THE BRITISH PEOPLE – Британцы (тема)
Great Britain is an island on the outer edge of the European continent, and its geographical situation has produced a certain insular spirit among its inhabitants, who tend, a little more perhaps than other people, to regard their own community as the centre of the world. The insularity produces a certain particularism among the numerous groups of whom the whole community is composed. The British look on foreigners in general with contempt and think that nothing is as well done elsewhere as in their own country. The British people have also been known as superior, snoblish, aloof, hypocritical and unsociable.
These characteristics have been noted by people from all over the world, but are they typical of all the Britons? The ordinary Briton was seen to be friendly and sociable. There are indeed two nations, with basically different outlooks and characters, in Britain. The two nations are defined simply as the rich and the poor. The traditional opinion about the British, or the English in earlier centuries, was based on the habits of those Britons who could afford to travel, the diplomats and merchants. English vanity and arrogance grew as England fought off the competition from other European countries and became the world’s leading trading nation, going on to industrialize rapidly.
Englishmen tend to be rather conservative, they love familiar things. They are hostile, or at least bored, when they hear any suggestion that some modification of their habits, or the introduction of something new and unknown into their lives, might be to their advantage. This conservatism, on a national scale, may be illustrated by reference to the public attitude to the monarchy, an institution which is held in affection and reverence by nearly all English people.
Britain is supposed to be the land of law and order. Part of the British sense for law and orderliness is a love of precedent. For an Englishman, the best of all reasons for doing something in a certain way is that it has always been done in that way.
The Britons are practical and realistic; they are infatuated with common sense. They are not misled by romantic delusions.
The English sense and feeling for privacy is notorious. England is the land of brick fences and stone walls (often with glass embedded along the top), of hedges, of thick draperies at all the windows, and reluctant introductions, but nothing is stable now. English people rarely shake hands except when being introduced to someone for the first time. They hardly ever shake hands with their friends except seeing them after a long interval or saying good-bye before a long journey.
Snobbery is not so common in England today as it was at the beginning of the 19th century. It still exists, and advertisers know how to use it in order to sell their goods. The advertisers are very clever in their use of snobbery. Motorcar manufactures, for example, advertise the colour of their cars as “Embassy Black” or “Balmoral Stone”. Embassy black is plain, ordinary black, but the name suggests diplomats and all the social importance that surrounds them, and this is what the snobs need.
Most people in Britain work a five-day week, from Monday to Friday; schools, colleges and universities are also closed on Saturdays and Sundays. As Friday comes along, as people leave work they say to each other, “Have a nice week-end.” Then on Monday morning they ask, “Did you have a nice week-end?”
On Sunday mid-mornings most British people indulge in some fairly light activities such as gardening, washing the car, shelling peas or chopping mint for Sunday lunch, or taking the dog for a walk. Another most popular pre-lunch activity consists of a visit to a “pub” – either a walk to the “local”, or often nowadays a drive to a more pleasant “country pub” if one lives in a built-up area. The national drink in England is beer, and the “pub”, where Englishmen go to drink to, is a peculiarly English institution.
Much leisure time is spent in individualistic pursuits, of which the most popular is gardening. Most English people love gardens, their own above all, and this is probably one reason why so many people prefer to live in houses rather than flats.
The British people are the world’s greatest tea drinkers. They drink a quarter of all the tea grown in the world each year. Many of them drink tea on at least eight different occasions during the day.
The working people of Britain have had a long tradition of democracy, not so much in the sense of creating formal institutions, but in the active sense of popular cooperation to uphold the will of the people.