'I have seen much to hate here, much to
     forgive. But in a world where England is
     finished and dead, I do not wish to live.'
                                      ALICE DUER MILLER: The White Cliffs

     the  reception given to this book when  it first appeared in the autumn
of 1946, was at  once a  pleasant surprise and a disappointment  for  me.  A
surprise, because the reception was so kind;  a disappointment for the  same
     Let me explain.
     The  first part  of this  statement  needs little  amplification.  Even
people  who are not closely connected with the publishing trade will be able
to  realize that it is  very nice - I'm sorry. I'd better be  a  little more
English: a not totally unpleasant  thing for a completely unknown author  to
run into three impressions within a  few weeks of publication and thereafter
into another twenty-one.
     What is my grievance, then? It is that this book has completely changed
the picture I used to cherish of myself. This was  to be a book of defiance.
Before its publication I felt myself a man who was going to tell the English
where to get off. I had spoken my mind regardless of consequences; I thought
I was  brave and outspoken and expected  either to go unnoticed or to face a
storm. But no storm came. I expected the English to be up in arms against me
but  they patted  me  on the back; I expected  the British nation to rise in
wrath but all  they  said,  was: 'quite amusing'.  It  was  indeed a  bitter
     While the Rumanian Radio was serializing (without my permission) How to
be an Alien as an anti-British tract, the Central Office of Information rang
me up here in London and asked me to  allow the  book to be translated  into
Polish for  the benefit of those many Polish refugees who were then settling
in this country. 'We want our friends to see us in this light,' the man said
on the telephone. This was hard  to bear for my militant and defiant spirit.
'But it's  not such a  favour able light,' I protested  feebly.  It's a very
human light and that is the most favourable,' retorted the  official.  I was
     A  few weeks  later  my drooping  spirit  was revived when I heard of a
suburban bank manager whose wife had brought this book home to him remarking
that she had found it fairly amusing. The gentleman in ques tion sat down in
front of his open fire, put his feet up and read the book right through with
a continually darkening face. When he had finished, he stood up and said:
     'Downright impertinence.'
     And threw the book into the fire.
     He was a noble and patriotic spirit and he did me a great deal of good.
I wished there had been more like him  in England. But  I  could  never find
     Since then I have  actually written about a dozen books; but I might as
well have never written anything else. I remained the author of How to be an
Alien even  after  I had published  a  collection of serious essays. Even Mr
Somerset  Maugham  complained about  this  type  of  treatment bitterly  and
repeatedly. Whatever he did,  he was told that he  would never write another
Of Human Bondage', Arnold Bennett in spite of fifty other works remained the
author of The Old Wives' Tale and nothing else; and Mr Robert Graves is just
the author of the  Claudius books. These authors are much more eminent tlian
I am; but their problem is the same. At the moment I am engaged in writing a
750-page picaresque novel set in  ancient Sumeria. It is taking shape nicely
and  I am going to get the Nobel Prize for it. But it  will  be of no use: I
shall still remain the author of How to be an A lien.

     I am not complaining. One's books start  living their independent lives
soon enough, just like one's children. I love this book; it has done  almost
as much for me  as I have done for  it. Yet, however loving a parent you may
be,  it hurts your pride a  little  if you are  only known, acknowledged and
accepted as the father of your eldest child.
     In 1946 I took this manuscript  to  Andre  Deutsch, a young man who had
just  decided to try his  luck as  a publisher. He used  to go, once  upon a
time, to the same school as my younger brother. I knew him from the old days
and it was quite obvious  to me even then,  in Budapest,  when  he was  only
twelve and wore shorts, that he  would make an excellent publisher in London
if he only had the chance. So I offered my book to him and as, at that time,
he could not get manuscripts from  better known authors, he accepted it with
a  sigh.  He  suggested that Nicolas Bentley  should  be  asked to 'draw the
pictures'. I liked the idea  but I said he would  turn the  suggestion down.
Once again I was right: he  did turn it  down.  Eventually,  however, he was
persuaded to change his mind.
     Mr  Deutsch was at  that time working for a different  firm. Four years
after  the publication of this book, and after the subsequent publication of
three other Mikes-Bentley books, he left this firm  while I stayed with them
and went on working with another popular and able cartoonist, David Langdon.
Now, however, Andre Deutsch has bought all the rights of my  past and future
output  from his former  firm and the original  team of Deutsch, Bentley and
myself are together again under the imprint of the first named gentleman. We
are  all twelve years older and Mr Deutsch does not wear shorts any more, or
not in the office, at any rate.
     'When are you going to write another How to be  an Alien?'  Deutsch and
Bentley ask me from time to time and I am sure they mean it kindly.
     They cannot  quite make  out the  reply  I  mutter ill  answer to their
friendly query. It is: 'Never, if I can help it.'
     London, May 1958 GEORGE MIKES

     I believe,  without undue modesty,  that I have cer tain qualifications
to write on 'how to be an alien.' I am an alien myself. What is more, I have
been an alien all my life. Only during the first twenty-six years of my life
I  was  not aware of  this plain fact. I was  living in  my  own country,  a
country full  of aliens, and I noticed nothing particular or irregular about
myself; then I came to England, and you can imagine my painful sur prise.
     Like  all  great and important discoveries it  was  a matter of  a  few
seconds.  You  probably  all  know from  your  schooldays how  Isaac  Newton
discovered the law of gravitation.  An apple fell on his head. This incident
set him thinking  for a minute  or two, then  he ex  claimed  joyfully:  'Of
course I The gravitation constant is the acceleration per second that a mass
of one gram causes at  a distance  of  one centimetre.' You were also taught
that James Watt one day went into the kitchen where  cabbage was cooking and
saw the lid of the sauce  pan rise and fall. 'Now let me think,' he murmured
-  let  me  think.' Then he  struck  his forehead  and the  steam engine was
discovered.  It  was the same with  me, although circumstances  were  rather
     It  was like  this. Some years  ago  I spent a lot of time with a young
lady who was very proud and  conscious of being English. Once she asked me -
to my  great sur prise - whether I would marry her. 'No,'  I replied, 1 will
not.  My mother would never agree to my marrying a foreigner.' She looked at
me a little surprised and irri tated,  and retorted: I, a  foreigner? What a
silly thing to say. I am English. You are  the  foreigner. And your  mother,
too.' I did not give  in. In  Budapest, too?' I asked her. 'Everywhere,' she
declared with determination.  'Truth does  not depend on  geography. What is
true in England is also  true in Hungary  and in North  Borneo and Venezuela
and everywhere.'
     I saw that this  theory was  as  irrefutable  as it was  simple. I  was
startled and upset. Mainly because of my mother  whom I loved and respected.
Now, I suddenly learned what she really was.
     It  was  a shame and  bad taste to  be an  alien,  and  it  is  no  use
pretending otherwise. There is no way out of  it. A criminal may improve and
become  a decent  member of  society.  A foreigner cannot  improve.  Once  a
foreigner, always a  foreigner. There is no way out  for him. He may  become
British; he can never become English.
     So it  is better to reconcile yourself to the  sorrowful reality. There
are  some  noble  English  people  who  might  forgive you. There  are  some
magnanimous souls  who  realize  that  it  is  not  your  fault,  only  your
misfortune.  They  will  treat  you  with  condescension, understanding  and
sympathy. They will invite  you to their  homes. Just as they keep  lap-dogs
and other pets, they are quite prepared to keep a few foreigners.
     The title of this book. How to be an Alien, consequently expresses more
than it should. How to be an alien? One should not be an alien at all. There
are certain rules,  however, which have to  be followed  if you want to make
yourself as acceptable and civilized as you possibly can.
     Study  these  rules, and imitate the  English.  There  can be only  one
result: if you don't succeed in imitating them you become ridiculous; if you
do, you become even more ridiculous.
     1. How to be a general Alien

