Pin It
Saturday, April 12th, 2014

What Confused Me Most about Brits

By
What Confused Me Most about Brits/ © Feeling My Age

Almost 10 years ago when we first moved to the UK, I had to adapt culturally. I had lived in Southern France for the last six years and I immediately felt at home in Northern England because I grew up in Northern Germany, and as we all know, Germans and British are close cousins.

 

Or so I thought.

 

I ended up in a lot of situations where the English behaved in ways foreign to me. I originally put it down to my time in France: I must have adapted more than I thought! But it turns out that the British have their very own ways and are not like Germans after all.

 

Angry Brits

 

One thing that constantly puzzled me was how docile Brits were.

 

Here’s the scene: a local, reasonably big supermarket. My colleagues and I used to drive there at lunch time to get triangular sandwiches which we would later eat whilst reading emails. They had a ton of checkouts plus six relatively newly installed “self-checkouts” where you just scan your stuff yourself.

 

Those self-checkouts were placed in a slightly awkward way and it was sometimes tricky to spot the queue of people waiting for them, which meant a lot of people just accidentally skipped the queue completely.

 

[Screenshot]

 

I watched in amazement as the British in the queue around me ignored that, or maybe shook their heads or expressed their disapproval in that lovely British way: tutting.

 

[Screenshot]

 

After the third time or so I couldn’t stand it any longer so I politely told people “Excuse me? There’s a queue over here,” which usually worked.

 

My perception at the time was that the people who jumped the queue (accidentally) took advantage of the calm nature of those who were queuing. This is where my time in France really made a difference. Having lived there, I am sick and tired of people taking advantage of others.

 

[Screenshot]

 

So I listened to my deep-seated need for fairness and helped the British by doing something that came easy to me.

 

Funny enough, my English colleagues looked like they wanted to shrink into the ground.

 

It took me months to figure out that I was being rude (I am German, after all), and that the tutting was actually a very strong display of disapproval.

 

The Brits weren’t docile, they were just not making a scene!

[Screenshot]

Not in France, though!

 

More than nine years later, I have finally come around. I know that very few people jump the queue on purpose, so these days I shrug it off. And if someone does take advantage of me or others on purpose, I now chime in and let out a really annoyed tut.

 

Life can be as relaxed as you want it to be, I guess.

 

Then again, this only applies in the UK. As soon as I’m in France, my defences go back up immediately, and I react to situations the way I used to. I could now cite “intercultural competence” and fluff it up, but I think I’m simply generalising and being unfair to the French.

 

It’s funny how knowing about cultural differences is one thing but living through them is totally another.

© 2014, Jan Petersen. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs?

Fancy schools, international vacations, foreign language books, DVDs and tutors add up fast

Overheard on the Beijing Subway When People Don't Think I Speak Mandarin

The awesome stuff I overhear like what these two Chinese women think of foreigners.

Why African Toddlers Don't Have Tantrums

The secret of why African babies don't meltdown like Western ones.

Around the World in One Semester

Welcome to our newest blogger--a world traveling, homeschooling mom--to the InCultureParent family!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jan, who is German, works mainly from home as a software engineer. His wife, who is Algerian, stays at home to look after their three girls aged 7, 4 and 1. They live in the U.K. and are raising their children multilingual in Arabic, French, German and English.

Leave us a comment!

2 Comments
  1. CommentsJosep   |  Monday, 06 February 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I haven’t been to Germany before, but this is disgusting:
    “It took me months to figure out that I was being rude (I am German, after all)”
    *sigh* nothing but generalisations. For the umpteenth time rudeness is not confined to one country. It’s a human trait that one can find anywhere. Stop being unfair to your cultural heritage.
    My two cents.

  2. CommentsJosep   |  Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 1:54 am

    I’m back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter.
    This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms in Germany compared with those of Britain or America. Queuing, for instance, does not hold a social stigma in Germany as it does in Anglo-Saxon countries. It’s just different.
    If you want a proper explanation, here is one:
    https://www.german-way.com/how-to-tell-when-germans-are-really-being-rude-versus-just-being-german/
    In my honest opinion, I feel the 2011 article is clickbait-y tabloid-quality yellow journalism that belongs to the likes of Daily Mail or the Sun, especially since this is supposed to be a respectable magazine called InCultureParent. Does ‘culture’ ring a bell?
    I don’t intend to come off as rude, but please bear with me. I just want everyone to have safe, happy travelling.









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More from Our Bloggers