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How to Be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and Advanced Pupils
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How to Be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and Advanced Pupils (Penguin Readers: Level 3)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  544 ratings  ·  68 reviews
George Mikes says, 'the English have no soul; they have the understatement instead.' But they do have a sense of humour - they provide it by buying over three hundred thousand copies of a book that took them quietly and completely apart, a book that really took the Mikes out of them.
Paperback, 88 pages
Published 1977 by Penguin UK (first published 1946)
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Asterix in Britain by René GoscinnyDo Not Pass Go by Tim MooreHow to Be an Alien by George MikesThe Rough Guide To Cult Tv by Paul SimpsonThe Rough Guide to Cult Movies by Rough Guides
Recommended Books for PLC library 2
3rd out of 76 books — 2 voters
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By George!
168th out of 228 books — 39 voters

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Community Reviews

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There is an anecdote in this book that I have often thought about. When Mikes was a young man, he worked for a while as a clerk at a lawyer's office in Budapest. One morning, he assisted in a large property transaction. Things were not done electronically in those days, and the seller had come in with a roll of a dozen or so title deeds done up with a rubber band. He took off the rubber band and spread them out on the table, while the buyer carefully read through each one before handing over a c ...more
George Mikes was an alien. He wrote the book in 1946 to show the British how he felt about them. He is funny, rude and mocks them as often as possible. But somehow, though he didn't intend the book to be amusing, the English people read it and thought it was funny.

Many continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a game.

Continental people have sex life; the English have hot-water bottles.

On the Continent, if people are waiting at a bus-stop they loiter around in a seemi
Nandakishore Varma
"Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot water bottles."

Need I say more?

Five stars, all the way.
When some years ago, knowing ten words of English and using them all wrong, I applied for a translator's job, my would be employer (or would-be-not-employer) softly remarked: 'I afraid your English is somewhat unorthodox.' This translated into any continental language would mean: EMPLOYER (to the commissionaire): 'Jean, kick this gentleman down the steps!'

The Hungarian George Mikes wrote this brief introduction to living in the UK shortly after WWII. While not entirely au courant it does, unli
"People on the Continent either tell you the truth or lie; in England they hardly ever lie, but they would not dream of telling you the truth"

This and other witty insights into the English psyche can be found in How to be an Alien. Its observations are surprisingly spot on and valid even today, despite it having been written more than 60 years ago.
Driven by his frustration to always being treated as the foreigner in a country where he’s doing his very best to blend in, Hungarian-born George Mik
Callie Rose Tyler
Techincally I did not read this book. I read "How to be an alien : in Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Japan" Which is significantly longer (about 266 pages) but it is not listed on Goodreads...I can't believe it, this site has finally let me down.

I think that some of the references are obviously a bit dated, but I enjoyed the dry sarcastic humor. It is entertaining to look at cultural differences and poke fun at them.
2.June13:30min. June15:25min June 16:10min June17:20min
4.a) This is a book to tell us about English people. We can learn many useful rules about being English. It has 24 chapters to be an English people.
b) I surprised about tea. Tea is the most important drink in Great Britain and Ireland.They drink tea so many times in a day. For example if the weather is hot, if it is cold, if you are tired, if you are out, if you just retur
Ken Horie
7/9=80 minutes

1. Character
2. Unique
3. Criticism
4. Interpretation
5. Difference
6. Cool
7. Interesting

'This book offers you some rules about being an alien in England. Study them carefully. They will help you to be more like the English. If you are like the English, they think you are funny. If you are not like them, they think you are even funnier.'
This is not from the story. This is from preface that the writer wrote before the story. However, I really got shocked by those words and that's why I w
Kosuke Kamiya
1. level 3 Penguin

2. 5/26=60min, 5/27=60min

3 England, the UK, custom, rule, manner, English, Tea

4 a If you become a bus driver a England, play these three very amusing games.
Ⅰ Drive along the street and suddenly turn right. Don’t tell anybody.
ⅡHide behind a large lorry. Then you get to the bus-stop, do not stop but derive away fast.
Ⅲ If you stop the bus at the bus-stop, drive away again quickly and suddenly.

