James Westcott, an Englishman in New York, prefers their bluntness to his polite and deferential countrymen. Prompted by Lynne Truss's new book Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, he writes Against Politeness in the latest Village Voice:
The English can't ask clearly and directly for what they want, and this is precisely a function of our obsession with Truss-style politeness, which does a lot more than keep people safely at arm's length. It makes us terrified of strangers and ashamed of our desires. Petulance, passive aggression, and a fear of strangers result. Give me the smoothness of New York interactions - especially with their bravado or bluntness - over the mutually assured dithering in English corner shops any day.
I can see both sides. I prefer directness, and at times English circumlocutions and lack of assertiveness do drive me crazy. But then, so does the arrogance and parochialism of New Yorkers. (No, your city is not the greatest place in the world - get over it).
I guess what really won me over to the English ways was how calm, polite, patient and good humoured people were on July 7 after the bombings; behaviour I cannot imagine Americans ever being able to muster. (Hat tip: Political Theory Daily Review)