     in  England *  everything  is the  other way round.  On  Sundays on the
Continent  even  the  poorest person puts  on his best suit,  tries to  look
respectable, and at the same time the life of  the country  becomes gay  and
cheerful; in England even  the richest peer or motor-manufacturer dresses in
some peculiar rags, does not shave, and the country becomes dull and dreary.
On the Continent there  is one topic which  should be avoided - the weather;
in England, if you do not repeat the phrase 'Lovely day, isn't it?' at least
two hundred  times a day,  you  are considered a bit dull.  On the Continent
Sunday papers appear on Monday; in England  - a country of exotic oddities -
they appear  on Sunday. On the Continent people  use a fork as though a fork
were a shovel; in England  they  turn it  upside down and push everything  -
including peas - on top of it.
     On a continental bus approaching a request-stop the conductor rings the
bell  if he wants his bus to go on without stopping; in England you ring the
bell if you want  the bus to stop. On  the  Continent stray cats are  judged
individually on  their merit - some are  loved,  some are only respected; in
England  they  are  universally  worshipped  as in  ancient  Egypt.  On  the
Continent people have good food; in England people have good table manners.
     On the Continent  public orators try  to  learn  to  speak fluently and
smoothly; in England they take a  special  course in Oxonian  stuttering. On
the Continent  learned  persons love  to quote Aristotle, Horace, Mon taigne
and  show  off their knowledge; in England  only uneducated people show  off
their knowledge, nobody quotes Latin and Greek  authors in  the course of  a
conversation, unless he has never read them.
     On the Continent almost every nation whether little or great has openly
declared at  one time or  another that  it is superior to all other nations;
the English fight heroic wars to  combat these dangerous ideas without  ever
mentioning which is really the most superior race  in the world. Continental
people  are  sensitive  and touchy;  the English  take  everything  with  an
exquisite sense of  humour - they are  only  offended if you  tell them that
they have  no sense of humour. On the Continent the population consists of a
small  percentage of criminals, a small percentage of  honest people and the
rest are  a vague transition between the two; in Eng  land you find  a small
percentage  of criminals and the  rest are honest people. On the other hand,
people  on the Continent either tell you the truth  or lie; in Eng land they
hardly ever lie, but they would not dream of telling you the truth.
     Many continentals think life  is a game; the English think cricket is a
     *When people  say England, they sometimes mean Great Britain, sometimes
the United Kingdom, sometimes the British Isles - but never England.

     this is a chapter on how to introduce people to one another. The aim of
introduction  is to conceal a person's  identity. It is very  important that
you should not pronounce anybody's name in a way that the other party may be
able  to  catch  it.  Generally  speaking,  your pronunciation  is  a  sound
guarantee  for that. On  the other hand,  if you are  introduced to  someone
there are two important rules to follow.
     1.If he  stretches  out his hand in order to shake yours, you  must not
accept it. Smile vaguely, and as soon as he gives up the hope of shaking you
by the  hand, you stretch  out your own hand and try to  catch his in  vain.
This game is repeated until the greater part of the afternoon or evening has
elapsed. It is extremely likely that this  will be the most  amusing part of
the afternoon or evening, anyway.
     2.Once the introduction has been  made you  have to  inquire  after the
health  of  your  new acquaintance.  Try  the thing  in your  own  language.
Introduce the persons, let us say,  in French and murmur their names. Should
they shake hands and ask: €Comment aliez-vous?' 'Comment aliez-vous?' - it
will be a capital joke,  re  membered  till their last  davs. Do not forget,
however,  that  your new friend who makes this touchingly kind inquiry after
your state of health does not care  in the least whether  you  are  well and
kicking or dying of delirium tremens. A dialogue like this:
     he: 'How d'you do?'
     You: 'General state of  health fairly satisfactory. Slight insomnia and
a rather  bad corn  on left  foot.  Blood  pressure  low, digestion slow but
normal.' - well,  such a dialogue  would  be unforgivable. In the next phase
you must not say 'Pleased to meet you.' This is one of the very few lies you
must never utter because, for some unknown reason,  it is considered vulgar.
You must not say 'Pleased to meet you,' even if you are definitely disgusted
with the man. A few general remarks:
     1.  Do  not click your  heels,  do  not  bow,  leave  off gymnastic and
choreographic exercises altogether for the moment.
     2.  Do   not  call  foreign  lawyers,  teachers,  dentists,  commercial
travellers and estate agents  'Doctor.' Everybody knows that the little word
'doctor' only means  that they are Central Europeans. This is painful enough
in itself, you do not need to remind people of it all the time.

     this is  the most important topic  in  the land.  Do not be  misled  by
memories of your youth  when,  on the Continent, wanting to describe someone
as exceptionally dull,  you  remarked: 'He is the type who would discuss the
weather with you.' In  England this is  an ever-interesting, even  thrilling
topic, and you must be good at discussing the weather.

