image by Nicole (flickr: oh_pretty_love) through Creative Commons
Let's be honest. We probably look grumpy anyway. We're from an old country, alone in the sea, grudgingly-kind-of part of Europe. We had a power hungry phase of wanting world domination, and now those countries want rights and equality and not to be ruled by some outdated monarchy. Tuh. We still have a cavalry. And a queen.
Despite all that history, we're mostly known for tea and "chips."
When I studied abroad in the U.S. I ended up living with four American guys. With every word I said, every quirk of viewpoint, it didn't take me long to realize: They had bothering a Brit down to an art.
So... you want us to be bemused not just because we drank too much but because you really didn't mind your manners? Well, here's how:
Call it all London
If you're unlucky, and happen to be speaking to a Londoner, they will heartily agree -- London is indeed the only place worth visiting.
The thing is, it's not where most of us live. Luckily, foreigners can usually name a few other cities. The ones with football teams, that is. I'm from Bristol. You probably haven't heard of it. I assure you, it's bigger than Chelsea.
At least it's still England. Woe forbid you if you call a Scot a Londoner or refer to their country as England. As the line in Trainspotting sums it up, we're just the w**kers that tried to rule them. Worse still if you speak to someone from Southern Ireland -- that's not even part of the UK. A fate they escaped unlike their counterparts in the North.
Say What You Think
If you disguise it heavily in a joke, it might just pass. But generally, we're not renowned for our open display of emotion. Irish comedian Dylan Moran said "talking to an English person you don't know if they've recently died or just got married."
So if you want to make someone really uncomfortable, just be blunt. Tell someone (soberly) that you like them. Discuss sex without using innuendo. If someone asks you for your opinion on their outfit and you don't like it, say. After all, they won't be blunt back. After a shocked pause, they'll reply, "Thank you for your constructive feedback." While thinking, "You d*ck. You absolute d*ck."
Mess With Our Personal Space
You might think that you're being friendly when you smile at a Londoner on the street, but you're just freaking them out.
This gets particularly awkward on the Tube. There we all are, minding our own space, desperately ignoring the fact that there isn't any as fronts and behinds and spiky briefcases cram in together. A Londoner will: Ignore. Avoid eye contact. Never speak of it to anyone.
This is your chance to really rattle the whole crowd. Shout that you like the feel of other bodies against your own.
Insult Our Beer
Most of us will probably be complimented if you call us binge drinkers. There's certainly no stigma about it.
But if you turn to what we're drinking and begin your insults... well, we're not buying the next round.
Say you've never heard of Newcastle. Suggest that American beer is better. Insist that an American pint is bigger than an English one (it's smaller). Say it must be bigger because America is bigger. Then smile at the attractive barmaid and give her a big tip. She won't know what you're doing. She'll probably be insulted too.
Now that you're kicked out of the bar...
Mock British Food
No, we don't ONLY eat fish and chips (though chunky chips are much better than those American fries). Globalization mercifully reached us and you can find just about anything, heavy emphasis on Indian.
An old Italian woman once informed me that she'd been to England. "You don't eat pasta." She said disdainfully. "Actually..." I began. "No, no. You don't eat pasta."
If you really want to annoy us, please, ask when tea time is. Nobody does that. Except maybe my grandma. Or if you're going out with female friends and want to eat cake instead of lunch.
Image by Steven Lilley
Yes, we drink a lot of tea. Yes, we drink it with milk. And don't you even dare think of using anything other than fresh. Unless you take a sick pleasure in watching our familiar source of comfort turn into something bitter.
Any American who wants to screw with our precious tea, should just offer some half and half. We have no idea what that is. My mum spent a full ten minutes grilling some poor American on exactly what that substance is (basically cream). The thing is, it sounds like what we call semi-skimmed (reduced fat). It's more than our brains can handle. I ended up pouring this cream all over my cereal.
Brits don't have the best reputation abroad. The French call us rosbif (roast beef) and the Portuguese call us bife (steak). They laugh at us as we lie in the sun turning lobster red. But who can blame us? Our only hope of not being milky white is to get all the sun we can when it's there. And if, after we've gone through all of that blistering pain, you put your effortlessly sun kissed forearm next to ours... just watch our smile fade.
Twist Our Language
After a disaster involving spilt water in the kitchen, I politely asked my American friend for a tea towel. He stares blankly. Look at it! I say. Did you spill some tea? He asks.
Practice this. Practice pretending every word we say is made up. Make us translate to that ghastly language: American. Then start a fight with our spelling. Say it's crazy how Brits throw in those extra letters. It must be our sense of humour. Pretending to change the topic, complement our nice ass.
If we don't go on a tangent about how we don't own a donkey, your bad jokes and misogyny will get you called a 'w**ker'. Say what a quaint word that is!
Now you're in for it. If you've really really REALLY pushed us, be prepared. What's coming is the dreaded and revered: Passive-Aggressive Note On Your Fridge Door.