4 b I was very surprised. I doubt whether this book tells me a false information about En
Anna Matsuyama
An immigrant's view on English. First published in 1946 this little book is still funny and rings true. The book is full of awesome quotes like:
In the last century, when a wicked and unworthy subject annoyed the Sultan of Turkey or the Czar of Russia, he had his head cut off without much ceremony; but when the same happened in England, the monarch declared: “We are not amused”; and the whole British nation even now, a century later, is immensely proud of how rude their Queen was.
Recuerdo que pasé un buen rato cuando lo leí en su día. Te ríes un montón con la ironía explicando las formas de actuar y ser de los british, según éste hijo adoptivo de Gran Bretaña (creo recordar que era húngaro).
Para pasar un buen rato.
1. Penguin level 3
2. 7/14 100 minutes
3. English, weather, soul, tea, Europe, how to, newspaper
4. I heard about a woman who gave this book to her husband because she thought it was 'quite amusing'. The man sat down, put his feet up, and read the book. His face became darker and darker. When he finished the book, he stood up and said,'Rude! Very very rude!' He threw the book into the fire.
What a good Englishman! He said just the right thing, and I feel much better.

I thought the author do not like
A tongue in cheek look at the British through the eyes of a Hungarian immigrant. The chapter on tea is priceless ("The trouble with tea is that originally is was quite a good drink"), as are the ones on weather and sex ("Continental people have sex life; the English have hot-water bottles"). Observations on traffic patterns and steet-names also cannot be missed.

The book was written 70 years ago, and immigration (ironic, in view of this work) has somewhat blunted the peculiarity of the English. H
Fuka Hatayama
1. Penguin Readers Stage3

2. 11/12 90 min

3. English, European, Introducing, weather, tea, rude, pleasant

4. In the hands of the English. tea became an unpleasant drink, like dirty water, but they still call it 'tea'.
It is very interesting custom. However, each country have each custom. Sometimes there are strange things. I want to try it.

5. English is also European country, but there are many differences , so it is exciting for me. I want to know more detail. I also want to know custom of other co
Коротенькая книжечка, которая внезапно оказалась хорошей и остроумной, в небольших деталях рассказывая о жизни в Англии.
Как утверждает автор - он сам эмигрант. Меня даже немного удивило некоторое сходство с нашими реалиями, вот вроде англичане всегда казались такой напыщенной и немного странноватой нацией, но книга заставила меня передумать.
К примеру, с самого начала книги "В других странах кондуктор автобуса, проезжающего остановку по требованию, предупреждает об этом пассажиров звонком. В Анг
Este librito es una introducción a las costumbres inglesas (británicas), pero muy irónico (aunque sin mala leche). El autor dice en el prefacio que se decepciónó cuando su libro gustó, porque él quería que no les gustara a los ingleses, ya que supuestamente es una crítica. Hablando precisamente de Inglaterra, en el capítulo 1, nos cuenta:

En Inglaterra todo es diferente. Debe usted entender que cuando alguien dice “Inglaterra”, a veces quieren decir “Gran Bretaña” (Inglaterra, Gales y Escocia),

"People on the continent either tell you the truth or lie; in England they hardly ever lie, but they would not dream of telling you the truth"

"In the old days, the man who had no money was not considered a gentleman. In the era of an enlightened Mayfair this attitude has changed. A genleman may have money or sponge on his friends, the criterion of a gentleman is that however poor he may be be still refuses to do useful work"

[How to be a particular allien: a Bloomsbury intelectual]

A certain amoun
Kayo Nakagaki
1. Penguin level 3

2. 11/2 20min 11/3 60min

3. Europe, weather, talk, English, how, strange, difference

4. a)If it is raining and someone says, 'Nice day, isn't it?' answer immediately, 'Isn't it wonderful?'
b)This is important rule I agree with other people when I talk about the weather.

5. The title of this book is ” How to be an alien.” However, it isn't said about that. In my opinion, Europian is careful so much when they talk with strangers to go along with strangers say.
Misaki Arafuka
Penguin Readers 3


1) Do you think English people are different from people who live in other countries?
- No, I don't, but I think their pronunciation are little different.

2) English people like to talk about weather when they meet someone. Do you like it?
- Yes, I also often talk about it because it is easy to start talking with someone.

-Good scene
The story about bus driver was the best. If you become a bus driver
Mayumi Inoko
-Penguin Readers Level 3
-Time: 10/4 = 94 minutes
-7 word summary; England - English - wether - rude - bus-stop - driving - games
-discussion question
1.Have you ever been to England?
I have never been there but I hope to travel in Europe and visit there.
Then, I could understand what England is.
2.Have you ever talked with a person who is from England?
No, I believe I haven't talked with a person who is from England but actually I didn't know where our English teachers come from. however, I have talked
Nanae Sugimoto
1:Penguin readers level 3
2: 6/1=10 6/2=30 6/3=70minutes
3: English, weather, nice, tea, cleaver, soul, rude
4: I haven't finished reading yet so I'll rewrite review. I can't understand what author wanted to say, but I thought I will be an alien in Britain.
5: I take UK culture seminar so I thought I can understand content of this book, but there were many things what I didn't know.
I'll finish reading this book by next class.
Rina Sakurai
How to be an alien
published by Penguin Readers
level 3

7words summary

Discussion Question

1-Q;When you are angry with somebody, have you ever called him/her animals' name?
A;Never! Japanese never call people animals name, its very rude.but British do that naturally. I dont know actual present situation, but I guess its traditional British behavior, and I cant believe it.