     For Good Weather

     'Lovely day, isn't it?' Isn't it beautiful?' 'The sun  . . .' 'Isn't it
gorgeous?' 'Wonderful, isn't it?'  It's so nice and hot. . .' 'Personally, I
think it's so nice when it's hot- isn't it?' 1 adore it - don't you?'
     For Bad Weather

     'Nasty day, isn't it?' Isn't it dreadful?' 'The rain . . . I  hate rain
. . .' 1 don't like it  at all. Do you?'  'Fancy such a day in July. Rain in
the morning, then a  bit  of  sunshine, and then rain, rain,  rain, all  day
long.' I remember exactly the same July day in 1936.' 'Yes, I remember too.'
'Or  was  it in 1928?' 'Yes, it was.' 'Or in 1939?'  Tes, that's right.' Now
observe the last  few sentences of  this conversation. A very important rule
emerges  from it.  You  must never  contradict anybody  when discussing  the
weather. Should it  hail and snow,  should hurricanes uproot the  trees from
the sides of the  road, and should  someone remark  to you: 'Nice day, isn't
it?'  -  answer  without  hesitation: Isn't  it  lovely?'  Learn  the  above
conversation by heart. If you are a bit slow in picking things  up, learn at
least one conversation,  it would do wonderfully for any occasion. If you do
not  say  anything  else  for  the  rest  of  your  life,  just  repeat this
conversation, you still have a fair chance of passing as a remarkably  witty
man of sharp intellect, keen observation and extremely pleasant manners.
     English society  is  a class  society,  strictly  organized  almost  on
corporative lines. If you doubt this, listen to the weather forecasts. There
is  always  a  different  weather  forecast  for  farmers.  You  often  hear
statements like this  on the radio:  'To-morrow it will be cold, cloudy  and
foggy;  long  periods  of  rain  will be interrupted  by  short  periods  of
showers.' And then: 'Weather forecast for farmers. It will be fair and warm,
many hours of sunshine.' You must not forget that the farmers do grand  work
of national importance and deserve better weather.
     It happened on  innumerable  occasions that nice, warm weather had been
forecast and rain and snow  fell all  day long, or  vice versa.  Some people
jumped  rashly to  the  conclusion  that something  must  be  wrong with the
weather forecasts. They are mistaken and should  be  more careful with their
allegations. I have read an article  in  one of the Sunday papers and now  I
can tell  you  what  the  situation  really is.  All troubles are caused  by
anti-cyclones. (I don't  quite know what anti-cyclones  are, but this is not
important;  I  hate  cyclones  and am  very  anti-cyclone  myself.) The  two
naughtiest anti-cyclones are the  Azores  and the  Polar anti-cyclones.  The
British meteorologists forecast the right weather - as it really should be -
and then  these  impertinent  little  anti-cyclones  interfere  and mess  up
everything. That again proves that if the British kept to themselves and did
not mix  with foreign things like  Polar and Azores anti-cyclones they would
be much better off.

     foreigners  have souls;  the English haven't. On the Continent you find
any  amount of  people  who  sigh deeply  for no conspicuous reason,  yearn,
suffer and look in the air extremely  sadly. This is soul. The worst kind of
soul is the great Slav soul. People who suffer from it are usually very deep
thinkers. They  may say  things like  this:  'Sometimes  I am  so  merry and
sometimes I am so sad. Can you  explain why?' (You cannot,  do not try.)  Or
they may  say: 1 am  so mysterious.  . . . I sometimes wish I were somewhere
else than where I am.' (Do not  say: 1 wish  you were.') Or 'When I am alone
in a forest at night-time and jump from  one tree  to another, I often think
that life is  so  strange.'  All this is very deep: and  just soul,  nothing
else. The English have no  soul; they have the understatement instead.  If a
continental youth wants to declare his love to a girl, he kneels down, tells
her that she is the sweetest, the most charming and  ravishing person in the
world, that  she has  something in  her,  something peculiar and  individual
which  only a few hundred thousand other  women  have  and that he would  be
unable  to live one more  minute without her.  Often, to give a  little more
emphasis  to the statement, he shoots himself on the spot. This is a normal,
week-day  declaration  of  love   in  the  more   temperamental  continental
countries.  In  England the  boy pats his  adored  one  on the back and says
softly: 1 don't object to you, you  know.' If  he is quite mad with passion,
he may add: 'I rather fancy  you, in fact.'  If he wants to marry a girl, he
     I say . . . would you? . . .' If he wants to make an indecent proposal:
'I say . . . what about . . .'
     Overstatement, too, plays a considerable part in  English  social life.
This takes mostly the form of someone remarking: 1 say ...' and then keeping
silent for three days on end.

     the trouble with tea is that originally it was quite a good drink. So a
group of the most eminent  British scientists put their heads together,  and
made complicated biological experiments to find a way of spoiling it. To the
eternal  glory  of British  science  their labour bore fruit. They suggested
that if you do not drink it clear, or with  lemon or rum and sugar, but pour
a few drops of cold milk into it, and no sugar at all, the desired object is
achieved. Once this refreshing, aromatic, oriental beverage was successfully
transformed into colourless and tasteless gargling-water, it suddenly became
the national drink  of Great Britain  and Ireland  - still retaining, indeed
usurping, the high-sounding title of tea. There are  some occasions when you
must  not  refuse a  cup  of  tea, otherwise  you  are judged  an exotic and
barbarous  bird without any hope  of ever being able  to take  your place in
civilised society. If you are invited to an English home, at five o'clock in
the morning you get  a cup of  tea. It  is  either brought in  by a heartily
smiling  hostess  or  an  almost  malevolently silent  maid.  When  you  are
disturbed in  your  sweetest morning  sleep  you must  not  say: 'Madame (or
Mabel), I think you are a cruel, spiteful  and malignant person who deserves
to  be  shot.' On  the contrary,  you  have to declare with  your  best five
o'clock smile:  'Thank you so much. I do adore a cup  of early morning  tea,
especially early in the morning.' If they leave you alone  with the  liquid,
you may pour it down the washbasin.
     Then you have tea for breakfast; then you have tea at eleven o'clock in
the morning; then after  lunch;then you have tea for tea; then after supper;
and again at eleven o'clock at  night.  You  must not  refuse any additional
cups of tea under the  following circumstances: if it is hot; if it is cold;
if you  are tired; if  anybody  thinks  that you might be tired; if you  are
nervous; if you are gay; before you go out; if you are out; if you have just
returned home; if you feel like it; if you do  not feel like it; if you have
had no tea for some time; if  you have just had  a  cup. You definitely must
not follow my example. I sleep at five o'clock in the morning; I have coffee
for breakfast; I drink  innumerable  cups of  black coffee during the day; I
have  the most  unorthodox and exotic  teas even at tea-time. The other day,
for instance - I just  mention this as a terrifying  example to show you how
low some people can sink -1 wanted a cup of coffee and a piece of cheese for
tea. It  was  one of  those exceptionally hot days and my wife  (once a good
Englishwoman, now completely and hopelessly led  astray by my wicked foreign
influence) made some cold  coffee  and put  it in the refrigerator, where it
froze and became one solid block. On the other  hand, she left the cheese on
the kitchen table, where it melted.  So I had a piece of coffee  and a glass
of cheese.

     continental people have sex life; the English have hot-water bottles.

