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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  4,001 ratings  ·  436 reviews
Watching the English How does THE NAKED APE behave when he's dressed? The quirks and habits of the English laid bare. Full description
Paperback, 424 pages
Published April 11th 2005 by Hodder And Stoughton (first published 2004)
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If only there were a book like this for every country and people! It has been a long time since I have laughed as much while reading a book... and I'm not sure that I have ever read so many excerpts of a book out loud to my wife. If you have ever wondered why the English behave the way they do, then run (do not walk) to buy this book.

Kate Fox is an anthropologist after my own heart (when I went on an expedition, it was through the Alps rather than the Himalayas) -- uninterested in the "macho" o...more
Oh how I hated this book!

It COULD actually have been hilarious (and we are led to believe that it is....for so say many, many reviews) but the author is just so full of herself, it is simply annoying.

More than once while reading (up to the point where I decided to call it quits, around page 130) I wondered whether the author is English herself. She kept repeating that boasting is very un-English. Yet, she kept bragging about all the other funny (according to *her*) books and articles she wrote i...more
Killer Rabbit
Why can't all 'science for the layman' be this good?
Kate Fox must be part Na'vi. This anthropologist Sees folks when she looks at them. But being a social scientist, simply observing isn't good enough. She also plans and perpetrates experiments to make the English reveal behavioral rules that they would never verbally confess...

I'm not English, and the fact that many of these findings were a revelation to me surely also means that I am not fully qualified to assess their veracity. But apparently...more
Mar 31, 2014 Caroline rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Paul Cheney
I think this would be an excellent book for any foreigners coming to live or work in England, (even Americans, who might think we share a similar culture).

The author’s introduction sets the stage well, describing her aims and methodology, and her final chapter is a thorough synopsis of the ideas she expands upon in the book. I think one definitely needs to read the whole thing though. It offers the reader a chance to really wallow in our ways of living, and ways of presenting ourselves to the w...more
Anthropology practised on the English. The author claims that this was to just avoid the discomfort involved in studying peoples in obscure and isolated parts of the world - but she also tells us that humour is the default mode of the English and that modesty is one of our values. Having put us at our easy with a friendly joke and a humility topos she is able to smuggle her research past the reader and show us just how alien the English are. Which is a nice way of demonstrating the value of her...more
A really amusing anthropological look at the English by an Englishwoman. Fox’s sense of humor is what really makes this book; it’s a bit long and repetitive at parts—skewing too much toward being an academic text when what I want (need) it to be is a work of popular science—but Fox’s own innate “Oh, come off it!” reaction always pulls through in the end. Somewhat frightening: how much of Fox’s “grammar of Englishness” I find applicable to myself—social awkwardness, humor, cynicism, belief in fai...more
Very entertaining book!

Now I understand why I'm such an anglophile; I'm a quirky English soul stuck in an American body! If I ever get across the pond, I think I'll fit in better then not.

Would love to read a similar book on other nationalities:
Dissecting the Danish?
Judging the Japanese?
Analysing the Australians?
Surveying the Swedish?


Feb 07, 2009 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who have spent time in England and want an explanation for peculiarities of English society
I really loved this book. First of all, it's hilarious--not because she's writing humor, but simply because it turns out that it is surprising and amusing to have basic human behaviors picked apart. Second, she is very accurate and the information could actually be useful in future interactions with English people. I feel that Fox is very skilled as an anthropologist to have been able to identify these traits in any culture, much less in her own culture. But she still keeps the book's style very...more
I'm struggling to finish this book. It could be a brilliant book but it is just simply boring. The book methodically attempts to analyse the character of the English and observe rules of social interaction etc. It is profoundly middle-class London-centric, unnecessarily wordy, attempting to be partly research and partly humourous. It's all been done before. It misses out great swathes of the population who don't talk about the weather or say "pleased to meet you", namely most people under 40. Th...more
At its worst, anthropology can be extremely condescending, analyzing other cultures as if they were animals. But at its best, the discipline explains the very meaning of what it is to be human and live in human society. Fox neatly sidesteps the first to embrace the second by turning her trained gaze on her own culture.

