From characteristic of social inhibition, reticence and

FromKate Fox’s observations in her book Watchingthe English: the hidden rules of English behaviour (2004), it seems clearthat one of the main characteristic of English people, or, at least, of themajority of them, is being socially inhibited, excessively reserved and awkwardin building relationships.

As a matter of fact, she concludes her work with adiagram showing which are the defining characteristics of Englishness (Englishcultural identity) and, according to her, its central core is what she calls”social dis-ease” that she defines as a shorthand term for the socialinhibitions of English people and refers, also, to the awkwardness andembarrassment that leads them to a sense of discomfort and incompetence in thefield of social interactions and so to a lack of relationships. Moreover, KateFox believes that the general disinclination of the English of showing emotionsand feeling, which is known as “English reserve”, and their obsession withprivacy are two of the symptoms of this social dis-ease. However, she believesthat this is treatable and that there are ways of dealing with it: with the useof props and facilitators that allows them to break the ice and interact withothers and overcome their awkwardness by masking, at the same time, their socialincompetence (for example pubs, clubs, pets, weather-talk etc.) or retreating intheir houses. In fact, to compensate their lack in social skill, English peopleretreat to the protectiveness and security of their own homes as behind thedoors they do not have to worry about it.

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And thus, given the reserved natureof the English, houses are considered castles. Therefore, she connects theirobsession with nestbuilding and privacy sensitivity to their typical characteristicof social inhibition, reticence and embarrassment. Asshowed by Kate Fox’s research, the English are, indeed, very private people andhighly individualist. As a matter of fact, British culture is what is called alow context culture as opposed to the high context ones.

These two terms were firstintroduced in 1976 with the publication of the book Beyond Culture by Edward T. Hall, an American anthropologist andcross-cultural researcher.Accordingto Hall’s definitions of these concepts, a high context culture valuestradition, long lasting relationships and the group harmony and thus it is definedas collectivistic because it emphasizes the belonging of individuals in a groupand encourages conformity while discouraging individuals from sanding out. Onthe other hand, a low context culture is characterized by valuing short-termrelationships and by being more individualistic, meaning that the individual needsare considered to be more important than the group harmony. Therefore,individualism is a dimension of a culture that has to do with whether peopleregard themselves primarily as individuals than as a part of a group byemphasizing personal freedom, accomplishment and every action that make anindividual stand out. As a matter of fact, in low context cultures, as theUnited Kingdom, children are taught from an early age to think for themselvesas the rout to happiness is only through personal fulfilment. 


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