     I  heard of a distinguished, pure-minded  English publisher who adapted
John  Steinbeck's  novel. The Grapes of Wrath, so skilfully that it became a
charming  little  family  book  on  grapes   and  other  fruits,  with  many
illustrations.  On the other hand,  a continental publisher in London had  a
French political book. The Popular Front, translated into English. It became
an exciting, pornographic book, called The Popular Behind.

     when I arrived in England I thought I knew English. After I'd been here
an hour I realized that I did not understand  one word. In the first week  I
picked up a  tolerable working  knowledge of the language and the next seven
years convinced  me gradually  but  thoroughly  that I would  never  know it
really  well,  let alone  perfectly. This  is sad. My only consolation being
that nobody speaks English perfectly.
     Remember that those  five  hundred words an average Englishman uses are
far from being the whole vocabulary of  the language. You may  learn another
five  hundred and  another five thousand and yet  another fifty thousand and
still  you may come across a further fifty  thousand you have never heard of
before, and nobody else either. If you live here long  enough  you will find
out  to  your  greatest  amazement that the  adjective nice  is not the only
adjective  the language possesses, in spite  of  the  fact that in the first
three  years you  do not need to learn or  use any other adjectives. You can
say that the weather is nice, a restaurant is nice, Mr Soandso  is nice, Mrs
Soandso's clothes are nice, you had  a nice time,  and all this will be very
nice. Then  you  have  to decide on  your accent. You will have your foreign
accent all right, but many people like to mix it with something else. I knew
a  Polish  Jew who  had  a  strong  Yiddish-Irish  accent.  People found  it
fascinating  though  slightly  exaggerated.  The  easiest  way  to give  the
impression of having a good accent or no foreign accent at all is to hold an
unlit pipe in  your mouth, to mutter between your teeth and  finish all your
sentences with the  question: 'isn't it?' People will  not  understand much,
but they  are  accustomed to  that  and  they  will  get  a  most  excellent
     I  have known quite a number of foreigners who tried hard to acquire an
Oxford accent. The advantage of this is that you  give  the  idea  of  being
permanently  in  the  company of  Oxford  dons  and  lecturers  on  medieval
numismatics;  the  disadvantage is that the  permanent  singing  is rather a
strain on your throat and that  it  is a type  of affection  that  even many
English people find it hard to keep up incessantly. You may  fall out of it,
speak naturally,  and then  where are you? The Mayfair  accent can be highly
recommended, too. The advantages of Mayfair English  are that it  unites the
affected  air of  the  Oxford  accent  with  the  uncultured  flavour  of  a
half-educated professional hotel-dancer.
     The most successful attempts, however, to put on  a highly cultured air
have been made  on the polysyllabic lines.  Many foreigners  who have learnt
Latin and Greek in  school discover with amazement and satisfaction that the
English language has absorbed  a  huge amount  of  ancient  Latin and  Greek
expressions, and they realize that (
     a) it is  much easier to learn these expressions than the much  simpler
English words;
     (b) that these words as a rule  are interminably long and make a simply
superb  impression  when  talking to  the greengrocer, the  porter  and  the
insurance agent.  Imagine, for  instance, that the  porter of  the  block of
flats where you live remarks sharply that you  must not put your dustbin out
in front of your door before 7.30 a.m. Should you answer 'Please don't bully
me,' a loud  and tiresome argument may follow, and certainly the porter will
be  proved right, because you  are sure  to find  a dause  in your  contract
(small print, of last page)  that  the  porter is always  right and you  owe
absolute  allegiance and unconditional obedience to him.  Should you answer,
however,  with these words:  1 repudiate your  petulant expostulations,' the
argument  will  be closed at once, the porter will be proud of having such a
highly cultured man in the block,  and from that day onwards you may, if you
please,  get up at four o'clock in the morning  and hang your dustbin out of
the  window.  But even in Curzon Street  society, if you say,  for instance,
that  you are  a tough  guy they  will consider you a vulgar, irritating and
objectionable  person.   Should  you  declare,  however,  that  you  are  an
inquisitorial and peremptory homo sapiens, they will  have  no idea what you
mean,  but  they  will  feel  in  their  bones  that  you  must be something
wonderful. When you  know  all  the  long  words  it  is  advisable to start
learning some of the short ones, too. You should be careful when using these
endless words. An acquaintance of mine once was fortunate enough to discover
the most impressive  word notalgia  for  back-ache. Mistakenly, however,  he
declared in a large company:  'I have such a nostalgia.' 'Oh, you want to go
home to Nizhne-Novgorod?' asked his most sympathetic hostess. 'Not  at all,'
he  answered. 'I just  cannot sit down.' . Finally,  there are two important
points to remember:
     1. Do not forget  that  it  is much easier to write in  English than to
speak English, because you can write without a foreign accent.
     2. In a bus  and in other  public places it  is more advisable to speak
softly in good German than to shout in abominable English.
     Anyway, this whole language business is not at all easy. After spending
eight years  in this country, the other day I was told by a very kind  lady:
'But why do you  complain? You really speak a most  excellent accent without
the slightest English.'

