Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Do People Dislike the English?

I like most English people a lot – especially northerners. To be perfectly honest, though, I can understand why many other nations might not. And I think it’s time Englishmen faced up to why this might be.

Quite simply, I think you bring it on yourselves.

Don’t get me wrong: I have English friends and family who I like very much and consider to be good people. They can be cold fish at times, but are usually ok once they’ve got a drink in them and caught up with the rest of humanity. They accept my patriotism and I accept theirs. They have their history, sports and culture, and we have ours. They like cricket, I prefer golf. Each to his or her own. Most are the salt of the earth and I respect the pride they have in their identity, just as I do for the Dutch, Irish or French.

The key is mutual respect.

I shall stay in contact with my friends and cousins after Scottish re-independence, and expect Scotland and England to remain close, when the hurly-burly’s done.

OK so far? Good.

So what prompted my question at the top of this post?

A couple of days ago I was waiting for friends in a quiet Scottish pub when I overheard three English students at a nearby table putting down Scotland. They didn’t see me and obviously thought the bar was otherwise empty.

Their main grievances were essentially that:

1. Scotland’s cheaper university degrees are subsidised by the English taxpayer. [much frowning and nodding agreement]

2. They shouldn’t have to listen to a heavy Scottish accent on TV – it’s completely unintelligible anyway and comes from ‘somewhere back in the throat.’ [laughter]

3. There is Gaelic content on TV here, and ‘how many people want to see that?’ [more laughter]

4. Scottish TV stations did not show an England football game recently. [incredulous outrage]

5. Why do immigrants in Scotland choose to speak Scottish? ‘As if they’re not at enough social disadvantage already.’ [wise shaking of the heads all round]

These students seemed well-presented and fairly intelligent, so this was not the idle alcoholic ranting of knuckle-dragging lager louts. If I were to categorise them, I would say they were they were the fortunate sons of comfortable, middle class Tory families from the English Midlands. I’d guess they were in first or second year, as they had not yet lost their regional accents (with all their English class associations), one of the principal reasons I believe many English people go to university.

Their opinions got me thinking though: how many English students in Scotland feel this way?

I should mention that there was a Scot in the group. At first he tried to counter these arguments diplomatically, but eventually he lapsed into silence, presumably because either he could not believe his ears or because he didn’t want to fall out with those he considered his friends.

It’s always fascinating to watch the painful transformation of Scottish Unionist into uncompromising patriot, the normal state of affairs in every other country in the world.

It’s like watching an epiphany.

As the time passed, he began to look increasingly uncomfortable. The look on his face became one of quiet, stony rage. Eventually he made his excuses and stood to go. At the doorway, he paused and looked back one last time, and then with an incredulous shake of the head pushed open the door and left.

Yesterday I related this little tale over the phone to my English cousin in Yorkshire, and his reaction was one of ‘you’re kidding’, mixed with cringing embarrassment for the behaviour of his countrymen. Another phrase that sticks in my mind: ‘it’s a bit rich.’

So together we compiled this message to all English students in Scotland who agree with the above sentiments:

1. You come to our country as guests to exploit our lower cost degrees, then complain that you are subsidising them anyway. In effect, you are complaining that you were forced to come all this way north to claim what is rightfully yours. The idea that maybe England should change its own higher education system back to what it was before New Labour fucked it up doesn’t enter your heads. The words ‘hypocrite’ and ‘ingrate’ spring to mind. And by the way, we're subsidising you. Scotland has not received one penny of oil revenue since the discovery of oil in our waters.

2. Why would immigrants to our country not try to fit in and sound like they’re from here? Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but the Scottish nation and its tongue are outside your medieval forelock-tugging English social hierarchy.

3. Let’s put this into perspective. Having moved to another country, you stick together like flies on shite, then try to change that place to be more like England. And then have the temerity to complain when immigrants from other countries come to England and try to do the same.

4. So the telly wasn’t showing an England football game? Boo fucking hoo. Sorry, but you’re in Scotland now, not England. If you want to watch English games on the box, maybe you should have chosen an English university and paid your self-imposed English university fees.

English students are more than welcome in Scotland, as you will be after Scottish re-independence. Perhaps by then students like you will have learned how to show a little more respect and gratitude, like our Dutch, French and Irish friends.

I’m not holding my breath though. Nor do I wish you to change your behaviour just yet. Because deep down I know that people like you are doing Scotland an invaluable service, converting as you are so many Unionists like your friend to the cause of nationalism and independence.

Keep up the great work, boys.


Anonymous said...

Great post. You have described to perfection what I have witnessed many times.... and done it with style and wit too...

A good read.

OutLander said...

Cheers, Tris.

scunnert said...

I could relate similar - but couldn't we all. Interestingly the same kind of north/south divide exists in North America. Canadians love to hate Americans for their ignorance and arrogance. Yet most have family both sides of the border and travel there extensively.

Of course most Americans - just like most English - are fine folks. It's just a certain class of people who feel the need to demonstrate their superiority when abroad that gives the others a bad name. Nothing ever measures up to their standards.

In the past it didn't matter so much in the UK as Scotland was controlled directly by England. They could snigger at our backwardness - and we were backward - Scotland was a hinterland where modern life seeped slowly in.

