A while back, I wrote a blog post “How to express enthusiasm like an American.” But I feel this is only half of the equation. British people aren’t only loathe to show enthusiasm, they’re also just as reticent to display anger.
I don’t mean to say that British people don’t feel anger. They certainly do – they just display it through sarcasm, or the incredibly clever and ironic method of … acting or speaking in a manner directly opposite to how they feel. There’s a Buzzfeed article that gets frequently passed around: “What British people say, versus what they mean.” It’s filled with little tidbits/titbits such as, “When a British person says ‘I hear what you say,’ that they really mean ‘I completely disagree.'” For some reason, this kind of reaction is something British people are actually proud of. Overt displays of emotion, positive or negative, are forbidden in this island kingdom. When British people act overly polite, they often do so as an indirect way of showing you that they are annoyed. When they half-heartedly agree with something you’ve said, they are likely peeved, and if you ever hear a British person ‘tut’ at you, they are at this point inwardly apoplectic with rage.
But all that suppression of emotions isn’t healthy.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a responsibility to help our British brethren unbottle some of their anger.
As a Yank, you, my gentle reader, are in a unique position to help me. Almost anything you do already makes British people angry – every time you put on your baseball cap, every time you use inches and fahrenheit to measure things instead of centimetres and centigrade, and most of all every time you mispronounce things with your “twangy” accent, you’re likely making a nearby British person angry. But what would happen if, instead of doing this unconsciously, you really knew how to push a British person’s buttons? You might be able to, if you built up to it, make that Brit fly into a real, proper rage! It would be like giving someone who has been constipated their whole life, their first taste of a dodgy burrito. It would actually be helping them!
And it turns out, I am a bit of an expert in the field of angering British people. If you go around Britain, using the following techniques frequently enough, I guarantee you that, at some point, you will eventually anger a Briton enough for them to be free of their shackled fury. Let’s take it in stages:
Things that will vex
- Talk about how American adaptations of British TV shows are ‘invariably better.’ Use “The Office” as an example. State that Fawlty Towers is <GASP> vastly overrated.
- Ask around why there aren’t any good British rappers. When someone mentions a British rapper they admire, talk about how they are “whack.” Then inform anyone listening that punk rock was invented in America by Iggy Pop and Joey Ramone, and that the Sex Pistols were poseurs.
- Ask in cafes for “British ketchup.” When they bring you ketchup, loudly declare: “No, BRITISH ketchup – the brown stuff!”
- Say a hearty “good morning” to people on trains and buses. If someone ignores you, mumble “and I thought the French were rude!” loud enough for them to hear.
Things that will provoke
- Ask everyone with any kind of regional accent if they are Australian. When they tell you where they are actually from, ask if that’s in Australia.
- Refuse to pronounce the letter H, as we do in the states with the term “herbal tea.” This seems to bother British people. But then follow up by saying things like: “In all ‘uman ‘istory, i aven’t ever ‘eard of anyone ‘oo ‘as made such a big deal out of the letter ‘ ‘. Don’t even pronounce the ‘h’ at the end of that sentence. Just make a pause and mime the letter. Act like there’s something forbidden about the letter H and that your British friend really should know this.
- Learn British geography really well, then take every opportunity to do some role reversal, saying things like: “Did you know that Edinburgh is further west than Bristol? It’s a shame how little British people know about their own country.”
- Refer to Welsh people as “Walsh.” If they correct you, tell them you’ve never been to “Welles” but you’re sure it’s a lovely place. Act surprised that they have their own language, but of course, refer to it as “walshish.” Ask: “isn’t that what the Hobbits speak?”
Things that will incense
- Ask lots of questions about why Britain only has one World Cup win. When you are informed that there is no British team and that England has its own separate squad from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, sigh loudly and say- “Oh that’s why.”
- In every shop you go to, ask how much things cost in shillings. Put coins on the counter one at a time, declaring for each one, “is this enough, gov?”
- Complain about how all your tax money goes to support freeloading immigrants who come to the UK via Greece – like Prince Philip.
- Take on British passive-aggressive tendencies by starting as many sentences as you can with the phrase: “Polite Notice,” followed by something very critical. At the end of the sentence, make a “Humph” sound.
Things which will infuriate
- When you meet someone for the first time, inquire whether they are upper, middle or working class. If they act offended or confused, accuse them of being a snob. If they say they don’t really know, ask them how much money they make. If they won’t tell you, or they laugh it off, accuse them of being a snob.
- When you are in a pub, take one sip of a pint, spit it out ostentatiously and then ask for a Bud Lite. Don’t explain yourself. When informed that they don’t have Bud Lite, leave American dollars on the bar as a “tip” so that they can afford to buy Bud Lite.
- If you visit York make sure to always refer to it as “Old York.” Call people from Manchester, Manchovians, people from Liverpool, Liverpoolers and people from Birmingham, Hambones. Refer to Sheffield as Shitfield, and if corrected, shout “that’s what I said!” and then say Shitfield again.
- Mention Benny Hill whenever you can. Hum the theme music around your colleagues as they work on tasks, making your voice noticeably louder if you see them making any mistakes.
The final straw
And now for the nuclear option. The one thing that is guaranteed to make any British person red with rage, is for you to say this one simple sentence….
“Of course, you British people don’t take criticism very well, especially if it’s humorous or ironic.”
There will be a pause as this sinks in. At first, they won’t know what to do, as there is nothing that chafes a British person more than an American who dares to criticise them. But what happens when the criticism is about not taking criticism well?!?!
You’ll see. There’ll be pursing of lips and furrowing of brows, and finally, there will be… shouting, and maybe even some slamming of doors or fists on table.
Congratulations, you’ve broken through and unleashed the beast! Crack open a Bud lite. You’ve done a good deed. You have become a much-needed dodgy burrito, letting loose pent-up British emotional repression.