"Don’t touch me, I’m British"

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    Mar 13, 2011 12:57 AM GMT
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/db51a45e-4472-11e0-931d-00144feab49a.html

    I live in Paris, but I recently took my family on a visit to London. At my sister’s house, we were introduced to a Brit we didn’t know. My wife is American, but in Paris she has picked up some French habits. She kissed the Brit hello. He was amazed. I suspect she made his day.

    I also visited the US last month, and so received a refresher course in American rules on touching and speaking. In every country, there is one question that governs social interaction: what intimacies are you permitted with whom? And in each country, the intimate zone has its own unique shape.

    [...]

    Nor are Britons permitted to make eye contact: the former French prime minister Edith Cresson, disconcerted that British men didn’t look at her, estimated that one in four was homosexual. No wonder Britons drink ever-increasing amounts of alcohol. Alcohol was first distilled so that British people could reproduce.

    Latins are luckier. They can touch and talk to strangers even when sober. But they, too, follow one ground rule shared by the French, Americans and British: they only get naked with people of the opposite gender in sexual situations.

    To us, this rule seems so obvious as to be universal. However, it isn’t. Laborier notes that Germans will sometimes get naked in public without intent.

    In Finland, too, couples will invite friends over for a sauna and everyone will take their clothes off together. At a friend’s house in Helsinki, we all ended up running naked from the sauna to jump into the lake behind the garden, while the neighbours looked on incuriously. Back home again, I tried to explain to a British friend that Finns don’t seem to associate nudity with sex.

    “What,” he asked, “do they associate with sex?” I’m guessing the answer might be a kiss on the cheek, or conversation.


    (Click on the link above to read the whole thing - it's funny but also useful travel info I think).
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    Mar 13, 2011 3:33 AM GMT
    Too funny and so true.

    Americans will talk but won't touch; the French will touch but won't talk; and the Brits won't touch or talk. And a lot of these differences, in my view and as alluded to in the article, seem to arise from how each culture views sexuality and their expression of it. The more 'repressed' sexuality is, the less likely people in a given culture are to touch and interact in intimate ways.

    Cultural differences are always so much fun to read about. Thanks for posting this article.
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    Mar 13, 2011 3:36 AM GMT
    that explains my habits
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    Mar 13, 2011 4:09 AM GMT
    i love my Spaniard Italian Austrian and French friends... when i need hugs and kisses anyexcuse to visit them is worth it
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    Mar 13, 2011 4:21 AM GMT
    You always have the Aussie Kiss. It's the same as the French Kiss, but....... down under.
  • kew1

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    Mar 13, 2011 10:42 AM GMT
    "Nor are Britons permitted to make eye contact"
    That normally refers to public transport, or maybe just the social circle she was meeting.

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    Mar 13, 2011 10:50 AM GMT
    We're (or younger generantions are) actually getting much better at physical contact.

    Men hug a lot and a kiss on the cheek with friends (not strangers) of either sex isn't uncommon. Straight women are more comfortable with cheek/air kissing, but straight blokes do it too a lot.

    I've noticed with one American female frind that she cringes a little when I kiss her cheek, and she gives one of those gentle-pat-on-the-back hugs.

    I'm from Newcastle, though, where we're all slightly friendlier, and I now live in London which is ever so cosmopolitan.

    I taught English at companies in Caracas, Venezuela for a couple of years and MANY female students kissed my cheek as they shook my hand. a definite no-no in business here. Illegal, probably, actually, if not definitely.
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    Mar 13, 2011 10:52 AM GMT
    Riddler78, the one thing the Brits know best about the French is they dont wash , thats why we try to have no physical contact with them. The reason the French prime minister could get no eye contact was cos she was fugly, nuff said!
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    Mar 13, 2011 10:55 AM GMT
    Why dont u ask some brits lol
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    Mar 13, 2011 10:56 AM GMT
    Er, could my name be more explict? What do you think I am, a Kraut in disguise?
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    Mar 13, 2011 10:58 AM GMT
    Well as far as my etiquette goes once I'm familiar with a woman I would give her the cheek to cheek kiss.
    With a male familiar I would do bro shake shoulder to shoulder hug.

