Kate Fox’s observations in her book Watching
the English: the hidden rules of English behaviour (2004), it seems clear
that one of the main characteristic of English people, or, at least, of the
majority of them, is being socially inhibited, excessively reserved and awkward
in building relationships.
a matter of fact, she concludes her work with a diagram showing which are the
defining characteristics of Englishness (English cultural identity) and,
according to her, its central core is what she calls “social dis-ease” that she
defines as a shorthand term for the social inhibitions of English people and
refers, also, to the awkwardness and embarrassment that leads them to a sense
of discomfort and incompetence in the field of social interactions and so to a
lack of relationships. Moreover, Kate Fox believes that the general
disinclination of the English of showing emotions and feeling, which is known
as “English reserve”, and their obsession with privacy are two of the symptoms
of this social dis-ease.
she believes that this is treatable and that there are ways of dealing with it:
with the use of props and facilitators that allows them to break the ice and
interact with others and overcome their awkwardness by masking, at the same
time, their social incompetence (for example pubs, clubs, pets, weather-talk
etc.) or retreating in their houses.
fact, she connects their obsession with nestbuilding and
privacy sensitivity to their typical characteristics of social inhibition,
reticence and embarrassment as to compensate their lack in social skill,
English people retreat to the protectiveness and security of their own homes because
behind the doors they do not have to worry about it. Therefore, the English consider
their houses as castles and, in fact, home improvement is not a
simple hobby, but it is, also, regarded as a necessary activity to mark the
house as theirs and for the destruction of any evidence of the previous owner.
Also, English houses are characterized by a lack of indication
as house numbers are often hidden and follow an illogical order making it
difficult, especially for a foreigner, to find a house one is looking for and,
probably, even this characteristic has to do with their mania with privacy.
showed by Kate Fox’s research, the English are, indeed, very private people and
highly individualist. As a matter of fact, British culture is what is called a
low context culture as opposed to the high context ones. These two terms were first
introduced in 1976 with the publication of the book Beyond Culture by Edward T. Hall, an American anthropologist and
to Hall’s definitions of these concepts, a high context culture values
tradition, long lasting relationships and the group harmony and thus it is defined
as collectivistic because it emphasizes the belonging of individuals in a group
and encourages conformity while discouraging individuals from sanding out. On
the other hand, a low context culture is characterized by valuing short-term
relationships and by being more individualistic, meaning that the individual needs
are considered to be more important than the group harmony. Therefore,
individualism is a dimension of a culture that has to do with whether people
regard themselves primarily as individuals than as a part of a group by
emphasizing personal freedom, accomplishment and every action that make an
individual stand out. As a matter of fact, in low context cultures, as the
United Kingdom, children are taught from an early age to think for themselves
as the route to happiness is only through personal fulfilment.