And so we get an examination of why one doesn't speak to fellow commuters, the English substitution of home pride for social skills, the liminality of the pub, and pea-eating's rol...more
I feel I have something of a love-hate relationship with this book. It's clever, insightful and funny, and yet I couldn't help feeling frustrated the further into the book I got. At one point, Kate Fox mentions that she's never criticised for being overly negative, only for being deemed to be too complimentary to the English. However, in an obvious attempt to avoid being `too complimentary', it seems she's gone too far in the other direction. I feel she's excessively critical of the English, ref...more
I read this book because an english person came into the store and bought it, and I figured, I wouldn't buy a book like this on america so it must be good. Now it certainly didn't hurt that John is also English and that Barsby yelled at me for commenting that he sounds like Ringo star (I hold fast he does, this is not a british thing on the basis that I do not think any other people sound particularly like Ringo star,only Barsby). Moving on, basically I read this book and I was vindicated, the b...more
I found this fascinating. Full disclaimer -- though I think I pretty much read the whole thing, I absolutely did not read it in the order that it is written, but rather in chunks over a few days. As someone who grew up raised in Canada by English parents, with regular-ish trips to the UK to visit family, I found this indispensable. It explained and put words to so much that I have observed and felt over my lifetime. It also helped me to understand the madness that is the English class system muc...more
This started well enough, with some amusing and perceptive points about how the English greet each other (or rather, don't) and converse. But it soon falls into the typical trap for this kind of book, and one which Fox herself warns against in her own introduction: generalisations. Time after time she'd assert that English people do X, to which I'd reply in my head "Well, no, I don't".
She's also obsessed with class. She claims that all the English are, but she seems to think about it an awful lo...more
I probably should have read this book sooner. I learned a lot about the Englishness from this book that I hadn’t noticed personally – but that just could be because of my lack of real immersion in the English culture. If you work for a high-tech company and live in London, you won’t necessarily see many English people around . In spite of my limited interaction with the English, this book should still be very useful to me. Next time that an English coworker of mine takes off a week from work to...more
I've read this book first of all as an anthropologist and a follower of New Ethnography paradigm. But the hidden reason for reading this book was that I really love english people and I wanted an insider opinion of their culture and manners. Fox's attempt to free anthropology form Academia is a successful enterprise of humor and professional behavior and skills, well managed in the midst of collateral damages due to her position of 'native' as well as 'outsider ethnographer'.
I really enjoyed th...more
Emma Woolley
I didn't enjoy this at all. There are some genuinely interesting insights (such as the invisible queueing at the pub), but they are lost in Kate Fox's self indulgent style. She constantly moans that the social sciences aren't respected, but she hasn't done much for the cause - this is presented as an academic tome, but reads like anything but. I struggled to finish it.
What have I learned? England runs on alcohol. When preformed by men all forms of social behaviour, like speech and clothing, are gay. Being middle class, and worse yet middle-middle class, is inescapably pathetic in every respect. People really do hang out in pubs unironically and 'upper class poor' isn't an oxymoron. Who knew?

At the same time, exotic as all this is, i'm not entirely convinced there is such a thing as a national character at all now. I'm from a country who's shorthand attribute...more
Jenny Sparrow
Будучи страстной поклонницей Англии и всего английского, я просто не могла пройти мимо книги Кейт Фокс "Наблюдая за англичанами. Скрытые правила поведения". Долго вылавливала ее в интернете и наконец купила! (кстати, это была первая книга, купленная мною через интернет-магазин). Переплатила наверняка, ну да не жалею ни капли!

Кейт Фокс - потомственный антрополог, взявшая на себя трудную задачу - определить скрытые правила поведения и особенности национального характера англичан, так называемую "г...more
Candy Wood
Enjoyable analysis of what Fox calls “the hidden rules of English behaviour.” As an American spending time in England, I’ve observed many of the kinds of behavior she describes. She warns at the end that “Englishness can be rather contagious,” and I can testify to that as well, myself saying “Sorry” to someone who has just bashed into me with an oversized backpack on the Tube (“Englishness means always having to say you’re sorry,” Fox proclaims). Humor is another defining English characteristic,...more
Ilze Folkmane
I have surprisingly little to say about the book itself. It is quite well written (though, the combination of the language styles was a bit confusing as it gave mixed signals about the purpose of the book), there are some phrases that are laugh-out-loud funny, some parts that seems deeply academic but all in all it is quite repetitive. However, the book flawlessly follows the rules of Englishness it so bravely sets out to determine. It has lots of humour, modesty (real and affected), moderation...more
John Carter McKnight
Watching the English is a great rarity: a first-rate bit of scholarly work that's so wonderfully written you can't put it down.

