Builders in Britain, the facts

Posted on March 5, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire

yahooavatar15We’ve all been there. Walking down the street minding our own damn business when it happens. “Hi-ya Love, Cheer up!” or “Phwaaaa!” or “Nice legs!” or the worst: “Fancy a climb?” If you are like me, you avoid walking within 1o89 feet of a building site if possible. And you still probably get something shouted down from the scaffolding. No matter what the  hell you’re wearing, where you focus your eyes, well– any resemblance of having any female-ness you will be harassed. Who are these people, you ask? Oh darlings, they are the stereotypical British builder.

Builders enjoying yet another break in an ad to attract more builders to the trade.

Builders enjoying yet another break in an ad to attract more builders to the trade.

Frequently seen driving a white van, always running behind and over budget on your Ikea kitchen remodel, with The Sun‘s latest titty gal (always page 3) opened on his dash, shaven head, earring in the left (or is it right?) ear, generally in tatty old blue jeans.

There is something so ironic about those big burly builders in Britain. And it makes no sense to me. What is it? Its that builders here  take “tea breaks”. yes. You read correctly. TEA BREAKS.  They dutifully bring their little flasks to the jobsite everyday to sneak in their civilized cuppa. This generally occurs every hour, especially if its your house they are redoing. A strong cup with milk and two sugars makes the standard “builders brew” so I’ve learned.

This leads me to inform you that Builders have their own special tea here made especially for them called Make Mine a Builders.You can only buy it at Morrisons, (notice that Waitrose hasn’t decided to stock it, snobby little chain). And wait for it.. now there are even some Walker’s Crisps called “Builder’s Breakfast”. (No, you can’t buy those at Waitrose either). Despite food and tea catered for them… whatever, Builders in Britain generally tend to have bad reputations. Now, now, now… don’t think that I am prejudiced against builders. No way, my father is a builder-so I know all about those builders. But only American ones. British ones are a different breed that leave me confused, annoyed and wary.

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  1. Pingback: Controversy in Yorkshire | She's Not From Yorkshire

  2. Lyssen April 27, 2011 at 3:29 am

    Hey, there, I’m and American who used to live in Yorkshire (as a study abroad trip that involved very little university work and a whole lot of time at my placement working – with real live Brits too!). My placement was through the York Archaeological Trust and involved a lot of time digging stuff up and hauling dirt in hard hats and neon colored vests. We also took tea breaks; one every two hours over the course of an eight hour work day, with a cuppa to start the day off. I found your post on builders to be very funny, mostly because it reminded me of working on an archaeology dig site. I love this site. It’s fun to read about similar experiences. Thanks!

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  4. Steve Shawcross September 8, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    The point of builders wolf-whistling/making a bawdy remark, is that it’s done for fun– purely a laugh for both parties: It’s just a tradition in this country, part of our humour :D Hence I don’t think any builder has pulled by such techniques… or maybe they have?!

    The thing is not to take them seriously or feel threatened by them :)
    The traditional response to such builders, is to do something humurous back. Blow a kiss at them with just using your middle and index fingers, or make a sarky comment: “In your dreams luv”, or: “I’m more than you can handle”.

    Some gamer ladies comply to the builders’ request, and flash the requested body part(s) to them. I would understand if you chose not to do this! ;)

    • peacefulyorkshire September 8, 2009 at 8:59 pm

      Steve, at times your comments like this one border on being condescending/pedantic as hell- and thus I just ignore it even if they are amusing. I must say that I find it hard to believe that you are giving us American ladies “wise words” ’bout catcalling builders and how to handle them!? As if, man, as if! There are some things a male will never be able to understand, this situation included! Wait– unless some builders have made it clear they wanna jump in your pants too?? Hmm… maybe then we can talk.

      “The traditional response to such builders, is to do something humurous back. Blow a kiss at them with just using your middle and index fingers, or make a sarky comment: “In your dreams luv”, or: “I’m more than you can handle”.”

      I am inclined to say I’ll pass on those tips, thanks….

    • AnnieMc February 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Okay, I know this post is old as hell, but I’m English (I’ve lived here all my life) and I certainly DON’T find it a harmless amusing tradition. It’s humiliating and occasionally frightening, and as a man who has no experience of this, I don’t think you have any right to be lecturing women on how they should be reacting. Like peacefulyorkshire I’ll avoid these morons at all costs even if it means making myself late, and the majority of women I know feel the same way.

      (To the blog owner(s) if you’re still reading – really enjoying the site, it’s great fun)

      • yankeebean March 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

        Definitely still reading :)

  5. Kneazle1 September 8, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    This post made me giggle! My bf is a builder, no shaven head or earrings but his work jeans are awful and he drives a white van, mainly because the silver one with the free sat nav was no longer available when he bought it but still XD I doubt he does much yelling from scaffolding and I’d have his guts for garters if I found out he did as would his mother, but one of the chaps he works with once suffered verbal abuse from females walking past! His answer? ‘Builder’s have feelings too you know’.

