THE BRITISH PEOPLE AS THEY ARE



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THE BRITISH PEOPLE AS THEY ARE



Great Britain is an island on the outer edge of the European continent, and its geographical situation has produced a certain insular spirit among its inhabitants, who tend, a little more perhaps than other people, to regard their own community as the centre of the world. The insularity produces a certain particularism among the numerous groups of whom the whole community is composed. The British look on foreigners in general with contempt and think that nothing is as well done elsewhere as in their own country. The British people have also been known as superior, snobbish, aloof, hypocritical and unsociable.

These characteristics have been noted by people from all over the world, but are they typical of all the Britons? The ordinary Briton was seen to be friendly and sociable. There are indeed two nations, with basically different outlooks and characters, in Britain. The two nations are defined simply as the rich and the poor. The traditional opinion about the British, or the English in earlier centuries, was based on the habits of those Britons who could afford to travel, the diplomats and merchants. English vanity and arrogance grew as England fought off the competition from other European countries and became the world’s leading trading nation, going on to industrialize rapidly.

Englishmen tend to be rather conservative, they love familiar things. They are hostile, or at least bored, when they hear any suggestion that some modification of their habits, or the introduction of something new and unknown into their lives, might be to their advantage. This conservatism, on a national scale, may be illustrated by reference to the public attitude to the monarchy, an institution which is held in affection and reverence by nearly all English people.

Britain is supposed to be the land of law and other. Part of the British sense for law and orderliness is a love of precedent. For an Englishman, the best of all reasons for doing something in a certain way is that it has always been done in that way.

The Britons are practical and realistic; they are infatuated with common sense. They are not misled by romantic delusions.

The English sense and feeling for privacy is notorious. England is the land of brick fences and stone walls (often with glass embedded along the top), of hedges, of thick draperies at all the windows, and reluctant introductions, but nothing is stable now. English people rarely shake hands except when being introduced to someone for the first time. They hardly ever shake hands with their friends except seeing them after a long interval or saying good-bye before a long journey.

Snobbery is not so common in England today as it was at the beginning of the century. It still exists, however, and advertisers know how to use it in order to sell their goods. The advertisers are very clever in their use of snobbery. Motorcar manufactures, for example, advertise the colour of their cars as “Embassy Black” or “Balmoral Stone”. Embassy black is plain, ordinary black, but the name suggests diplomats and all the social importance that surrounds them, and this is what the snobs need.

The British people are prudent and careful about almost everything. Their lawns are closely cropped, their flower beds primly cultivated, and their trees neatly pruned. Everything is orderly. Drinks are carefully measured, seats in a cinema are carefully assigned (even if the theatre is empty you are required to sit in the seat assigned to you), closing hours are rigorously observed.

A tradition that is rooted not only in their own soul, but in the minds of the rest of the world is the devotion of the English to animals. Animals are protected by law. If, for instance, any one leaves a cat to starve in an empty house while he goes for his holiday, he can be sent to prison. There are special dogs' cemeteries. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded half a century before its counterpart for the prevention of cruelty to children.

Most people in Britain work a five-day week, from Monday to Friday; schools, colleges and universities are also closed on Saturdays and Sundays. As Friday comes along, as people leave work they say to each other, “Have a nice week-end.” Then on Monday morning they ask, “Did you have a nice week-end?”

On Sunday mid-morning most British people indulge in some fairly light activities such as gardening, washing the car, shelling peas or chopping mint for Sunday lunch, or taking the dog for a walk. Another most popular pre-lunch activity consists of a visit to a “pub” –either a walk to the “local”, or often nowadays a drive to a more pleasant “country pub” if one lives in a built-up area. The national drink in England is beer, and the “pub” is a peculiarly English institution.

Much leisure time is spent in individualistic pursuits, of which the most popular is gardening. Most English people love gardens, their own above all, and this is probably one reason why so many people prefer to live in houses rather than flats.

