One of my main principles while in London is not to spend all of my time hanging out with Kiwis. Not easy.
Everyone always complains about why Kiwis and Australians always only seem to hang out with each other when they come to London. I’ve noticed that for the most part, that’s true; and I had developed a bit of a theory as to why that is.
The English don’t like people.
Okay, maybe that was a little bit harsh. I’ve certainly met some very polite people over here. But I’m not talking about exercising good manners (though I’d certainly expect that from the country that invented social graces), I’m talking about people who are willing to engage with you, on a level that encourages future engagements, or friendship.
Perhaps then I can refine my original thesis – the English think differently to us.
To clarify, I have noticed that when I’m talking to people here, even people that I’ve met through other people, they appear to do so under the pretext of “why should I be friends with you?” rather than the approach that other cultures might take “why shouldn’t I be friends with you?”. It’s not that people from England (and I think it’s only England, not Scotland, Ireland or Wales) are suspicious of your intentions for talking to them (for the most part, at least); it’s certainly nothing so aggressive. I think it’s more that English folk seem to say “I have a lot of friends already, I enjoy my life. Explain to me why I should add you to this exclusive list”. This doesn’t quite mesh with the way most Kiwis, Aussies, Americans and Canadians (and I guess South Africans, but I haven’t met any of those yet) approach people, and as such we end up getting on with each other instead of making local friends.
After developing this theory, I decided to test it out. I tried making friends with several different people over the last few weeks, with varying success – and almost invariably have had far better luck than with the English.
Now I’ll recognize that there may well be other issues associated with that – some might suggest that it’s not so much a dislike of new people rather just a general xenophobia, as demonstrated by the recent rise in popularity of the British National Party. Or perhaps it’s that there’s a general snobbery associated with being part of England that has been ingrained in generations, and that this (along with the still-pervasive class-system) creates some disdain for the colonies, particularly Australians (what with them being a criminal colony and all). Or maybe it’s because every sport they have invented (with the exception of Polo) has been taken and improved upon by the rest of the Empire, leaving England to try and keep up. Or maybe it’s something to do with the fact that there diet is so boring and stodgy that they just don’t have the energy to make friends with foreigners.
And so, I have set myself a challenge. By the end of my trip, I will have made one new English friend. This will be judged by both being a Facebook friend AND an email address.
Wish me luck.