Getting to know your British 21st century class system as an American (you have learned it, right?)

yahooavatar15Hey, don’t think that I am ‘rising above my station‘, but I want to share with you a little something that mystifies my American self (and is starting to scare me) about after living in Britain for 5 years. Wait, ‘mystifies’ is a polite word. I should say that my own self is starting to annoy the hell out of me. I am getting my own goat. I am ticking. my.own. self. off.  Help! As a member of the ‘upper-to middle-middle-class bordering on spiralist-meritocracy’ echelon, I am starting to become class-conscious. Has it happened to you yet? Be warned!

I am becoming a person that like other Brits, can “identify” class ranking like a stinky fish in a garbage can. I wanna say that I don’t care about class and all that hoopla but yet here I am thinking about it more frequently then I ever did living in America. Its infilatrating my brain! Got a Cath Kidston diaper bag and Molton Brown in your bathroom ? Oh, I detect a Yummy Mummy! Got a gold earring, have shaved stripes in your eyebrows and are wearing white Ted Perry trainers? Oh, that could be bordering on chav territory. Got a posh neutral accent and wear a cravat? Mon dieu, he MUST be a public school boy! Drive a white va…. ok you get the idea… and I can’t help myself. Have I been subliminally trained ? How in the world did I learn all this??

Something I just cant get used to here in Britain is the class-system ruckus. Words like working class, middle working class, the underclass, the middle middle class, the working blue collar, the noveau riche, the Old Boy’s network, wag, public school,  state-schooler, Mondeo men, Chavs, Neds, scallies, the rah, the essex man… ahhhh…..my god there are a lot to learn! Enough to make my head spin trying to keep it all straight. God save me before its too late!!

Causing A Scene: The ultimate weapon

yankeebeanAs Americans in Britain we have the ultimate weapon at our disposal…  the ability to cause a scene.  Grown men fear it, children run in terror.

I am, obviously, exaggerating wildly (one of my favourite things!) – but there’s definitely something to be said for this.  Many English people I know will put up with discomfort, incorrect orders, and social awkwardness to avoid causing a scene.  I’ve heard mums say in a hushed whisper to their kids, “Be quite this INSTANT, you’re causing a scene”.  I’ve heard people utter it as an intense threat or warning (yes, seriously), “You’d better do as I ask or I’ll cause a scene”

I’ve had this blog rolling around in my head for aaaaaages, now, but it’s never become fully formed enough to write.  That is, until this weekend (cue suspenseful music).

Let me set the scene for you:

I was in Oxford with Mr Nice Guy, we were visiting some friends and staying with them in their gorgeous mid-terrace just outside of Oxford city centre.  We’d just had an awesome dinner and were standing around in the kitchen, leaning on the counter tops,  sipping wine and chatting.  This kitchen is bee-YOO-tiful (I mean movie-style-instant-tourist-making European perfection).  Antique wood furnishings with large cracked ceramic handles, double french doors that open into the perfect wild garden, exposed wood floors that look ancient in-a-good-way.  You get the idea…

Anyway, so we’re all standing around and I notice Mr Nice Guy is shuffling his feet around.  Not in a way anyone would notice, it wasn’t like James Brown or anything, just a little shuffle…

I glance down at his feet and see what looks like a fried onion on top of his right foot.

I look at him and smile cos I thought he’d dropped some onion on his sock during dinner and didn’t know what to do about it – but I was met by his alarming expression.  As if he was trying to wordlessly say to me, ‘Oh my God, what should I do??’

The conversation goes on as normal for a few seconds while I’m glancing at Mr Nice Guys foot and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  Mr NG still continues to chat with us all, but glances back at me again with the same wordless appeal for help.

No one else has noticed this mini-silent-exchange…

So I bend down mid-chat (no big deal) to take the onion of his foot, intending to throw it in the bin – when the onion moved…

It was a slug!  A SLUG!!

I

died

laughing

Mr Nice Guy had had a slug on his foot for God knows how long and had just continued to chat.

Why, you ask?

When I asked him later before we went to bed he said that he “didn’t want to cause a scene”. :D

Bless him…

Supermarket Supremacy- getting to know the class system of where you shop

yahooavatar15In England I’ve learned even your supermarket choice dictates what your social status is. When I first moved to this country, of course I didn’t know that, well–who would?

I would happily walk along to my nearest supermarket and never did I give it a second thought. I would think with enthusiasm… “oh look, ASDA and Wal-Mart are from the same family, isn’t that just a sweet taste of HOME?!”

But I am not that naive anymore– what I have learned ladies, is that where you shop dictates your class ranking in the UK.

No one actually tells you these things, as an American arriving to this rainy island in the north sea.

Oh No! You have to work these things out for yourself.

I am thinking it goes in this ranking:

Netto

Aldi

Iceland

ASDA

Morrison’s

Tesco

Sainsbury’s

Waitrose

Booth’s

Mark’s and Spencer’s

Mr. Chill and I decided to go to Aldi today to see if all the hype was correct. You know –“Spend a little, save a lot!”.

I had never shopped there before, have you? But hey being thrifty is now the cool thing to do according to my Grazia magazine.

I did find a cushioned chair wedge for my harp playing…but we had to leave when Mr. Chill decided to buy hotdogs in a can. I wasn’t THAT impressed.

Hmmm….guess its back to Tesco’s for middle class me.