The British people are the world’s greatest tea drinkers. They drink a quarter of all the tea grown in the world each year. Many of them drink tea on at least eight different occasions during the day.

The working people of Britain have had a long tradition of democracy, not so much in the sense of creating formal institutions, but in the active sense of popular cooperation to uphold the will of the people.

T E X T 4

THE ENGLISH CHARACTER

(Serious approach)

The national character of the English has been very differently described over one quality, which they describe as fatuous self-satisfaction, serene sense of superiority, or insular pride. English patriotism is based on a deep sense of security. Englishmen as individuals may have been insecure, threatened with the loss of a job, unsure of themselves, or unhappy in many ways; but as a nation they have been for centuries secure, serene in their national success. They have not lived in a state of hatred of their neighbors as the Frenchmen or the Germans have often lived. This national sense of security, hardly threatened by the Armada, or by Napoleon, or by the First World War, has been greatly weakened by the Second World War and by the innovation of the atomic bomb.

Many books have been written –even more, perhaps, by the Frenchmen, Americans, Germans, and other foreigners than by the Englishmen –on English traits, English ways of life, and the English character. Their authors are by no means always in agreement, but they tend to point out what seem to them puzzles, contrasts, in the way the English behave. A few of these contrasts may serve to sum up how the world looks at the English.

First, there is the contrast between the unity the English display in crisis, their strong sense of public order, indeed for conformity, and their extraordinary toleration of individual eccentricities. The Germans are usually astounded by what they regard as the Englishman’s lack of respect for authority and discipline. The Frenchmen are often puzzled by the vehemence of English political debates, by the Hyde Park public orator, and similar aspects of English life, which in their own country would seem signs of grave political disturbance. This sort of contrast has led to common belief held by the foreigners, and indeed by the Englishmen themselves, that they are the most illogical people, always preferring practical compromises to theoretical exactness.

Second, there is the contrast between the English democracy, the English sense of the dignity and importance of the individual, and the very great and economic inequalities that have hitherto characterized English life. There has recently been some tendency to allow greater social equality. But Victorian and Edwardian England – which foreigners still think of as the typical England – did display extremes of riches and poverty, and draw an almost caste line between ladies and gentlemen and those not ladies and gentlemen.

Third, there is the contrast between the reputation of the English as hard-headed practical men – the “nation of shopkeepers” – and as men of poetry – the countrymen of Shakespeare and Shelley. The English tradition in philosophy has always been realistic and hostile to mysticism; yet the English look down on the French as narrow rationalists. The apparent coldness of the Englishmen and their reserve has been almost universally noted by foreigner; but foreigners also confess that they find the English reserve not unpleasant, and that once one gets to know an Englishman he turns out to be a very companionable fellow.

 

(From “Oxford Junior Encyclopedia”)

 

T E X T 5

 

AMERICANS AS TOURISTS

The ways of tourists are strange, and one afternoon as I sat in the Plaza Mayor, I heard some Frenchmen at the next table tearing Americans apart. To the first barrage of criticism, I could not logically protest: Americans were uncultured, lacked historical sense, were concerned only with business, had no sensitivity and ought to stay at home. The second echelon of abuse I did want to interrupt, because I felt that some of it was wide of the mark: Americans were all loud, had no manners, no education no sense of proportion, and were offensively vulgar in dress, speech, eating habits and general comportment, but I restrained myself because, after all, this was a litany one heard throughout Europe, here expressed rather more succinctly than elsewhere.

Sitting as quietly as my French companions would permit, I tried to discover what my true feelings were in this matter of honest description. In my travels, I had never met any single Americans as noisy and crude as certain Germans, none so downright mean as one or two Frenchmen, none so ridiculous as an occasional Englishman, and none so arrogant as some Swedes.

But in each of the national examples cited I am speaking only of a few horrible specimens. If one compares all English tourists with all Americans, I would have to admit that taken in the large the American is worse. If some European wanted to argue that seventy percent of all American tourists are regrettable, I would agree. If he claimed ninety, I suppose I wouldn’t argue too much. But when like the Frenchman on my left he states that one hundred percent are that way, then I must accuse him of being false to the facts.

