According to a new book published in Spain, Sons and Daughters of Great Britain, English people are sexually unadventurous, borderline alcoholics who are in desperate need of a bath. Author Alberto Letona’s examination of British culture has stirred up some disgruntlement across the UK with some critics calling his book a collection of stereotypes; others are highly amused by his humorous findings. We take a tongue-in-cheek look through Letona’s witty cultural assessment of Great Britain.
Letona’s book is a fun account of English culture and British cultural traits, so we have taken a few humorous gems to examine in greater depth…
Grubby and uptight – but with great dress sense
Jumping right in with English culture in the bathroom, Letona comments that the English have poor personal hygiene and are dirtier in general than other Europeans. The author explains this behaviour by commenting that “British people don’t need to shower as many times as they don’t live in a hot climate”.
We are not sure about this as most British people do tend to shower every day whatever the weather. Interestingly, there are a number of stereotypes held in Britain about the dirtiness of other European cultures. It seems that each culture thinks they are the cleanest!
Letona writes that “the British are considered by the rest of the world as a puritanical culture, little given to physical contact, much less sex”. It is true the English do not usually follow the cultural custom of kissing strangers on greeting and would generally offer a handshake instead. With friends the British can hug and sometimes kiss, but this is less common than in countries such as Spain and Italy.
However, this less touchy-feely display of affection between friends does not necessarily translate to the bedroom. British lovers can be equally as amorous as their Latin counterparts!
Fish and chips and fashion
The gastronomy of England gets off more lightly with Letona praising the traditional roast dinner and good old fish and chips. He also explains that the English cannot get enough of Spanish food and the Mediterranean diet in general.
It is true that the English are increasingly turning to a continental diet and have moved away from the traditional ‘meat and two veg’ of the 1950s. English plates are now just as likely to have Italian, French, Spanish, Indian and Chinese food as traditional English dinners. In fact, curry has recently been voted as the UK’s favourite meal!
Something Letona particularly admires in the English is their clothes and sense of fashion. He says that he likes English people’s “eccentric way of dressing”, while the Scots are admired in his book for their generosity and liveliness. Pass the haggis!
Famous British faces
When talking about famous British people, the author finds some bizarre cultural ambassadors for the UK in Keith Richards, John Profumo and Clare Short. At the same time, he ignores famous current faces from the world of sport and entertainment or even the royals.
This can make the English reader feels as though Letona is discussing a English culture from decades ago. Despite this, it is always illuminating to see who foreign nationals do think of as famous English faces. Some of them have clearly made quite an impact!
Middle class hypocrisy
Letona discusses the class system that forms a major part of English culture, suggesting that “middle-class people are more given to hypocrisy”. He gives the example of someone inviting you to tea without really wanting you to go.
He comments that people cannot always expect invites to tea when dealing with the high social classes because “the upper class do not need to pretend to be friendly.” Ouch!
The author also discusses how the English love the countryside and all want to “own a place in the country”. Indeed, who would not want to own their own lovely country pile? Having a classic English country garden is certainly often highly desirable. Many city folk do enjoy getting to the countryside to relax away from the stresses of busy city life.
On the other hand, country people often enjoy getting to the city for all the entertainment, restaurants and theatres. It seems that it can be a case of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side‘ – we always want what we don’t have!
English culture through a foreigner’s eyes
We thoroughly enjoyed Letona’s book and his witty take on English culture. There are some great observations and lots of humour. English people will be able to recognise a lot of the cultural traits!
There are also many broad generalisations which feel outdated because they allude to an England of the past. However, it is fascinating and illuminating to see your own culture through the eyes of an outsider.
We are looking forward to a publication on Spanish cultural traits by an English writer, perhaps focusing on bull fighting, paella eating, ham hanging, afternoon nap taking and flamenco dancing!
English cultural traits
English people: do you long for your own country pile? Do you dress eccentrically? Get drunk a lot? Enjoy plenty of olive oil on your salads? Invite someone for a drink while secretly hoping they never turn up?
Foreign people in England: have you recognised any of Letona’s English cultural traits during your time in the UK?
What would you say are classic aspects of English culture? Which parts of English culture do you enjoy?
How does your own country’s culture differ? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!