Don’t worry, I’m not about to go into the whole Brexit debate here (mostly because I still don’t feel as if I know enough about the implications but also because it feels as if we are bombarded by it at the moment). No, I’m talking about the social skills us Brits can learn from the rest of Europe, the healthy attitudes and behaviours that seems to come naturally to our European counterparts but aren’t absorbed by our stiff-upper-lipped nation.
Don’t get me wrong, there are so many amazing parts to being British and I love our rich history and cultural identity; if you haven’t seen or read Very British Problems then you should, it’s not only very funny but also spot on with some of the hilarious thoughts that we’ve all had at some point:
Desperately talking about the weather so as to avoid the dreaded awkward silence.
Saying ‘sorry’ for everything when there is no need to apologise.
Never knowing whether to handshake, hug, kiss on the cheek or kiss on both cheeks.
Panicking inside when asked to share a ‘fun fact about yourself’.
Being too polite to complain about a bad meal in a restaurant.
Spotting a colleague on your commute and realising you will have to find a new way to get to work rather than talk to them every morning.
Not hearing something for the third time so just laughing and nodding.
Always having to say ‘Right!’ before standing up and getting ready to leave.
The list goes on.
Yes these quirks are endearing but I do think it is about time that we lost some of our Very British Problems. I say this now because I was recently inspired by some lovely comments I received from people reading my blog from across the world, where they were so much more open, not just in their comments but on their own blogs too. They didn’t seem to have the same sense of social awkwardness that we seem to have here in the UK and were happy to outpour emotion when we still, on balance, are so much more reserved.
So what can we learn from our fellow European countries?
- Stop apologising! Most countries have a word that has different-yet-similar meanings depending on context, for instance ‘prego’ in Italian can mean you’re welcome/don’t mention it/not at all/if you please and similarly in German ‘bitte’ can mean please/you’re welcome/here you go/may I help you/pardon. In the UK, we seem to have adopted ‘sorry’ as our word. But so many of the times that we use it, we don’t need to be apologising! For instance: ‘Sorry, do you have the time?’ ‘Sorry, can I just squeeze past?’ ‘Sorry, are you using that?’ Let’s stop being so apologetic and just ask the question we want straight up guys.
- Make more of an effort to learn languages. We are so lucky that English is often the go-to language abroad but it does mean that we are usually much lazier at learning other languages. With free tutorials on YouTube, there is no excuse! Or auf Deutsch, let’s get our scheize together.
- Embrace a late drinking culture. No I don’t mean the kind outside the pub, I mean the late cafe culture that Europeans are so good at. When Marc and I visited Bosnia last year and accidentally ended up in the locals area, there were so many locals of all ages filling the streets, socialising and drinking coffee. I’m still confused as to how you could drink caffeine so late and still hope to sleep but I think it’s nice that they didn’t feel the need to always have an alcoholic drink to socialise and stay out. (Saying that, we did definitely take advantage of the cheap £1 wine and beer in Mostar. But you get the idea).
- Be proud. The French are famous for celebrating their own country’s achievements when we often downplay our own so as not to appear bigheaded or arrogant. Brits are great at that dry, sarcastic humour but why can’t we just celebrate the big achievements and admit when we are proud? Which leads me on to –
- Be more open and honest with our feelings. We are usually trying so hard to not offend someone that we often keep our own feelings tightly locked away behind a veneer of politeness. Though not technically Europe, when Marc and I went to Egypt the locals working at the resorts would come up to speak to us so openly that at first we thought they were after something before we realised that they just wanted to make friends. Instead of being so guarded with our feelings and comments, lets open up a bit more.
Is there anything else you think we could learn from other European countries? Let me know!