 

(James Michener)

T E X T 6

 

OUR PEOPLE

We are usually described as “particular people, kind and sincere, patient and wise, tolerant and industrious, sympathetic and understanding, empathetic and open-hearted, honest and diligent”.

All this is true. But these words are far from enough to present a complete image of us as Belarusians. We are also joyful, honorable, and firm, as well as courageous and brave-hearted, though we have never attacked anyone ourselves or initiated any wars. Never ever! We were sometimes used to defend, and each time we defended, we did it with passion.

Belarus sits in an unfortunate place (in terms of military strategy), located at the very crossroads of Europe. Here, the people say that we are sitting “under all the drafts”; most often, it was the non-Belarusian nations that made war on Belarusian soil.

Nearly all the Northern Wars between Russian Tsar Peter I and Swedish King Karl XII for control over the Baltic sea passed through Belarusian Land: Polotsk, Orsha, Kopyl, Mogilev, Cherikov, and Gomel suffered hard. They were a little ruined, a little burned, and a little looted, but we renovated our homes!

Napoleon’s Army passed through Belarus twice, toward Moscow and back. Lands were spoiled again, houses and churches - destroyed, archives and libraries all looted. But we recovered yet again!

What about World War!? Remember the peace making in Brest? World War II Belarusian guerillas… In that war we lost one out of every four. But Belarusians survived, recovered, and restored our homes again and again. And we carried on!

The most ancient principality founded by Belarusians was the Polotsk Principality. Then there was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which many historians, in fact, consider to be the real Belarusian State during the Middle Ages, with Novogrudok as the capital and Belarusian as the state language.

At the close of the past century, on the territory of Belarusian Gubernyias (a territorial entity), including Smolensk and Vilnya, there lived 4,769,032 Belarusians. Then, this figure made up 70% of the overall population of those lands.

And at the close of the 20th century, in today’s Belarus, the population reaches 8,159,000 people according to the latest census held in 1999. This composes nearly 81,2 % of the country’s population. This is why Belarus may also be reported as an ethnically integrated state – it is also composed of many other nationalities, like Russians, Ukrainians, Polish, Jewish, Tartars – and all friendly to us, the Belarusians.

Nearly 4 million Belarusians live abroad – in Western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Russia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia and the Ukraine.

The 9th volume (dedicated to Belarus) of the famous research work done by V.P.Semyonov titled “Russia: A Complete Geographical Description of Our Motherland”, reads that “Belarusians are characterized by their light-colored skin. Women often possess extremely delicate features. Light or light brown hair is very typical for Belarusians, as well as a gray or blue colored eyes…

Generally, Belarusians correspond to the most perfectly exemplified type of Slavonic appearance. This can be explained by the fact that Belarusians, in their historical past, were not assimilated with other nationalities and peoples.”

The Russians were assimilated with Finish tribes, the Ukrainians – with Turkish groups; and the Polish – with German groups. As for us, even if we assimilated, it was only by the Russians, Ukrainians or Polish – our close Slavonic neighbors.

We Belarusians are an ancient people. We began inhabiting our lands nearly 40,000 years ago. We “remember” the last glacier that “moved” toward us from Scandinavia and melted in our lands, leaving numerous stones and lakes as souvenirs.

We “remember” how so many marvelous temples and churches were erected, and how foreigners were so astonished by their beauty that they referred to our land as the country of temples and churches.

 

(Self-Portrait of Belarus.

“Belarus” №2/3, 2000)

 

 

GLOSSARY

UNIT I

intermediary (n) – посредник

legitimacy (n) – законность

legislator (n) – законодатель

legislature (n) – законодательная власть; законодательные учреждения

realm (n) – королевство, государство, царство

sibling (n) – (единокровный) брат, (единокровная) сестра



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