Although my da worked on advanced engineering for aviation, satellites, and nuclear subs, my ma was still doing the washing by hand up until the mid fifties, we didn't get a fridge, a car, or a 'phone until the early sixties.

I watch Beeb period dramas and see that all of these were available to the English in the twenties and thirties. How quaint we must have seemed.

Now we have a modicum of control over our lives England resents the differences. Not so quaint - we are now a nation of pariahs sucking on the English hind teat.

They'll just have to get used to it.

OutLander said...


"We are now a nation of pariahs sucking on the English hind teat. They'll just have to get used to it."

Or so many of them are led to believe. If that's what they really think, then in reality I hope they DON'T get used to it. I hope they get angry and frustrated and LET US GO, like we're asking them to.

Then we'll see who's sucking on whose teat.

Dark Lochnagar said...

Good thing is that we are maturing quickly as a country now we have a modicum of control over our own affairs. Imagine what we'll be like after independence!

OutLander said...

Indeed DLN.

The transformation will be astonishing, and without a doubt the momentum is building. Looking forward to being a citizen of a normal country.

Got a single malt and a cigar at the ready.

Louis D'advocate said...

What you describe is a very common phenomena.

If you meet a single person from country A who is in country B, then they will (usually) be very nice.

If you get a group of people from country A who are in country B, then they can easily be arrogant, condescending, ignorant and inconsiderate.

It's a universal human trait. While it's easy to think "I don't do that" you can probably think back to a time when you actually did. Maybe when you were younger, relaxing in a pub.

OutLander said...

“they can easily be arrogant, condescending, ignorant and inconsiderate.”

A fair point, LDA.

If someone is stuck in a foreign-seeming landscape, they can sometimes feel the need to let off a bit of steam with their countrymen. Even if they love the country they’re visiting.

That said, it’s unreasonable to expect another country to be like yours. The problem here was a fundamental lack of respect for a different culture. The comments weren’t just letting off steam about how bad their days had been, they were airing deep seated grievances about the perceived defects in their host country, based around the cultural, linguistic and educational differences, which were not in themselves designed to be anti-English. But I agree, other countries have this too – the idea that if something is not done their way, it’s the wrong way. American tourists are well known for this flaw in their thinking.

Another factor is the lack of a language divide. Perhaps the main reason Scots and English are so aware of what we think of each other is that we speak the same language. Other groups of foreigners congregating in Scotland or England would tend to speak their own languages, and possibly say similar things to these students without us knowing.

This would also explain why we sometimes find Americans and South Africans rude, and most non-English speakers nice.

The lack of a language barrier can reveal other barriers.

An Donas said...

Interesting piece. Another guy who does ordinary English folk no favours is the 'predatory' new landlord of the once renowned Glenuig Inn in Moidart. He's ruined the place and no locals drink there now. Latest news is that he wants to buy the moorings, rent them to rich yachters and stop the local fisherman using them! Amadan a' chac!

OutLander said...

An Dhonash,

I salute your ability to insult in Gaelic.

naldo said...

I think it's more to do with class than place of birth (i dinnae dig the ruling classes).

Having said that....

quite an inciteful rant i reckon.

OutLander said...

Indeed, Naldo.

The anti-English bits of Renton's rant make you cringe, but much of it was about how low the Scots had sunk.

It needed to be said.

Always thought it was funny the way Braveheart (1995) was followed by Trainspotting (1996): the passion with which we'd fought for our nation's right to exist so long ago, held up against how we'd ended up.

OutLander said...

And btw, Naldo, by the accents in the bar, the families of the kids in question would have been lower middle class, if anything.

Nothing special, in fact.

The essence of their sense of superiority was not class but culture, namely English culture, which to them is superior in all forms, even if it's an episode of Eastenders or the Bill, staffed by cockney cheeky chappies and Bow Bell slappers.

Quite amusing, when you think about it.

Toque said...

As an Englander who used to work at Edinburgh University I have to say that I don't recognise those attitudes (except for No.1 - the subsidising of Scotland).

Sometimes it used to infuriate me that I couldn't watch an England match, or that I missed a particular Premiership game on Sky because all the pubs were showing the Old Firm game. I had less trouble watching English footy when I lived in Germany and Canada. But you know what? It was just a good excuse to drive down to Northumberland and watch the game there.

And there were great times, like watching England win the Rugby Union World Cup, surrounded by weeping Scots and Aussies in Edinburgh's 'Oz Bar' - life doesn't get much better than that.

Now I'm back in England I thank my lucky stars that I never have to watch a game of Scottish football again. That apart I have extremely fond memories of my time up there.

OutLander said...

Hi Toque,

Sounds like you had a great time. Edinburgh certainly has a great student vibe.

I had a similar experience to yours with the rugby - sitting in a London pub watching Scotland win the Grand Slam against England, when it was winner take all. I think it was 1990. Lots of unopened champagne bottles. Classic.

Nothing wrong with a little friendly sporting rivalry. That's what it's all about.

Toque said...

I wasn't a student at Edinburgh (or Englandburgh as the Wegies call it) - I'm not posh enough!