Saturday, 5 December 2009

Why are the English so cold???

The English are so unfriendly. There I've said it. Actually I will clarify - the SOUTHERN English. Constantly disappointing. Apologies to those few southern English folk that I do like - you guys are obviously not included in my wild generalisation - but today I got concrete proof that the SEs are colder than Canada at a particularly vicious winter.

My story. One night I was drunk. No surprises there. I travelled home on the train to my little village and went to take a seat. I asked a posh woman to move her bag and let me take a seat as the train was bunged. She reluctantly moved it and muttered 'I hope you have a ticket!' Fuelled by drink and feeling ten foot tall and bullet proof I asked her 'excuse me, what did you say?' Now that little episode could be my case in point - but no, I will go further.

Annoyed and now being ignored by posho SE - I moved seats and chanced upon a couple who had sneaked into first class without appropriate tickets - and were giggling like school kids. Delighted to have found partners in crime as I too had a ticket, but not one for first class, I joined them. We began chatting and then gabbled the whole train ride home. I moaned about Militant Mothers - especially ones in my hood that don't work and just spend their husband's dosh as they look down their nose at me... We all cheerfully bonded. The grumpy man next to me who at first appeared aggrieved, could withstand the banter no longer and joined in. By the time we departed the train he announced that the 3 of us had made his journey a complete joy. Bless him.

Nice couple offered to walk home with me as it transpired nice girl lived opposite my house! However, when we got to the pub at the bottom of the street, suddenly they went into secret squirrel mode - he gave her money for her babysitter (she has a young son) and told her he would hide out in the pub til she told him to come back... Hmmm. She and I walked up the hill home - never mentioning how bizarre it all was.

Since then I think I have seen her baby Father move out - and now nice bloke from the train is around a lot. I've bumped into them a couple of time and we have exchanged a bit of banter. So far - so nice.

Then today I take Sproglet to the park to run off some of his boyish energy. We get there just as nice couple and two small kids with them are walking in - they walk past my car as I am trying to park and I shout a hello. Once inside I imagine we will trade some Xmas chat and how they are etc. I walk in, Sproglet charging ahead to the swings and see them a little way off at a table. Nice woman and her son. Nice man and I assume his kid? I shout 'how are you guys' and he answers politely but there is something in his stance - the way he doesn't engage in any more conversation, the look on his face that I register as - don't come over. I feel it and I know to keep my distance. They play with the kids, going from one kids' park activity to another - while I studiously make sure Sproglet and I are a safe distance away. At one point nice now cold man's kid and Sproglet run towards the same climbing frame and I can see his slow walk, his horror that we are going to speak. I smile awkwardly and he ignores me while he talks to his own child. I hurry Sproglet away. I leave the muddy park quickly.

Somehow, I am disappointed. I knew their relationship was complicated. I knew they were kindred spirits, fun folk who could have a drink and a laugh. Nice woman and I had said we must swing by each other's places and have a cuppa.

But today I felt the cold shoulder. Nothing was said - but they made no effort to speak to me or ask about Sproglet. I just knew. They wanted to keep together and not near me. I'm not so sad that this rejection wounds me - it just, grates on me slightly. What is wrong with people???

What if I bring up Sproglet here - will all his joy and sociability be squeezed out of him and will he too turn into a SE robot?

Yes, I'm generalising. But I feel it. There isn't the warmth of the Irish, the natural openness that tailors their every conversation. The ability to chat to all, regardless of age, colour or creed. (I do know that we spent years bombing each other - but I'll ignore that religious nightmare for a second). Whatever their reasons today - nice but now cold couple could have said a brief hello. But no.

I'm thawing out at home. Wrapping myself in soup and Sproglet's hugs. But I think it'll take a darn sight more to keep out the coldness I feel here on a daily basis.

13 comments:

EDW said...

Hmm. I don't know why people are like that. I generally want to be everyone's friend, every one I like, that is. I'm on constant look out for kindred spirits, bc they are few and far between. I find we are more open in my part of the country than in other parts. We're very cards on the table, be my best friend. I don't know what to do with reticent.

I'd have been disappointed and hurt, too. But perhaps they are having a tiff, a bizarre relationship stress - must be stressful, whatever it is they have going on. Right?

On the Irish, I love them. LOVE. I know, so American of me, but when we were there with my four month old baby (5 years ago now), people couldn't have been kinder. I was a new mom and a bit of a mess and jet lagged, and people were so lovely to me.

And last night I was in an Irish pub in Brooklyn, and some very nice Irish men saved us from the guys with hilarious Brooklyn accents who were hitting on us - just sized it all up, us, our deep girly chat, our wedding rings, and offered to sort it all out for us. In this really non-paternalistic but totally cool way. God Bless that country and its people!

Anonymous said...

Come back up North for love and free flowing affection. I remember staying in London once and going to the pub with some boys who had migrated from the North and from Wales to live in the big smoke. We all had such a laugh that night and over and over again, the boys said 'York girls are so nice' We weren't doing anything spectacular, we were just being ourselves. Do you fell like a stranger in your village? Don't let them get you down, you're lovely x x x

Claire said...

