Terence Blacker: A cut-out-and-keep guide to becoming British

Useful phrases: "Is this deductible?", "I'm registered in the Isle of Man"

Share

Not before time, the Home Office is to redraft the handbook given to potential immigrants to this country, placing emphasis more firmly on our great traditions, culture and values. Although the final draft of Britain: A User's Guide is not yet published, an early draft shows that, with these helpful guidelines, anyone hoping to become British will know exactly what to expect:

Culture: Britain's culture is the envy of the world. The country's internationally famous playwright William Shakespeare is traditionally staged in every theatre once every few months, and is much loved by the British. Leading historical novelist Jane Austen has inspired many memorable TV series and films. The world's most famous group, The Beatles, hailed from Liverpool and changed pop music for ever. (Useful Phrases: "The Bard", "The immortal Jane", "We all live in a yellow submarine.")

Sense of humour: The British are famous for their sense of humour and like to say, at moments of difficulty, "You've got to laugh", sometimes adding, in more serious mode, "Otherwise you would bloomin' well cry!" Irony, the most famous form of British humour, is unknown to other nationalities, particularly the Americans, and involves saying one thing while meaning the opposite. It is widely used in British politics. (Useful phrases: "Don't panic!", "Don't mention the war!", "Suits you, sir!".)

Tax: Every British citizen is required to pay tax, but successful people can pay accountants to reduce the amount they owe the state as a reward for doing so well. Be aware of the difference in meaning between tax planning, a good thing; tax avoidance, a good thing but not discussed in polite company; and tax evasion, a bad thing. (Useful phrases: "Is this deductible?", "I'm registered in the Isle of Man", "I'm an alternative comedian and don't really understand money".)

Fair play: The British invented fair play on the playing fields of Eton. To this day, traditional Etonian values of fairness and equality are frequently debated in Britain's famous House of Lords. (Useful phrases: "Play up and play the game", "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".)

Religion: The Church of England is connected to the state but joining is not compulsory. It is often described as "a broad church", which means it accepts anyone who likes the general idea of having a religion. Recently, a rival religion of atheism has become established under the chaplaincy of Professor Richard Dawkins. Religious fundamentalism is now regarded as the height of bad manners in the UK. (Useful phrases: "I definitely believe in something greater than ourselves", "Amen to that".)

Class: Class divisions and prejudice have been eliminated in British society. It is traditional for the prime minister to remind citizens every few years that class no longer exists and, just to make sure, broadcasters commission former members of the working class – Lord Bragg, Lord Prescott – to investigate the subject once every so often. (Useful phrases: "Not quite our class, darling", "Pas devant les domestiques".)

Sport: All the world's leading sports were invented in Britain, but these days, in a spirit of generosity (see Fair play), the British allow lesser nations to beat them at everything except snooker and darts. Watching sport, if possible in front of a screen, and then discussing it in the pub afterwards has now taken the place of participation. (Useful phrases: "What about 1966?", "They think it's all over", "Come on, Henman".)

The BBC: The greatest broadcaster in the world, the BBC is responsible for some of the most profitable franchises in the international market, including Top Gear, and Strictly Come Dancing. (Useful phrases: "Paxman's looking a bit bored these days", "Not another repeat of Dad's Army", "Lord Reith must be spinning in his grave".)

Honours: In Britain, even if you are not born with a title or honour, you have the opportunity to gain one by doing good works or giving money to a political party. Because British society is so equal (see Class), even those who have criticised the ruling classes can be rewarded. Today, you will find such "outsiders" as Lord Prescott, Baroness Joan Bakewell and Lord Mandelson bravely arguing against privilege in the House of Lords. (Useful phrases: "I only accepted it for my family", "The Lords gives me a political platform", "Arise, Sir David Hare".)

The National Health Service: Britain's health service embodies the basic principle of national life: every person should be treated equally. In this spirit of fairness, doctors recently went on strike in support of their having pensions equal to those of senior civil servants. (Useful phrases: "Can you let me out before I catch MRSA?", "Is this where I enter the postcode lottery?", "Can I pay for the drugs myself then?".)

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea