Why I sometimes call British culture “paranoid” or “narcissistic”

If someone writes to you “with the greatest respect”, isn’t it paranoid or an indication of extremely low self-esteem, hence possibly narcissistic, to believe that it means “I think you’re an idiot”?

That’s not “sarcasm”, folks.  That’s bonkers. Nuts.

YouGov survey: 
British sarcasm 'lost on Americans':


So when a local shop owner suddenly started repeating “Don’t worry about it” a few years ago, I had no idea that it meant “Piss off!”, and I still have no idea why he suddenly wanted me to piss off either. I must have said something that he thought was intended as the exact opposite of what I said and meant?

Interesting is that before I moved from Amsterdam to the USA, I received some warnings/advice about Americans that turned out not to apply at all – for instance about the dinner invitations as mentioned in the BBC article – but I did later discover that some of it applies with regard to southern England.

For people in countries that don’t have English as their main language, the fact that British English is so vastly different from other forms of English can be really confusing.

There is also a thing in British English that we foreigners sometimes call hinting, and that people from other countries don’t get either.

I am not so sure that what the BBC writes about the British use of sarcasm applies to Scotland, by the way.

I do remember one occasion when I did catch the sarcasm. A year or so ago, I walked into a store to ask something and addressed someone whose last words to me before I left the store again were “and we’ll sort you out”.

What she meant was that they would teach me a lesson.

I suspect that I know what it was about and if I am right about that, then she considered the items she was selling “old junk”, felt that I had been comparing her to old junk by something I said (perhaps indicating that she was not very happy with what she was doing, even though I think she was an owner, not an employee).

This is typically British. Anywhere else, you’d be considered paranoid or otherwise not well in the head to have thoughts like these. Here, however, you are considered not well in the head – slow on the uptake – if you don’t get this stuff.

See how upside down the world can be and how tricky cultural differences are?


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