Sunday, 5 September 2010

"I Love British Culture"

If I am frank, I am not Katy Perry's greatest fan. In an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine today she likens herself to Christian rockers who are, "doing it because it is their ministry," singing to tell stories and, "change people's lives." I'm not sure whose lives, other than those of teenage boys, have been changed by candy floss erupting from her bosom or her proclamation of kissing girls and liking it. I don't think her 'teachings' can be compared to the word of God. I am not going to pretend to be religious, but I at least appreciate that Christian rockers probably practice what they preach by going to church and stuff, not once in that whole video did I see Ms. Perry even French-kiss another girl.

For the record, I quite liked Hot 'n' Cold.

For those of you that don't know, Perry is dating and will apparently soon marry the British comedian and actor, Russell Brand. During the for-mentioned interview, when talking about her love of the eccentricities that hail from our little isles she says, “I love British culture.” But, Ms. Perry, do tell us what it is about our people that you enjoy so very much, “... it [Britain] continues to hold onto its manners, people still seem to give a shit about social status and it seems like they really don't want to be embarrassed.” She then adds as an afterthought, “I mean, English girls are sometimes the dirtiest girls. I only know that because my boyfriend has had a few... interactions.”

Okay, so she got the last bit right, but I find it very hard to identify with the other three for the following reasons; my family at dinner time, the fact Nikki from Big Brother is probably more popular than Camilla Parker Bowles and the extent of sillyness that surrounds every Red Nose Day.

It is, of course, not Katy's fault. The view she has of my country is that of the very traditional, stiff-upper-lipped Britain of about sixty years ago, and a view that many across the world still hold. Often, when foreigners discover my nationality (usually as soon as I open my mouth), coos of, 'English gentleman', 'top hats' and 'tea' fill my ears. Granted, I drink an awful lot of tea, but I believe the traditional English gentleman is well and truly dead.

I don't think this is sad, I just think our culture has changed somewhat since the 1950s, but we have not managed to convey that to the rest of the world. Also I think we are still struggling to decide what British culture is for ourselves; curry or fish and chips, Glastonbury or Notting Hill, London or the North. It is a topic that reappears every now and again in the media, I have even touched, and lamented about our lack of ability to pin it down in the past. But no more.

I particularly like Britishness because it is not defined by a sushi roll, an Eiffel tower or a national dream. For me now, Britishness includes our liberal attitude towards lifestyle, politics and opinions. Our wide range of national papers are a testament to this. We create some of the best music and art in the Western world, coupled with some of the greatest educational institutions on the planet. We have a killer sense of humour, I know no other group of people who is so ready to make a fool of themselves for a laugh. I can't think of many nationalities that will sit on a surfboard in the freezing cold, pouring rain and then describe the situation as beautiful.

What is it that you think makes us British? Whether you are foreign or not, I would be curious to know.

The above may seem a bit jumbled. Maybe I am just feeling rather patriotic because I am back home for the last time until I come back from China next summer... again. Katy Perry just ticked me off a little, that's all.

12 comments:

Charlotte said...

When I think Britain I think of Humor. I live in Canada and although we have some amazing Comedians, there's nothing that beats Blackadder or fawlty towers. The ability to make fun of yourself is something most Canadians in the media lack. So when you turn on the TV and see some man goose stepping around a hotel It's sure to stand out.

Steve said...

I am unashamed to admit that I am an American fascinated by British culture, and many of my British friends (who also make up probably the largest portion of my YouTube friends) have noted how much I am the quintessential Englishman. Now, I don't know exactly what they are noting, but I can name a few things: most of the shows I watch are on BBC America, and those that aren't are described as "some of the most British comedy on American TV," such as 30 Rock and The Office. I drink a heck of a lot of tea. I have an appreciation for "cultured" activities like Classical music, opera, Dickens, etc., but not at the expense of my enjoyment of more everyday culture. I try to be tolerant, respectful, and educated on other people's cultures rather than ignorant. I do care about my appearance, but not so much (as you said) that I leave the house looking formal going to a casual event. I think most of those kind of surround my understanding of British culture, at least as an outsider who has tried to educate himself on it :D

Jack said...

I believe it's Katy* not Katie :)

hfm said...

As a British Indian, I've find it difficult to identify completely with either culture. I think Britishness is defined by our attitude, there is no definite arbitrary item which can be solely placed as the symbol of the British. I think our humour& ability to have pride in our literature, poetry& arts makes us who we are.

Sophie Bryce said...

I definitely think it's the British sense of humour. It's having that quick wit, the sarcasm, the enticing anecdotes. It's all really British. I don't think any other nation has such an identifiable sense of humour. Sarcasm and generally being indirect about things are quite British, and I love it :)

Hanna said...

I'm a Swede who loves Britain, so I think your post was very interesting. As much as I love Britain for your red telephone boxes and double deckers (ha), it's more about a feeling of relating and belonging.
I was going to post my whole answer to your question in a comment, but it got so long that I posted it on my tumblr instead so I won't occupy your whole comment section. You can find my rant here: http://losemycool.tumblr.com/post/1071082894/what-i-love-about-britain :)

Hanna said...

Also, I realise that I didn't really answer your question. Sorry. But I can't asnwer what makes you British, because I'm not the one to decide that. ;)

LaDitsterNo1 said...

I find it interesting that you chose to say curry OR chips as the national identity of an empire that once stretched around the entire world. Why should the British need to choose between the two? There are still people living in Kenya, India, Canada that take pride in their British nationality, even if the past government demoted them to Overseas British Citizens.

mark.cornelius said...

For your reasons of loving Britishness, you really need to come to the United States and really tour for about six years.

Keiko Chan said...

I think Im a british who was planted in america, I make a fool for a laugh and I would decribe that situation as beautiful.

People need to learn to be able to laugh at themselves

Mariana said...

Another Swede who'd say red telephone boxes and dubbel deckers, haha. Although, speaking from personal experience, I'd like to add the word "patronising." Not that all British people are it - far from it - but seeing as I've had one and a half British girlfriends I've come to the realisation that this word is the closest to Britishness I'll ever be. The way you use this word in arguments is what will make me go "this person is definitely British." ("You are entitled to your opinion" is also often used.)

And I'm going to be really boring here and meantion the Union Flag. It doesn't get prettier or more British than that!

Love <3

FlippedPancake said...

Jazza, where are you? Not in the physical sense, in the internet sense. We miss you and your ponderings.