    • yankeebean September 8, 2009 at 7:20 pm

      Kneazle1! It’s awesome to get the perspective of a builder’s lass – or more accurately from a woman’s builder-guy :) Now that you mention it, I’ve seen women call out to builders in the past, too.

      My thoughts are the same in either situation – what’s the point, y’know? I can’t imagine a leering builder or woman has ever pulled as result. But who knows? If there are any happily loved-up couples out there that met as a result of public sexual harassment, I’d be interested to hear about it :D

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  7. yankeebean March 10, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Electric kettles are a shambles in America, though, it’s such a drag! America’s 110 vs. Britain’s 220 – we don’t stand a chance.

    I’m gonna write to Obama ;)

  8. pacificyorkshirebird March 10, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Yeah, the BBC featured a guy who controls the flow of electricity and he waits for Eastenders to finish and then immediately makes sure there is plenty to power all the kettles. I have to say, the tea here is SO good and I plan on buying an electric kettle when I move back to the US this spring. I already know the shops where I can buy Yorkshire Tea in my hometown.

  9. quadrigo March 9, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    hmmmm, seems to me macho dudes are macho dudes are all over the world.

    the tea break thing is hilarious.
    i remember reading somewhere that at 8 or 9 pm, depending on when Eastenders starts, England has to route extra electricity from France to compensate for all the tea kettles turning on at the same time! Then again when Eastenders finishes. GREAT!

  10. pacificyorkshirebird March 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I am also annoyed by the catcalling. Luckily my work “uniform” in winter looks rather unisex which seems to cut down on that!!

    I even have my own policy – eyes down, ignore whistles and car honks (and this applies to everyone). I never ever respond just to deprive them of the attention they seek.

    I think the term “cowboy builders” is funny (haha) and oftened wondered where it came from. I had never heard it before I moved to Britain.

  11. Meg March 7, 2009 at 5:13 am

    Anyone who cannot see the humor in these posts is just nit-picky. My husband laughs at them as well when I share them, and he’s British.

    Judging ALL “yankee bloggers” because of some posts they didn’t agree with on one sounds like a mature way to go about things.

    People should loosen up.

    Keep them coming, shesnotfromyorkshire!!

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  13. yankeebean March 6, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Don’t worry, after a day the jackets turn a lovely mellow gold – it’s what the streets are paved with in America! :D

  14. pattycake March 6, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    WHITE dinner jackets? Yuk, only in america, I guess!

  15. Julia-MacJulio March 6, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I have to say I’m not fond of walking past our construction industry boys myself! I find I always put my eyes to the floor so as not to engage any eye contact.


  16. peacefulyorkshire March 6, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Hi Pattycake,
    you are right, how did you guess? American builders are perfect, darling, just perfect, didn’t you know already? They wear white dinner jackets, with their Levi 501 ( tatty) jeans and comment about your intellect instead of your body. You can frequently hear them shouting “Hey, nice brain, I can tell you read a lot of books!”. They also get your IKEA remodel done 5 weeks early (at no extra cost) and read the New Yorker on their break-time whilst sipping organic pear juice— oh don’t forget they too have their own brand of “Builder’s Tofu” and “Builder’s Fairtrade Yogi tea”. They frequently give all their earnings to UNICEF as well.

    But, I am glad that British Builders can cheer you up when you are feeling underconfident– at least somebody is benefiting from sleazy comments–;)

  17. pattycake March 5, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Couldnt disagree with you more about builders! I love the fact that, even on mornings when I look like the back end of a bus, I only have to pass a building site to hear cries of ‘ Hello gorgeous, give us a kiss, what are you doing tonight?’ Its a real morale raiser, always makes me smile, and is part of the give and take of british life. Incidentally, if Waitrose is snobby, your remark about earrings, shaven heads and tatty jeans is equally so! What do you expect workmen to wear, dinner jackets? If, as you say, you aren’t prejudiced against builders, you certainly have a good line in sweeping generalisations against them (well, the british ones anyway). I gather that Yank ones (who you know all about just because your father was one) are all perfect. I am starting to feel confused, annoyed and wary about yankee bloggers on the basis of your post.

  18. yankeebean March 5, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    The thing I find the most off putting is when they stop mid-sentence and all go quitet when you walk by. But since I bought some nose-reduction headphones, I can’t hear anything they say anymore! Nice…

  19. Iota March 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I was under the impression that English builders are all Polish these days.

  20. peacefulyorkshire March 9, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Thanks Meg, for your comment– !!
    I would like to point out to our readers that my experiences with various dishonest and catcalling British Builders are not going to be anyone else’s experiences with British builders, nor do I expect them to be! Surely, there are nice ones and honest ones and ones that don’t catcall out there– well… surely there are, or lord help me next time I need my kitchen redoing!

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