     'You foreigners are  so  clever,' said  a  lady to me some  years  ago.
First, thinking of the great amount of  foreign  idiots  and half-wits I had
had  the  honour  of  meeting,  I  considered this  remark  exaggerated  but
complimentary. Since then I  have  learnt that it was far from it. These few
words expressed the lady's contempt and slight disgust for foreigners.
     If you look up the word clever in any English dictionary, you will find
that  the dictionaries  are out  of date  and  mislead you  on  this  point.
According  to  the  Pocket Oxford Dictionary,  for instance, the  word means
quick and  neat  in movement .. . skilful,  talented,  ingenious.  Nuttall's
Dictionary  gives  these meanings: dexterous,  skilful,  ingenious, quick or
ready-witted,  intelligent.  All  nice adjectives, expressing  valuable  and
estimable  characteristics.  A  modern Englishman,  however,  uses the  word
clever  in the sense:  shrewd,  sly,  furtive,  surreptitious,  treacherous,
sneaking, crafty, un-English,  un-Scottish, un-Welsh.  In England it  is bad
manners to be  clever,  to assert something  confidently. It may be your own
personal view that two  and two make four,  but  you must not  state it in a
self-assured way, because this  is a democratic country and others may be of
a different opinion.
     A continental gentleman seeing  a nice  panorama may remark: 'This view
rather reminds me of  Utrecht,  where the peace treaty concluding the War of
Spanish Succession was signed  on the 11 th April,  1713. The  river  there,
however, recalls the Guadalquivir, which rises in the
     Sierra de Cazoria and flows south-west to the Atlantic Ocean and is 6^0
kilometres long.  Oh,  rivers. .  . . What  did Pascal  say about them? "Les
rivieres  sont les chemins qui marchent. . . ."  ' This pompous, showing-off
way of speaking is not permissible in England. The Englishman  is modest and
simple. He uses but  few words  and expresses  so much -  but so much - with
them. An Englishman looking at  the same view would remain silent for two or
three hours and think about how to put his profound feeling into words. Then
he  would  remark:  'It's  pretty,  isn't  it?'  An  English   professor  of
mathematics would  say  to his maid checking up the shopping  list:  'I'm no
good at arithmetic, I'm afraid. Please correct me,  Jane, if I am wrong, but
I  believe that the  square  root of 97344 is  312.' And about knowledge. An
English girl, of course,  would be  able to learn just a little  more about,
let us say, geography. But it is just not 'chic' to know whether Budapest is
the  capital  of  Roumania, Hungary or Bulgaria. And if she  happens to know
that Budapest  is the capital of Roumania, she should  at least be perplexed
if Bucharest is mentioned suddenly. It is so much nicer to ask, when someone
speaks of Barbados, Banska Bystrica or Fiji: 'Oh those little islands. . . .
Are they British?' (They usually are.)

     it is easy to be rude on the Continent. You just shout and call  people
names of a zoological character.
     On a slightly higher level you  may invent  a  few stories against your
opponents.  In Budapest,  for  instance,  when  a rather  unpleasant-looking
actress joined a nudist club, her younger and prettier colleagues spread the
story that she had been  accepted  only under the condition that she  should
wear a fig-leaf  on her face. Or  in the same city there  was a  painter  of
limited abilities who was a most  successful card-player. A colleague of his
remarked  once:  'What a spendthrift! All  the money he makes on industrious
gambling at night, he spends on his painting during the day.'
     In England rudeness has  quite a different technique. If somebody tells
you an obviously untrue story, on the Continent  you would remark 'You are a
liar, Sir, and a rather  dirty one at that.' In England you just say 'Oh, is
that so?' Or 'That's rather an unusual story, isn't it?'
     When  some years ago, knowing  ten words of  English and using them all
wrong,  I  applied  for  a  translator's  job,   my  would-be  employer  (or
would-be-not-employer) softly remarked: 1 am afraid your English is somewhat
unorthodox.'  This  translated  into  any  continental language would  mean:
employer (to the commissionaire) : 'Jean, kick this gentleman down the steps
I '
     In the last century, when  a wicked and unworthy  subject  annoyed  the
Sultan of Turkey or  the Czar of Russia, he had his head cut of without much
ceremony; but  when the same happened in England, the monarch declared:  'We
are not amused'; and the whole  British nation even now, a century later, is
immensely proud of how rude their Queen was.
     Terribly rude expressions (if pronounced grimly) are: 1 am  afraid that
. . .' 'unless . ..' 'nevertheless . . .'  'How queer . . .' and 1 am sorry,
but . . .'
     It is true  that quite often you can hear remarks  like:  'You'd better
see  that you get out of here I ' Or 'Shut your big mouth I ' Or 'Dirty pig!
' etc.  These remarks  are  very  un-English and are the results  of foreign
influence. (Dating back, however, to the era of the Danish invasion.)

     wise  compromise  is one of the  basic  principles and  virtues  of the
     If  a continental greengrocer asks 14 schillings (or crowns, or francs,
or pengoes, or dinars or leis or  or
,  or whatever you  like) for a bunch of radishes,  and his customer
offers  2,  and finally they strike  a  bargain agreeing  on  6  schillings,
francs, roubles, etc., this is just the low continental habit of bargaining;
on  the  other hand, if the British dock-workers or any workers claim a rise
of 4 shillings per day, and the  employers first flatly refuse even a penny,
but after six weeks strike  they agree to a rise  of 2 shillings per day €"
that is yet  another proof of  the British genius for compromise. Bargaining
is a repulsive habit;  compromise is one of the highest human virtues  - the
difference  between  the two being  that  the  first  is  practised  on  the
Continent, the latter in Great Britain.
     The genius for compromise has another aspect, too. It has a tendency to
unite  together  everything which is  bad.  English club life, for instance,
unites the  liabilities  of social  life  with the  boredom of  solitude. An
average English  house  combines  all  the curses of civilisation  with  the
vicissitudes of life in  the open. It is all right to  have windows, but you
must  not have double windows because double windows would  indeed stop  the
wind from  blowing  right into the room, and after all, you must be fair and
give the wind a chance.  It  is  all right  to have  central  heating in  an
English home, except the bath room, because that is the only place where you
are naked and  wet at the same time, and  you must give British germs a fair
chance. The open fire is an accepted, indeed a traditional, institution. You
sit  in front  of it and your face is hot whilst your back is  cold. It is a
fair compromise between  two extremes and settles the problem of how to burn
and catch cold at the same time. The fact that  you may have a drink at five
past six p.m., but that  it is a  criminal offence to have it at five to six
is an  extremely  wise compromise between two things  (I do not  quite  know
between  what,   certainly  not  between  prohibition  and  licentiousness),
achieving the great aim that nobody can get drunk between  three o'clock and
six o'clock in the afternoon unless he wants to and drinks at home.
     English spelling is a compromise between documentary expressions and an
elaborate code-system; spending three hours in a queue in front of a  cinema
is a compromise between entertainment and asceticism; the English weather is
a fair  compromise between rain and fog; to employ an English charwoman is a
compromise between  having a dirty house or cleaning  it yourself; Yorkshire
pudding is a compromise between a pudding and the county of Yorkshire.
     The  Labour   Party  is  a  fair  compromise   between   Socialism  and
Bureaucracy;  the Beveridge Plan is a  fair compromise between being and not
being a Socialist at the  same time; the Liberal Party is a fair  compromise
between the Beveridge  Plan and Toryism; the Independent  Labour  Party is a
fair  compromise  between  Independent  Labour  and  a  political party; the
Tory-reformers are  a fair compromise between revolutionary conservatism and
retrograde  progress; and  the  whole  British political life is  a huge and
noncompromising fight  between  compromising Conservatives  and compromising

