Monday, October 20, 2008

Tales from Oxford - Poll Results

Celebrating at the Kings Arms

View from Nancy's table at the King's Arms
Noticing the lamp, it looks so cozy there
I truly wish we had proper pubs where I live


Tales from Oxford is fabulous guest reporting from Nancy Langham in Oxford, England. A couple of weeks ago she wrote about her newly acquired British citizenship and today she has poll results to share with us. I found it fascinating and I think you will, too! Enjoy!


How does one celebrate a new citizenship? It’s not exactly a “bake a cake” occasion - I don’t believe there are any greeting cards for it (but I could be wrong). When I told people that I was going to be sworn in as a British Citizen, all agreed it was a big deal- but short of going to the pub and getting slightly trollied, I had no idea how to mark the occasion.

Then it came to me- why not ask everyone why they love Britain? Now, I must explain to American readers (and those who are unfamiliar with Brits) that asking them for 5 reasons they love Britain made most of my respondents VERY uncomfortable. It’s a British thing - putting themselves down, sarcastically undervaluing their country and being very suspicious of any sincere patriotic nationalism.

So asking them to say why they love the place they live is like asking an American for 5 reasons America sucks: it’s just not the default option. Some people joked with me as I handed them the survey, “You mean 5 reasons to immigrate to Australia?” or “Five reasons I hate the awful weather?” Others asked to take it away and get back to me later, so they could really think about it.

So that’s how I celebrated my citizenship. I got 25 people (Brits and foreigners who live here) to think about this amazing country in a positive way. And their answers were great. Here are the general poll results, in order.

Top Reasons We Love Britain:

1. The beautiful countryside
2. The weather/changing seasons
3. History/historical buildings
4. Tea (including cream teas)
5. The British sense of humour
6. Tied for sixth: pubs, British “stiff upper lip”, freedoms (of speech, religion, etc) and a multi-cultural society
7. Tied for seventh: the Queen’s English, London, The National Health Service (NHS)
*Honourable mention for fish and chips!!

There are some surprising things there - firstly, that the WEATHER made #2! The changing weather, the thing EVERYONE complains about - the thing which is always too hot, to wet, too cold or too foggy is actually one of their favourite things about this place. Who knew? As a British friend commented when I remarked on this, “If not for the weather, what would we talk about?” Touché.

There were marked differences in the answers of native Brits and foreigners. In general, Brits appreciated the culture of Britain’s past, and foreigners its present diversity.

Except for the Americans I asked. They love things that are old. In fact, “old” was an actual Yankee response, along with “posh old ladies drinking beer”, “small children with English accents singing”, “grown men dressed head-to-toe in white playing cricket” and “political and religious wackos are not in charge”.

Other foreigners made a big deal of our democratic freedoms, along with lighter subjects such as “hairdressers that are open on a Sunday”, “the average-Joe (or should I say John Smith?) likes to read books”, and from a Swede: “I’ve suddenly become average height (I can look down on women for the first time!)”.

The Brits themselves were typically witty, with “queuing”, “the series of scandals the press and Royal Family give us every couple of years” and “ascorbic wit being acceptable as an alternative to emotional interaction” all coming from their biting biros (pens). Other Brit responses included “multiple flavoured crisps!!”, “world centre of motorsport” and “Marks and Spencer”.

They really do love it here…

So finally, because I get the last word, here’s my list:

5 Reasons Nancy Loves Britain:

1. A beautiful, green and pleasant land- inspiration to writers and artists
2. The history of law, justice and rule by the people (Magna Carta, anyone?)
3. The toughness and humour of the Brits
4. Rich history of Christianity
5. Pubs, salt and vinegar crisps and real ale!

Dear reader, don’t feel left out. Comment 5 reasons YOU love Britain. It’s not too late!!


Clare said...

Hi Nancy! I love that you did the poll! Im an ex-pat living in USA but I was born and raised in beautiful England and left when I was 20 years old.

My top 5 reasons why I love England are:

1. My family lives there
2. The beautiful countryside
3. Castles
4. Pubs
5. Feeling safer

I will add 5 things I do NOT miss about England

1. The weather
2. The gossipy small towns
5. Black Pudding

Nancy said...

Fabulous list, Claire- and I completely agree about the black pudding...eww...

seamouse said...

Awesome, a post so good that my girl and I discussed it over dinner tonight.

We came to the conclusions:
1) Pimms and G&T in the country when it's hot.
2) Sunday Roast and local Ale by the fire in a nice pub (we pick the griffin)when it's cold.
3) Living around/with hundreds of years of history and tradition.
4) The best country for music and 'culture'in the world (controversial!).
5) Understated eccentricity, manners and modesty.

Amy G. said...

My favorite thing about Britain: It's where this awesome woman Nancy Langham lives.

My least favorite thing about Britain: It's really far away, which means same-said awesome Nancy Langham is really far away. I protest!