At Azimo, we realise that it’s a concerning time to be a migrant in Britain. There’s a lot of serious stuff being discussed, by serious people, which will have long-lasting, serious consequences for how we all live.
That’s why we thought now would be a good moment to try and provide a bit of distraction. A bit of light relief. So we’re launching a weekly guide to How to be British.
We hope it’ll provide you with a few wry smiles at a time when wry smiles are in desperately short supply. And what could be more British than facing a problem and finding a way to smile about it?
Britain is a wonderful country, but to the newcomer it can be a little confusing at times. For instance, take the recent vote to leave the EU. One of the arguments for ‘leave’ was that there aren’t enough houses in the country. So the answer, apparently, is to stop Polish builders coming in. Now it might be just us, but that sounds like very odd reasoning.
Britain can be a very odd place indeed. One where it’s hard to understand what you need to understand to fit in. And that’s where this tongue-in-cheek (don’t worry, we’ll explain ‘tongue-in-cheek’ later) guide will come in handy. We hope you enjoy it and share it with anyone else who might find it interesting.
We also hope that it gives you an insight into that most British of characteristics, an absurd sense of humour.
Britain without tea would be like Britain without rain. It just wouldn’t be Britain. If a national psyche can be summed up in a drink, then for Britain that drink is tea. It’s the lubricant that stops the country grinding to a halt.
To understand why, you have to understand that tea isn’t just a drink, it’s a ritual. It’s a ritual of welcome, of connection, of establishing a common ground. That’s why any occasion in Britain is an occasion when tea is the appropriate response.
Visit someone’s home and they’ll offer you a cup of tea. Now, whether you like tea or not, you should always say: ‘Yes, I’d love a cup of tea’. That’s because once you do, the person offering you tea has a reassuring understanding of how things are going to progress. The tea has become the thing that you, and your host, have in common.
Also, once inside the tea ritual, a standardised set of dialogue can kick in. Milk? Sugar? Cup or mug? Builder’s or Earl Grey? Would you like a biscuit with it? How about a slice of cake? My life is meaningless and I’m often overcome by an overpowering sense of despair, how about you?
OK, that last question doesn’t often come up. But the point is that after you’ve shared a cup of tea, it could. To be honest, though, you’re much more likely to have a conversation about the weather. Because what could be more British than a cup of tea and a chat about it always raining during Wimbledon?
Nothing could be more British. Nothing at all. The only problem is that tea isn’t British. It’s a drink that originated in China, and that’s grown in, and imported from, the Indian subcontinent.
Tea is a migrant.
Which only goes to show, no matter how much of an outsider you might feel now given Britain’s Brexit vote, there’s still hope. In fact, there’s more than hope, there’s tea.
Now, do you want sugar with that? Or how about a biscuit?
Next week in How to be British: The Queue.