     if  you  want  to  be  really  and  truly  British,  you  must become a
     Now: how to be a hypocrite?
     As some people say that an example explains things better than the best
theory, let me try this way.
     I had a drink with  an English friend of mine in a pub. We were sitting
on the high chairs in front of the counter when a flying bomb exploded about
a  hundred yards  away. I was truly and honestly frightened, and when  a few
seconds later I looked around, I could not see my friend anywhere. At last I
noticed that he was lying on the floor, flat  as a pancake. When he realized
that  nothing  particular had  happened  in  the  pub  he got  up  a  little
embarrassed, flicked the dust off his suit, and turned to me with a superior
and sarcastic smile.
     'Good Heavens I Were you so frightened that you couldn't move?'

     it  is  important that  you should learn to  enjoy simple joys, because
that is extremely English. All serious Englishmen play darts and cricket and
many  other games; a famous  English statesman was  reported to  be catching
butterflies in  the  interval  between giving  up two European states to the
Germans; there was e.ven some misunderstanding with the French  because they
considered the habit of English soldiers of singing and playing football and
hide and seek and blind man's buff slightly childish.
     Dull  and  pompous foreigners are unable  to understand why  ex-cabinet
ministers  get  together  and  sing 'Daisy,  Daisy'  in  choir; why  serious
business  men  play   with   toy  locomotives  while  their  children  learn
trigonometry in the adjoining room; why High Court judges collect rare birds
when rare birds are rare and they cannot collect many in any case; why it is
the  ambition of grown-up persons  to push  a little ball into a small hole;
why a great politician who saved England and made history is called a 'jolly
good fellow.'
     They cannot grasp  why  people  sing when alone  and yet sit silent and
dumb for hours on end in their clubs, not uttering a word for months  in the
most distinguished company, and pay twenty guineas a year for the privilege.

     queueing  is the national passion of an  otherwise  dispassionate race.
The English are rather shy about it, and deny that they adore it.
     On  the  Continent, if people  are  waiting at a bus-stop  they  loiter
around in a  seemingly vague fashion. When the bus arrives they  make a dash
for  it; most of them leave by the bus and a lucky minority is taken away by
an elegant black ambulance car. An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an
orderly queue of one.
     The biggest and most attractive advertisements in front of cinemas tell
people: Queue here for 4s 6d; Queue here for 9s  3d;  Queue  here for 16s 8d
(inclusive of  tax). Those cinemas which do not put out these queueing signs
do not do good business at all.
     At week-ends an Englishman queues  up  at the bus-stop, travels out  to
Richmond, queues up for  a  boat, then queues up for tea, then queues up for
ice cream, then joins a few  more odd queues just for the sake of the fun of
it, then queues up at the bus-stop and has the time of his life.
     Many English families spend lovely evenings at home just by queueing up
for a few hours, and the parents are very sad when the  children leave  them
and queue up for going to bed.

     if you go for a walk with a friend, don't say a word  for hours; if you
go out for a walk with your dog, keep chatting to him.
     There is a  three-chamber legislation  in England. A bill to become law
has to be passed by the  House of Commons and the House of Lords and finally
approved by the Brains Trust.
     A  fishmonger  is  the  man who mongs  fish;  the  ironmonger  and  the
warmonger do the same with iron and war. They just mong them.
     2. How to be a Particular Alien

     they all hate uniforms so much that they all wear  a special uniform of
their own: brown velvet  trousers, canary yellow pullover, green jacket with
sky-blue checks.
     The  suit  of  clothes has  to be  chosen with the  utmost care  and is
intended to prove that its wearer does not  care for suits and  other petty,
worldly things.
     A  walking-stick,  too,  is often  carried by  the  slightly  dandyfied
right-wing of the clan.
     A golden  chain around the ankle, purple  velvet shoes and  a half-wild
angora cat  on the  shoulders are strongly recommended as they much increase
the appearance of arresting casualness.
     It is extremely important that the B.I. should always wear a three-days
beard,  as  shaving  is considered  a  contemptible  bourgeois  habit.  (The
extremist left-wing holds the same view concerning washing, too.) First  one
will  find  it a little trying to  shave one's four-day beard in  such a way
that,  after  shaving, a  three days  old beard ration should be left on the
cheeks, but practise and devoted care will bring their fruits.
     A  certain amount of rudeness is quite indispensable, because  you have
to prove day and  night  that the silly little commonplace rules and customs
of society  are not meant for you. If you find  it too difficult  to give up
these little habits - to say 'Hullo' and 'How  d'you  do?'  and 'Thank you,'
etc. - because owing to Auntie  Betty's or Tante  Bertha's strict upbringing
they have  become  second  nature, then join  a  Bloomsbury  school for  bad
manners, and after a  fortnight you  will  feel no  pang of  conscience when
stepping  deliberately on  the corn of the  venerable  literary  editor of a
quarterly magazine in the bus.
     Literary opinions must be most carefully selected. Statements like this
are  most impressive. 'There have been altogether two real poets in England:
Sir  Thomas  Wyatt and  John  Ford. The works of the rest are  rubbish.'  Of
course,  you  should  include,  as the  third  really  great,  colossal  and
epoch-making talent your own friend, T. B. Williams, whose neo-expressionist
poetry is so  terribly deep that the overwhelming majority of editors do not
understand  it and refuse to publish  it.  T. B.  Williams, you may  proudly
claim, has never  used a  comma or  a full stop, and  what  is more, he  has
improved Apollinaire's and Aragon's primitive technique by the  fact that he
does  use question  marks.  (The  generous  and extravagant  praise of T. B.
Williams is absolutely essential, otherwise who will praise you?)