As new (South African) immigrants back in 2002, I remember how disappointed my hubby and I were when jogging through Regent's Park for the first few times that none of the other joggers returned our friendly greetings! We vowed to try 'change the world' but the truth is we just stopped saying hi to strangers for fear of provoking heart attacks, such was the shock on most passing faces! And I guess that's what happens to most of us, especially in big cities - you just stop trying. But, we've just moved out of London to Surrey and I have been so heartened by the difference in attitude. So maybe there's hope. Hope you start feeling better soon. You really sound as though you've been taking strain lately. x

Monica said...

You never know... in defense of cold bloke - I have this burning desire to be friendly to all and tell them we should go for drinks sometime and all that... Then I get all freaked out when it actually happens and my awkward annoying social anxiety self takes over and I avoid people and they probably think I am a cold bitch. Maybe they were embarrassed that you knew their secret?

Cornelius said...

I completely sympathize with you. The Celts - Irish, Scots, Welsh and Cornish - are friendly folk, but the Southern English are cold and cruel.

Anonymous said...

I am from NYC and even though people consider NYers rude (we are, a little, but that's only because you tourists break the Cardinal rule here...don't block the traffic! Stand to the side to gawk!).

But NYers will talk to anyone (except crazy homeless people). We are very opinionated and are used to all kinds of people and we are quite helpful as far as directions and so forth.

Just stand to the side when you ask them!

Anonymous said...

Just found your post, ohhh I can sympathise. A story for you? My 11-year old has just moved to secondary school, and recently asked me to set up a playdate (maybe he's getting too big for that expression) with some friends from his old school - friends who he hung out with a fair bit at weekends/after school over recent years.

So I send very polite emails to the mums...and...you guessed it. Nothing. Now that they don't have to see me every day on the school run, stone-colding runs no risk of embarrassment.

Now the 11-year-old is possibly the world's nicest kid, makes friends everywhere he goes, teachers like him, even yummy mummies like him. But me? Although I and my parents were UK-born, I am visibly foreign. The mums can't cope with this (oddly the dads I find a lot more straightforward), and so they do their utmost to exclude my kids socially.

To the credit of my children, this has not held them back, and they are still open, trusting and friendly. But for how much longer? I deeply regret having tried to build a family life here. I have more to offer this country than it has to offer me.

Anonymous said...

Up early after an almost sleepless night. Lonely and homesick and wondering how the hell you get an English person to: 1. talk to you beyond polite crap or talk to you without vomiting their life problems in the first 5 minutes of knowing you, 2. look you in the eye as you pass them every morning and evening for every week day over many years as you pass each other to drop off/pick up the kids, (how nice it would be to be able to say hello) 3. return an invitation.

Crummy Mummy said...

I feel really sorry for the stress this is causing you. My advice? for what it is worth - just say hello. Kill them with your own kindness. My Granny used to say that - honestly try it - say hello to that person you pass every morning, and if they don't say hello keep going - it will infuriate them or get them to speak to you. English folk - southerners especially are odd. Keep at it!

Jamie said...

I understand exactly. Half-English/Half-Irish here. Born and raised in London and I am still astounded at how rude, cold and 'piggish' people in this country are. It makes me incredibly angry and to be honest, just plain low. Humans are not meant to suffer alienation- its been scientifically proven to be detrimental to a persons' wellbeing. It has nothing to do with London being a metropolitan city- New York is one of the friendliest places I have ever visited. London and SE is populated by cold and mean-spirited people. It makes everyday life difficult- to the point where you avoid talking to people (perhaps its a vicious cycle?)

Anonymous said...

I been living in London for a while, the British are into cliques, rude and cold, they pretend refined civilized people but they are not, sometimes they try to be polite and positive on your face but behind back they gossip, they don't like foreigners, even their own people they judge by the accent/class. Most friendly people in London are foreigners, East Europeans, South Africans, Australians, French, Brazil, Turkey etc. The real problem with the natives is they are into cliques and snobbish everywhere they are like that and this is not good spirit, at the playground, at the house of worship, community, schools, work, coffee shops, gyms, in the street, they always have small talk with non British people, some people say "It takes time to make friends and when they get to know you they are friends for life", I don't think so because I been here for a long time and they never made friends with me.

Anonymous said...



Simply do not give a damn .

Anonymous said...

I was born and lived in England until my thirties, then in NY / NJ and finally in TX. I've wondered many times why the Southern English behave as they do. I think its because they are so sensitive to the opinion of other people. To be friendly with you might cause a comment, slight or rejection from someone else and they are terrified that this will happen. Hence, they play safe and only associate with "birds of a feather". As everyone is doing this it leads to a very twitchy, nervous and weird society.

These days I only visit the UK to see my family and the few friends I made there. For me it was a huge revelation to live somewhere else where people are warm and friendly. I'd recommend TX to anyone the people here are friendly and honest.