Finally got round to reading (well, starting) Watching the English by Kate Fox on my trip to India. It's only been two years since I put it on my list, which shows how far I got with this. It's pretty good, I reccommend it. A couple of bits that I liked:
- Fox talks a lot about 'social dis-ease' and how the English are bloody crap at talking to strangers ('inhibited and embarrassed'). Interestingly, hairdressers and taxi drivers seem to live live outside this rule: '...it seems to be at least partly the lack of direct face-to-face eye contact that allows the English to shed their inhibitions in these contexts'. Fox suggests that doctors would be wise to create a situation where they don't look directly at the patients to get them to talk more freely.
- Fox talks about the youth of today being 'increasingly affected by the culture of fear, and the risk-aversion and obsession with safety that have become defining features of contemporary society. This trend ... is associated with the stunted aspirations, cautiousness, conformism and lack of adventurous spirit that were evident among many of the young people in our survey and focus groups'. Not that survey groups are the be-all and end-all, but I came across similar things when working at the Labs, and think it's interesting given that the popular belief seems to be that all young people are gun-wielding, booze-fuelled maniacs who have children before they can vote.
- The Daniel Miller observation that 'there is a tacit understanding among English shoppers to the effect that shopping is not an act of spending, but an act of saving'. Fox writes: 'You do not speak of having 'spent' x amount on an item of food or clothing, but of having 'saved' x amount on the item'. It would be interesting to think how you could create a retail environment or play around with product pricing to make people feel like they've saved.
Anyway, 200 pages to go, and more gems to uncover no doubt.