness. These traits he generously puts down to the cooler climate.

In the North they frighten their children to steep with tales of the deviousness of the inhabitants "down South". They point to their softness, their mucked-about food and their airy-fairiness on all matters of real importance. Nevertheless, any English man or woman, no matter how soft or hairy, is entitled to special treatment as, to a lesser extent, are the inhabitants of those countries which represent the English conscience - once the Empire, now the shrinking Commonwealth.

How Others See Them

To outsiders the English are intellectually impenetrable. They express little emotion. They are not so much slow as stationary to anger and the pleasures of life seem to pass them by as they revel in discomfort and self-denial.

Their culinary appreciation is incomprehensible to most, but especially the French, and in their hesitation to be direct or state a view, they are rarely understood.

With an unparalleled sense of historical continuity, they appear to carry on in their own sweet way largely unmoved by developments in the world around them. The unlikely effect of all this is that outsiders have a kind of grudging respect for them. This is partly because they amuse, and partly because they are consistent.

Fascinatingly ghastly they may be, but you know just where you are with them.

How They See Themselves

The English don't just believe themselves superior to all ther nations. They also believe that all other nations secretly know that they are.

They feel themselves to be natural leaders, the most obvious choice for "top nation". Geography reinforces this belief as the inhabitants look out to the sea all around them from the fastness of their "tight little island". Nobody would ever question the aptness of the newspapaper report: "Fog in the Channel - Continent cut off."

With their wealth of experience of "running the show", as they see it, they are also deeply aware of their responsibilities to others. These they take very seriously, which means that throughout life they act rather like head boys or head girls in school. They see it as their solemn duty to protect the weak, strengthen the faint-hearted and shame bullies into submission. These are their roles in life and they fulfil them, by and large, to their entire satisfaction.

How They Would Like to be Seen

Although it is impossible for the English to appear to care what others think of them, deep down they would like to be loved and appreciated for what they see as the sterling qualities they possess. These qualities, which they bring selflessly to the world forum, include a reflex action which leads them to champion the underdog and treat persecutors with a firm hand, absolute truthfulness and a commitment never to break a promise or to go back ott one's word.

In a perfect world, the English suspect everyone would be more like them. Then, and only then, would they achieve the recognition and affection they feel they so richly deserve.

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