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Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas
for Semester 2 Reading Lessons...
policeman (or woman) on the beat who can be asked the way or the
time and who will always give a civil answer really does exist.
To a world that is
more used to gun-toting law enforcement officers who might know the
way to the nearest park but are certainly not about to tell you, the
English police person is a curiosity.
Serried ranks of them
attend every open air occasion and provide a comforting sense of
continuity. They are always on hand everywhere except, as the
English observe, when you really need one.
Unlike their European
and transatlantic counterparts, they will never fine you on the spot
and will seldom use unnecessary violence. They will just caution or
arrest you and turn up in court to tell the judge and full
supporting cast exactly why you should be fined, imprisoned or
The English expect
their police to be beyond reproach and are shocked to the core when
charges of brutality or corruption come to light, despite the fact
that such behaviour is the stuff of many police dramas on
television. As far as the English are concerned, life should never
imitate art. They seem to have no difficulty accepting the one while
rejecting the other and go on to be shocked all over again when yet
another ugly truth is revealed.
prisons are, by common consent, overcrowded and ill-equipped.
Prisoners quickly learn what crime is really all about and reformed
characters are pretty thin on the ground.
The English are
becoming increasingly aware of the shortcomings of their prison
system and are looking closely at other countries' practices and
ex-public schoolboy, imprisoned for fraud, is on record as having
observed that his school education turned out to have been a perfect
preparation for the rigours of prison life, except that in prison he
was marginally more comfortable.
like many aspects of English life, is based on precedence.
on the principles of right and wrong the system is impenetrable to
the average citizen and quite alien to most foreigners.
It is acted out in
real-life drama in period costume as the judiciary, the guilty and
the innocent juggle with truth and falsehood in a courageous attempt
to find either. And then, if a prisoner's guilt is established, to
make the punishment fit the crime. It is the proud boast of the
English legal system that this sometimes happens.
like to believe they are ruled by consent. They have a
well-developed sense of personal freedom and, whatever the realities
of the situation, have to feel that they are the masters of their
own fate. They do not take kindly to control of any sort and insist
on the fiction that they do so only on a voluntary basis.
When it comes to
bureaucracy, the English view it as a necessary evil. Their innate
concern that "things are done properly" inclines them to
accept yards and yards of red tape whilst their natural instinct for
directness as well as their love of complaining incline them to
and English red tape, like everything else English, are perceived as
being the best of their kind in the world and definitely boulevards
ahead of anything Europe has to offer.
the English is largely a gentle game: a rearranging of the deck
chairs on the Titanic. Not for them the unseemly riots and
histrionics of foreign parliaments.
To the English,
politicians are not to be trusted. They are out for their own ends
and only there to be despised. Only when compared to the politicians
of other countries, and those of Brussels in particular, do they
have any saving graces.
Nevertheless, when it
comes to General Elections, many English men and women turn out to
vote as a matter of course. Most of them vote according to family
traditions but a few occasionally change horses which keeps everyone
in government on their toes for a few weeks.
Deep down the English
are a conservative bunch and do not like change, which is just as
well because they seldom get it.
In the Mother of
Parliaments at Westminster (in a building designed in the last
century to look five hundred years old) English politicians carry on
their business with much historical pageantry and partially in
period costume. Continuity and pugnacity mingle here too as witness
the recent reincarnation of Boadicea - Warrior Queen of the Iceni -
who made the fatal mistake of going one confrontation too far. For,
as every English person knows, it is not only "all for
one" but also "one for all". English solidarity
finally finds the English back-to-back looking outwards. Rather like
musical chairs, you must not risk ending up outside the circle.
When it comes to the
home front they recognise the overwhelming danger from outside which
always threatens to destroy their way of life. Cold shoulder is
fundamentally to cold shoulder even across political divides.
It is this common
sense of the threat from over the sea that has been responsible for
the fact that there has never been a unified English revolution.
Even when everyone else in the world was having one, the English
resisted it. Revolution, then as now, would have meant backs being
turned on the Channel with the certainty of their being stabbed by
the wily French.
This dearth of any
real social upheaval has resulted in a staggering lack of change in
the English way of life.
Typically the English
have made a virtue out of even that necessity and it is reflected in
their politics. It is no accident that the political scene in
England is dominated by two political parties called not
Republicans, Democrats, Christian Democrats, Solidarity or any other
namby-pamby names but Conservative and Labour. The former echoes the
unchanging quality of English life. The latter, the Puritan work
ethic with its dignification of labour for its own sake.
There is, of course,
a third political group - the Liberals. They just chose completely
the wrong name on both counts and start with a crippling
disadvantage. Changing it to Liberal Democrats was yet another step
in the wrong direction. They may never achieve power.
To the rest
of the world English business people still have a somewhat amateur
air. They seem to prefer to rely on an instinctive approach to
business, mistrusting foreign methods of analysis and working. This
makes them slightly out of their depth in the global business arena.
Some of the more
courageous members of the English business community are trying to
push their colleagues forward with fighting talk about not being
left behind. You can recognise these brave souls by their personal
fax machines, portable telephones and lapel badges at international
exhibitions. Not for them the horror of isolation.
They are in touch
with everyone at all times and in all time zones. How long it will
take for them to get the rest of their compatriots connected remains
to be seen.
The English have been
characteristically cautious when dealing with Europe. Some small
comfort was afforded by the community's original appellation
"the Common Market" with its implication of
"common-ness", and therefore, dismissability. Subsequent
re-christenings of itself have been predictably slow to catch on in
England where the idea of a European Union is still considered with
deep suspicion and undisguised distaste. Few are prepared to jump
into the water. Like timorous bathers, they prefer to hover on the
brink until someone they can really trust tells them that "It's
lovely once you're in". The problem is, whom can they believe?
business practice operations are characterised by an unusual
devotion to democracy. Since individual decision making is
considered dangerous, almost every decision is taken by committee.
So much so, that whenever you try to get hold of an English business
man or woman, you will invariably be told that he or she is "in
a meeting". Here they will sit trying to reach consensus in
preference to a decision.
The popularly held
belief that the English work harder than other people took a
hammering when a report showed that, on average, the Germans work
44.9 hours a week, the Italians 42.4 and the English 42. The
English, of course, pointed out that both the Germans and the
Italians have more holidays and that anyhow, it is not the quantity
but the quality of work that counts.
They also pride
themselves fiercely on their ability to "muddle through",
that is to act without too much worry about discipline or planning.
In the past this attitude has served them well, and the past holds
all the lessons the English wish to learn.
In Good Company
companies are still largely organised on traditional lines. That is
to say, they are based on the concept of a many layered pyramid - a
vertical chain of command from the Chairman and Managing Director at
the top to the humblest employee at the bottom.
This mirrors the
class structure at the heart of the English way of life and indeed
many of the tenets of "well-bred" behaviour still subsist
in business etiquette. For although the English are naturally
distrustful and suspicious when it comes to business, they appear to
be prepared to put their faith and indeed their money into a bargain
sealed with nothing more than a handshake. Stranger still, it seems
do not like being told what to do. Any order has to be given with a
degree of politeness which many other nations find incomprehensible.
Should you follow
custom and express an order as a request, you will achieve the
desired effect. Express it simply as an order, with no hint of
personal choice, and the English will invariably break for tea.