On the academic side, Fox's jabs at the self-flagellating methodology chapter, anthropology's mud-hut snobbery and fixation on deviance are outstanding bits. Her chapter on sport and games should be required reading for anyone in games studies, and her approach to ethnographic work within her own culture could generate insights for the academia/fandom struggle. This is s...more
Starting off, I loved this book. It was generally well-written, easy to read, insightful and funny. Yes, I was mainly laughing at all the things I recognised that I did myself, but it was still funny. These were things I didn't even really notice, or rather didn't realise were peculiarly English (I almost wrote British there, but the book is exclusively about the English!The Scots, Welsh and Irish would probably hate to be lumped in with us).

But then the chapters started getting longer. And long...more
Great read, with many lively anecdotes. I found most of the observations to be spot on. I’ll have to take the author’s word on some aspects that I’m unfamiliar with (such as the class system) but considering the accuracy of the other observations I have no reservations doing that.

What annoyed me slightly was the repetition throughout the book. Although I liked how the author distills rules and shows examples throughout the different parts of her research (from pub talk to weddings), the summarie...more
Natasha Chowdory
Brilliant. This has been on my to-read pile for a very very long time, since I was an undergraduate about 6 years ago to be exact.

I'm glad I've waited. My knowledge of people and the world is exponentially more varied than it was then but also, I appreciate (more) the style of the prose that Kate Fox has chosen to use. It's a major point for me, in that what is technically an ethnography into 'Englishness' where Fox has immersed herself in as many aspects of English culture she never once makes...more
Kate Fox's Watching the English takes a more serious tack than Bill Bryson's exploration of Britain, slightly so. The author has a earnest endeavor -- scrutinizing English culture with an anthropologist's eye -- but she offers a spirited analysis. Although her intent is to discern the rules governing English behavior by watching how Britons act, she's no passive observer, instead turning her fellow Brits into lab rats and experimenting on them. She devotes afternoons to jumping queues (cutting i...more
I was immediately charmed by Watching the English, wherein anthropologist Kate Fox turns an academic eye to why the English talk about the weather obsessively; use irony so rampantly; and otherwise indulge in other quirks that tend to baffle outsiders. The resulting book is very funny and, for the most part, quite a revelatory look at the unexamined social ‘rules’ that govern the English.

I saw a meme circulating on tumblr recently. It was entitled ‘How to have a lovely day’ and it included advic...more
Ruth Jalfon
enjoyable popular anthropology - not the kind of book I'd normally read but glad I did. The author is on a quest to find out the main 'rules' or characteristics of the behaviour of the english with plenty of examples and a very chatty way of writing. This means that it is easy to read but after half way through the picture became extremely clear and then it was a lot of repetition - I think the book could have been written in half the pages with the same content, especially when you take in to a...more
Now, why only 3 stars...It is well written and accurate portrayal of English people. I am so glad I read it before I moved to UK. It was amusing and funny as well. At first.
But then I started to be put of with Mrs. Fox contempt for anything "hippie" or "new age", and her love of MS (main stream). I couldn't even bring myself to finish the book because I am already in danger of seeing english people as well programmed robots. The amount of behavior that is dictated by society and rules is mind-bl...more
Beatriz Canas Mendes
I actually really liked this book. Its writing is so informal, but scientific at the same time, that the reader is compelled to read more and more. Getting to know the English people from an English anthropologist's view is a privilege! As a foreigner who is studying the English culture and who will travel to England in a few months, I think Fox's book is a very useful guide to know what to expect from this peculiar people.
Maybe this book is too big to be read straight from the beginning until t...more
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Kate Fox is a social anthropologist and Public Relations director. She is the director of the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC).

Fox is the daughter of an anthropologist Robin Fox (not to be confused with the famous historian Robin Lane Fox). As a child she lived in the UK, the United States, France and Ireland. She studied for an undergraduate degree in anthropology and philosophy at Cambridge...more
More about Kate Fox...
The Racing Tribe Watching the English: The International Bestseller Revised and Updated Passport to the Pub: The Tourist's Guide to Pub Etiquette Fox Populi. Kate Fox Watching the English, Second Edition: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior Revised and Updated

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“A truly English protest march would see us all chanting: 'What do we want? GRADUAL CHANGE! When do we want it? IN DUE COURSE!” 14 likes
“Social scientists are not universally liked or appreciated, but we are still marginally more acceptable than alcoholics and escaped lunatics.” 6 likes
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