2-Q;Have you ever speak of weather to unknown people?
A;Sometimes. When it
Mayu Onda
Penguin Readers, Level 3
-Time: 10/20 = 30 minutes 22 = 10 minutes 23 = 40minutes
-7 word summary: English - Europeans - Alian - difference - clever - rude - Naturalize
-Discussion Question:
1. when you went abroad, did you feel the difference of culture?
Yes,I did. I went to America, I felt the difference between Japanese culture and American culture. For example, food, cloths, study, and so on. But I felt American friendly than Japanese:)
2. when people go abroad, should they obey the culture of cou
Moeko Matsuo
How to be Alien, Level3


Discussion question:
According to this book, if it is raining and someone said "Nice day, isn't it?", English people say "Isn't it wonderful?". What do you think about it?
-I think it's strange because Japanese people don't say "Nice day, isn't it?" when it is raining. Almost all Japanese people don't like rainy day very much, so I can't understand why they say that rainy day is a nice da
George Mikes's book How to Be an Alien is hilarious. This "retelling" by Karen Holmes kills much of the humour though, often for entirely inexplicable reasons. I can understand simplifying the vocabulary and sentence structure, but it unnecessarily changes facts (sometimes even replacing two simple words with a long hard-to-understand phrase), making it harder to understand (in light of knowledge about England) and making the author appear distractingly mistaken about England (while in the ori ...more
Takuro Suzuki
1:Peuguin Readers Lv3
4:a:"He is th type of person who talks about the wether."
b:It means he is very boring. In this book, there are a lot of such jokes.
5:The book tell me about English people with funny jokes! I really enjoyed to read the book.
It is very funny! I think I can understand it humor. You see some things in this book in Japan. For example in chapter 14 Favourite Things the writer tells us how they love to queue: "One Englishman waits at a bus-stop and, even if there are no other people there, he starts a queue."
Moeko Yamaguchi
-time: 100 minutes
-7 words summary: England, Europeans, different, funny, rude, weather, tea:
1. If you are wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning and given a cup of tea, can you say "Thank you so much. I do love a cup of tea at this time of the morning!"
-No, I cannot. I like tea, but I am not good at waking up early. And I may be upset about being woke up like that time!
2. This book says that nobody speaks English perfectly. I think it can be said not only English but also
Akari Yamashita
Penguin active reading, lebel 3
Time 10/11: 15min 10/12: 15min 10/15: 30min 10/17 45min

7-word summary
English - European- rules- examples- difference-enjoyable-surprise

Q1. Have you ever been to Europe?
A1. No, I haven't. I want to visit Europe in the futere.
I want to learn different culture and compare with Japan.

Q2. Do you have a car license?
A1. I got a car license last summer, so I have driven for 1 year.
First it was difficult for me, but now I like driving.

I enjoyed reading this book. There a
Emi Kanada
I was interested in this title. Some pictures made me funny. This book was witten by British author, so it explains about British way of thinking, too.

1. British people always talk about weather with strangers because of the unique climate. Do you often talk about weather with strangers?
Actually, I don't talk about it with strangers. However, my grandmother likes to talk about it with strangers very much.

2. When you heard British accent and Australian accent, can you guess?
I try to catch some
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George Mikes (pronounced Mik-esh) was a Hungarian-born British author best known for his humorous commentaries on various countries.

Mikes graduated in Budapest in 1933 and started work as a journalist on Reggel ("Morning"), a Budapest newspaper. For a short while he wrote a column called Intim Pista for Színházi Élet ("Theatre Life").

In 1938 Mikes became the London correspondent for Reggel and 8 Ó
More about George Mikes...

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Penguin Readers: Level 3 (2 books)
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“Q. Why don't the British panic?
A. They do, but very quietly. It is impossible for the naked eye to tell their panic from their ecstasy.”
“Remember: If you go for a walk with a friend in England, don't say a single word for hours; if you go for a walk with your dog, talk to it all the time.” 1 likes
More quotes…