English Gentleman. Wayne Rooney. Manchester United. The Queen. Cup of tea. Sherlock Holmes. etc, etc, etc.
Just some of the words uttered in my direction after answering the question, “Where are you from?”. This is usually followed by a showering of praise and occasional emulation of my accent. It seems people here don’t know our terrible secret: Being English is really quite shit.
I must admit, though, it is kind of nice to receive that kind of praise. I can’t even begin to guess how many random Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese people have said the above things to me. To be honest, it is quite nice to brighten up someone’s day just for being an English foreigner. At times I have also used the whole British thing to my advantage. You non-Brits (and non-Irish) would be surprised how a few soft Rs, missed Hs, and posh tones help with scoring a job, friends, and with the opposite sex out here in the far east.
It’s a totally different story back in Europe. Tell someone you’re English and they’ll likely back away slowly. I’ve actually been refused entry into a few bars in Sweden, France, and Spain purely for being English… and quite possible for being ludicrously drunk, too. You see, we’ve a reputation for rowdy football hooliganism, and crapulence on the continent. And yes, by football, I mean the ball game most of the world plays by kicking the ball with their feet. Not by carrying the fucking thing and stopping every 30 seconds.
In Asia, particularly in Korea, we’ve got this great reputation. But when you think about it, what good does the UK actually do? I mean apart from bail out failing banks; cut taxes for the rich; deny the poor any financial help; drone on and on about immigrants; refuse visas for foreign spouses; spy on us incessantly; propagate an outdated social class system; side with our big bad cousins across the pond; kick up pointless arguments with the EU; and have an unelected, blue blooded ruler by birthright, appointed by a god most no longer believe in, tax-dodging-bastard head of state.
Hmm. That last bit probably just put me on some sort of NSA / GCHQ list.
What is unbelievably good luck for us Brits, is that many have forgotten our long and turgid history of tyranny in Asia. Here’s a fun fact: Britain has been at war with (or involved in the killings of people from) Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Turkey, and Tibet all within the last 100 years or so. Britain went to war with China in 19th century because their government wouldn’t buy our opium! Fuck me, If that’s not pure evil, I don’t know what is.
Then we’ve got an even longer history of general oppression, thievery, and slavery in British India, the Malay states, Borneo, Papua, plus a bit of Arabia and the Middle East.
It’s a good job everyone out here has forgotten all of this. I guess we’ve only got America and now probably Russia to thank for becoming the world’s new most-horribly-imperialistic bastards.
So before I finish my little tirade here, let me just add this: Out of all the nationalities that make up the UK, being English is definitely the worst. The Scots, the Welsh, The Irish, and even the Manx’s (sort of) all have a much stronger national identity than the English. They have better national songs and dress; better non-racist flags; better national drinks and cuisine (though not by much); and all rebelled against us. I often tell my Korean students that England is ‘The Imperial Japan of the British Isles.’
To be fair we do have Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, and hundreds of other writers and poets. We got the Beatles, The Stones, Oasis, and basically all the best bands. We invented some of the most popular sports in the world (and the world quickly became better at them). We started the industrial revolution (which left so many in the North of England totally impoverished). We’ve still got a national health service (though for how long?). We’ve a few beers, some nice cheeses, and our countryside is unbearably beautiful year round.
I just hope the rest of Asia continues to remember everything in that last paragraph, instead of thinking too much on all the evil stuff we did.
Postscript: Hopefully, this article won’t attract too much negativity, or attacks on my writing / character. I’m not expecting too much of that, but this is the internet after all. I don’t like to think of people in terms of their nationality. A persons place of birth has nothing to do with what their ancestors did or who they are as people. I love everybody… including my fellow Englishmen and women. Oh, and sorry for the few digs I made at the USA and Russia. I love you too, and after all, I am half yank, too.