     As to your own literary activities, your poems, dramas and great novels
may lie at the bottom of your drawer in manuscript form. But it is important
that  you  should  publish a  few literary reviews, scolding and disparaging
everything and  everybody on earth  from a very superior and high-brow point
of  view,  quoting Sir Thomas Wyatt and  anything in French and  letting the
reader feel what you would be able to do if you could only find a publisher.
(Some practical advice.  It is not difficult to  have a few literary reviews
published.  Many  weeklies and  monthlies  would publish  anything  in their
so-called literary columns,  if it  costs  nothing. You  must not call  your
action unfair  competition with qualified reviewers; call it devotion to the
'cause.' Almost every paper has a cause  - if yours has not, invent one,  it
is quite easy. And it really does not matter what you write. I remember  one
B.I.  writing  of a  significant  philosophical work  and  admitting  in the
opening sentence that he did not understand it; still, I suppose the  review
passed as buoyant and alarmingly sincere.)
     Politically  you  must belong  to the extreme  left. You must, however,
bear a few things in mind:
     1. You must not care a damn about the  welfare  of the  people  in this
country  or  abroad, because that would  be 'practical  politics'  - and you
should only be interested in the ideological side of matters.
     2.  Do not belong to any party, because  that would be 'regimentation.'
Whatever different parties achieve, it is much more interesting to criticize
everyone than to belong to the herd.
     3.  Do  not  hesitate  to  scorn  Soviet  Russia  as  reactionary   and
imperialistic, the British Labour Party as a conglomeration of elderly Trade
Union Blimps, the French Socialists as 'confused  people,' the other Western
Socialist parties as meek, bourgeois clubs, the American labour movements as
being in  the  pay  of big  business; and call all republicans,  communists,
anarchists and nihilists 'backward, reactionary crypto-fascists.'
     You should also invent a few truly original, constructive theories too,
such as: Only Brahmanism can save the world.
     Spiritualism  is a  factor,  growing  immensely  in  importance,  and a
practical,  working coalition between ghosts and Trotskyites would be highly
     The abolition of all taxation would enrich the population so enormously
that everybody would be able to pay much more taxes than before.
     Finally, remember  the main point. Always  be  original ! It is not  as
difficult as  it sounds: you just have to copy  the habits  and sayings of a
few thousand other B.I.s.

     Fix  the little word de  in front  of your name.  It  has  a remarkable
attraction.  I knew  a  certain Leo Rosenberg from  Graz  who called himself
Lionel  de Rosenberg  and was a huge success  in Deanery Mews as a  Tyrolean
     Believe that the aim of life is to  have a nice time, go to nice places
and  meet nice people.  (Now:  to have a  nice time means  to  have two more
drinks daily than you can carry;  nice places are the halls of great hotels,
intimate little clubs, night  clubs and private houses with large radiograms
and  no  bookshelves;  nice  people are those who  say  silly things in good
English  - nasty people are those who drop clever  remarks as well as  their
     In  the  old days  the  man  who  had  no  money  was  not considered a
gentleman. In the era of an enlightened Mayfair this attitude has changed. A
gentleman may have money or may sponge on  his friends;  the  criterion of a
gentleman is that however poor he may be he  still refuse to do useful work.
You  have  to develop your  charm  with the greatest care. Always  laugh  at
everybody's  jokes -  but  be careful  to  tell  a joke  from a serious  and
profound observation.  Be polite in a teasing,  nonchalant manner. Sneer  at
everything you are not intelligent  enough to understand. You may flirt with
anybody's  wife, but respect the  ties of illegitimate friendships -  unless
you have a really  good opportunity  which it would be  such a pity to miss.
Don't forget that well-pressed  trousers,  carefully  knotted ties  and silk
shirts are the greatest of all human values. Never be sober after 6.30 p.m.

     A  little  foreign blood  is  very  advantageous, almost essential,  to
become a really great British film producer.
     The first aim of a British film producer should be to teach Hollywood a
lesson. Do not  be misled, however, by the examples of Henry V or Pygmalion,
which tend to prove that excellent films can be  made of great plays without
changing the out-of-date words of Shakespeare and the un-film-like dialogues
of Shaw by ten 'experts' who really know better.
     Forget these misleading examples because it is obvious that Shakespeare
could not possibly  have  had any film technique,  and  recent  research has
proved  that he did not even have  an eight-seater  saloon car  with his own
uniformed chauffeur.
     You  must  not touch any typically  American  subject.  For instance: a
young man  of Carthage (Kentucky) who can whistle beautifully goes to  town,
and after  many disappointments  forms  his  own  swing-band and becomes the
leading conductor of  New  York's  night life -  which, if you can  take the
implication of  Hollywood  films seriously, is one  of  the highest  honours
which can be conferred on anyone  in that country. At the same time he falls
in love  with the  cloakroom attendant of a drug-store* round the corner,  a
platinum-blonde, ravishingly beautiful, who sings a little better than Galli
Curci  and Deanna  Durbin rolled into one  and, in secret, has  the greatest
histrionic talent of the century.
     *Please note my extensive knowledge of the American language.
     After a last-minute scandal with the world-famous prima donna she saves
the first night of her lover's show in the presence  of an audience  of  six
million  people by  singing Gounod's slightly adapted song. (If you would be
my tootsie-bootsie, I would be  your tootsie-bootsie'.) The young and mighty
successful band-leader marries the  girl and employs Toscanini to  clean his
mouth-organ. Or - to mention just one more example of the serious and 'deep'
type of  American  films - there is a gay, buoyant, happy and miserably poor
young man in New Golders Green (Alabama), who becomes tremendously rich just
by selling thousands of tractors and jet-propelled aeroplanes to  other poor
fellows.  The richer he  becomes,  the unhappier  he  is - which is a subtle
point  to prove that  money does not mean  happiness, consequently  one  had
better be  content to remain a  poor labourer,  possibly unemployed. He buys
seven huge motor cars and three  private planes and is bitter and pained; he
builds a magnificent and ostentatious palace and gets gloomier and gloomier;
and when the woman he has loved without hope for fifteen years at last falls
in love with him, he breaks down completely and groans and moans desperately
for three days. To increase the 'deep' meaning of  the  film they photograph
the heroes  from  the  most  surprising angles: the  cameraman  crawls under
people's feet,  swings  on  the chandelier,  and hides  himself in a bowl of
soup.  Everybody  is  delighted  with  the  new  technique  and admires  the
director's richness of  thought. English film directors  follow  a different
and quite  original  line. They have discovered somehow that the majority of
the public does not consist, after all, of  idiots, and that an  intelligent
film is not necessarily  foredoomed to failure. It was a  tremendous risk to
make experiments based on  this assumption, but  it has  proved worth while.
There are  certain rules you must bear in mind if you  want to make a really
and truly British film.
     1. The  'cockney heart'  has definitely  been discovered, i.e. the fact
that  even  people who drop their  aitches  have a heart. The discovery  was
originally  made by Mr Noel Coward, who  is reported  to have  met a man who
knew someone who had actually seen a cockney  from quite near. Ever since it
has been essential that  a cockney should figure in every  British film  and
display his heart throughout the performance.
     2.  It  has  also been  discovered that  ordinary men  occasionally use
unparliamentary  expressions in the course of their  every-day conversation.
It  has  been  decided that the more  often the adjective  referring to  the
sanguinary  character  of  certain  things  or  persons   is  used  and  the
exclamation 'Damn I ' is uttered, the more realistic and more convincing the
film becomes, as able  seamen and flight-sergeants sometimes go so far as to
say  'Damni  '  when  they are  carried  away  by  passion.  All bodies  and
associations  formed to preserve  the purity of the English soul should note
that  I do not agree with this  habit - I  simply record it. But as it is  a
habit, the author readily agrees to supply by correspondence a  further list
of  the  most expressive military  terms  which  would  make  any  new  film
surprisingly realistic.
     3. Nothing  should be good  enough  for a British film producer. I have
heard of  a gentleman  (I don't know  whether the  story  is  true,  or only
characteristic) who made a film about Egypt and  had a  sphinx built in  the
studio. When he and his company sailed to Egypt to make some exterior shots,
he took his own  sphinx with him to the  desert. He was quite right, because
first of all the  original sphinx is very old and film people should not use
second-hand stuff; secondly, the old sphinx might have been good enough  for
Egyptians (who  are all foreigners, after  all) but not for a  British  film
     4.   As  I  have   seen  political  events   successfully   filmed   as
detective-stories, and historical personages appear as 'great  lovers'  (and
nothing else), I have come to the conclusion that this  slight change in the
character of a person is highly recommendable,  and I  advise the filming of
Peter Pan as a thriller, and the Concise Oxford Dictionary as a comic opera.