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    Mar 13, 2011 11:04 AM GMT
    Nothing wrong with Brit guys being polite and proper , we arnt a nation who likes doing things in public lol.

    thats a foreign import
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    Mar 13, 2011 11:24 AM GMT
    I'm a brit- and don't ever mistake the politeness for warmth or friendliness. Usually its a delaying tactic. There is intense hostility under it often.
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    Mar 13, 2011 11:54 AM GMT
    blactor saidI'm a brit- and don't ever mistake the politeness for warmth or friendliness. Usually its a delaying tactic. There is intense hostility under it often.


    Ooooh, someone works in the City. It's not like that in the real world, honest. I escaped.
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    Mar 13, 2011 12:01 PM GMT
    Nope, I work in the theatre but in general most londoners or middle england people are not nice- they're rude and full of suspicion- under the veneer of politeness.
  • DCEric

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    Mar 13, 2011 12:07 PM GMT
    ...jeez, so true for Americans. I get uncomfortable when my gay friends hug me. I shut up and 'take it', but I still don't like it.
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    Mar 13, 2011 12:17 PM GMT
    blactor saidNope, I work in the theatre but in general most londoners or middle england people are not nice- they're rude and full of suspicion- under the veneer of politeness.


    I imagine the world of theatre must be similarly full of snakes? In the City, it's less suspicion, more paranoia; less rude, more scathing: sugar coated poisin.
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    Mar 13, 2011 12:23 PM GMT
    Its mainly musical theatre that's the most duplicitous. Straight theatre is less so. But hell, I'm a paranoid person myself.
  • kew1

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    Mar 13, 2011 12:24 PM GMT
    khge said , we arnt a nation who likes doing things in public lol.



    We go abroad to do that - Magaluf, Ibiza & Aiya Napa . Than the Mail gets in a huff.icon_smile.gif
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    Mar 13, 2011 12:33 PM GMT
    kew1 said
    khge said , we arnt a nation who likes doing things in public lol.



    We go abroad to do that - Magaluf,. .icon_smile.gif


    Lol, speak for yourself. Chav. icon_biggrin.gif
  • kew1

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    Mar 13, 2011 12:41 PM GMT
    Brit_Bloke said
    kew1 said
    khge said , we arnt a nation who likes doing things in public lol.



    We go abroad to do that - Magaluf,. .icon_smile.gif


    Lol, speak for yourself. Chav. icon_biggrin.gif


    Never been to any of them & not into performing in public.icon_redface.gif
    & too old now to start.

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    Mar 14, 2011 12:09 AM GMT
    I think the reserve of the British is down to the idea that any show of emotion is due to weakness, an unmasculine trait. This applies to over-friendliness as well as mourning or crying in public.
    It's known as the British stiff upper lip, something many newspaper journalists, particularly the Daily Mail, fears that it is waning, and Britain is becoming more of an emotional, sentimental and mawkish society, as one journalist, Melanie Phillips, says it's the watering down of British masculinity.
    But according to Jeremy Paxman, in his book, The English - A Portrait of a People British stoicism may be due to the miserable climate.
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    Mar 14, 2011 12:27 AM GMT
    What started all this "hugginess" that has almost overwhelmed the US and Canada. It never used to be that way. Was it Friends or Frasier?
  • SFGeoNinja

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    Mar 15, 2011 7:11 AM GMT
    beneful1 saidWhat started all this "hugginess" that has almost overwhelmed the US and Canada. It never used to be that way. Was it Friends or Frasier?


    One of the biggest determinants of a culture's comfort with intimacy is to watch people dance. When I was in Israel, the Israelis were horrified when they saw a group of Americans dancing. "It looks like you're having sex with each other," referring to the common style of dancing at frat parties or other singles clubs for the the US.

    There, and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, dancing is a more subtle test for your sexual chemistry - you don't get to dance with that guy you like until you prove to them that you can hold your own just fine on the dance floor solo. If they don't see rhythm, your conversation won't go very far.
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    Mar 15, 2011 7:12 AM GMT
    Don't touch me, I'm British, and, therefore, better than you. Obviously.

    I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire.