For instance, the current fine weather is highlighting four things that distract the Brits like no other nation.
Temperature. The most talked about subject and conversation-opening gambit is without doubt , temperature. For instance, we have English friends living in the Med and every time we hear from them, temperature is mentioned. Personally, I cannot stand high temperatures and my nightmare holiday would be lying by a blue hotel pool drinking beer, pretending to read a book, occasionally leaping into the pool in order to cool down by wallowing in a warm homeopathic solution of children’s urine….and yet, to the average Brit – this is the stuff of dreams. Mind you, I also have a Swedish friend who insists on telling me that ‘Yesterday is was MINUS 30!!’ He says it in a way to suggest that there is something very manly about being able to cope with sub-freezer temperatures.
Alcohol. The relationship between British people and alcohol is strange and complicated. The rest of the world does not quite understand it – and as far as I can see, it centres around the prestige and reputation bestowed by the amount of alcohol that an individual can consume before being violently sick. Phrases such as ‘He can take it’, ‘Hollow legs’, ‘Never seen her pissed although I know she has a problem’ are common. Being able to sink a large volume of alcohol is something to be admired. There are no equivalent problems on the Continent. For instance, the French and Italians are able to enjoy a glass or two of wine or beer without necessarily falling over….and they can do it from a very early age. There is no compulsion to get pissed as fast as possible. All over the world, young Brits are famous for their alcohol-induced promiscuity and yet as a nation, we seem to blissfully aware of the problem. We admire someone who staggers into the office and tells us that they ‘had a skinful last night and are REALLY suffering’. We have more words for being drunk than Eskimos (allegedly) have for snow.
Cars. Brits are the very worst at sitting in their cars and admiring themselves in shop windows in the belief that others are also admiring them and their car. The car has become something which defines the individual. Its function as a mode of transport is secondary. Hence we have a mid-year rush as car sales spike, because a certain slice of the population needs the new number plate for ego reasons. Go to any posh French golf club and all you will see in the car park are small cheap French cars. The same type of golf club in the UK will have the usual array of Jags, Range Rovers, BMWs, Bentleys etc……..Brits not only believe themselves to be defined by their cars but the first thing they study when they see an acquaintance in their car is the number-plate. In the UK, the car is viewed as a status symbol and an expression of implied wealth, hence you make decisions about the driver not-only via the make of car but but also by its age. This attitude is a throwback to the 1950s when only the ‘better-off’ were able to afford a car and it is also as a result of Brits’ general lack of confidence which is exemplified by the rather self-conscious way that Brits drive convertibles with that rather painful ‘I feel a bit of a dick’ expression. Once again, in the UK, the ‘roof-down’ car is an implied expression of wealth and very often a bit of an ‘occasion’, whereas on the continent, it is no more than an unconscious expression of cool and practicality……
Finally, and to bring all three of the above together, we have eating and drinking in the full sun – usually (for men)……. stripped from the waist up. In other words, with the top down! This not only happens on holiday but if you drive through any UK town on a sunny day, you will see sweaty, tattooed, stripped Brits not only drinking pints of beer in the sun but very often, there is a plate of food in front of them – usually a burger and chips. Whenever there is sun, the average continental will seek shade – not so in the UK. We like it hot! Apparently, the sun is an instant signal to ignore all good manners and good sense and seek sunburn whilst enjoying a pint of tepid beer, often to the accompaniment of wasps.