     it is about  the same to drive  a  car in England as anywhere  else. To
change a punctured tyre in the  wind and rain gives about the same  pleasure
outside London as outside Rio de Janeiro; it is not more fun to try to start
up  a cold motor with  the  handle in Moscow than in Manchester, the roughly
50-50 proportion between driving an average car and  pushing it is  the same
in Sydney and Edinburgh.
     There are, however, a few characteristics which distinguish the English
motorist  from the continental, and some  points which  the English motorist
has to remember.
     1. In English towns there is a thirty miles an hour speed-limit and the
police keep a  watchful  eye  on  law-breakers.  The fight  against reckless
driving is directed extremely skilfully and carefully according  to the very
best English detective-traditions. It is  practically impossible to find out
whether you are being followed by a police car or not. There are, however, a
few indications which may help people of extraordinary intelligence and with
very keen powers of observation:
     (a) The police always use a 13 h.p., blue Wolseley car;
     (b) three uniformed policemen sit in it; and
     (c) on these cars you can read the word police written in large letters
in front and rear, all in capitals - lit up during the hours of darkness.
     2. I  think England is the only country in  the world where you have to
leave  your lights on even if you  park in a brilliantly lit-up street.  The
advantage being that your battery gets exhausted, you  cannot start up again
and consequently the number of  road accidents are  greatly reduced.  Safety
first !
     3. Only  motorists  can answer this puzzling question:  What  are taxis
for? A simple  pedestrian knows that  they are  certainly not there to carry
passengers.  Taxis, in  fact, are a Christian institution. They  are here to
teach   drivers  modesty   and   humility.   They   teach  us  never  to  be
over-confident; they  remind us that we  never can tell what the next moment
will bring for us, whether we shall  be able to drive on or a taxi will bump
into us from the back or the  side. ' ... and thou shalt fear day and night,
and shalt have none assurance of thy life' (Deut., chapter 28, verse 66).
     4. There is a  huge ideological  warfare going  on behind the scenes of
the motorist world.
     Whenever you  stop your  car  in the City,  the West End or  many other
places,  two  or  three policemen rush at you and tell you that you must not
park there. Where may  you park? They shrug  their shoulders.  There  are  a
couple  of spots on the South Coast and in a village called  Minchinhampton.
Three  cars  may park  there  for  half  an  hour every other Sunday morning
between 7 and 8 a.m.
     The police are perfectly right. After all, cars have been built to run,
and run fast, so they should not stop.
     This healthy philosophy of the  police has been seriously challenged by
a certain group of motorists who maintain  that cars have been built to park
and not to move. These  people drive  out  to Hampstead Heath or Richmond on
beautiful, sunny days,  pull up all  their windows  and go to sleep. They do
not  get  a spot  of  air;  they  are  miserably  uncomfortable;  they  have
nightmares, and the whole procedure is  called  'spending a lovely afternoon
in the open.'

     if you  become a  bus driver there  are three  lovely and very  popular
games you must learn to play.
     1.  Blind man's  buff. When you turn right just  signal  by showing two
millimetres  of  your finger-tips. It is  great  fun  when motorists  do not
notice your signal and run into your huge bus with their tiny cars.
     2.  Hide and seek. Whenever you approach a request stop hide  behind  a
large lorry or another bus and when you have  almost reached the  stop shoot
off at a terrific speed. It  is very amusing to see people shake their fists
at you. It is ten to one they miss some important business appointment.
     3. Hospital game. If you have to stop for one reason  or another, never
wait until the conductor rings  the  bell.  If you start moving quickly  and
unexpectedly, and if you are lucky - and in slippery weather you have a very
good chance  - people will fall on top of one  another. This looks extremely
funny  from the driver's  seat. (Sometimes  the people themselves, who  fall
into  a muddy  pool  and  break their legs, make  a  fuss,  but, alas! every
society has its bores who have no sense of humour and cannot enjoy a joke at
their own expense.)

     britain, far from being a 'decadent democracy',  is a Spartan  country.
This is  mainly  due to  the British way of building towns, which  dispenses
with  the reasonable  comfort  enjoyed by  all the other weak and effeminate
peoples of the world.
     Medieval warriors  wore  steel breast-plates  and leggings not only for
defence  but  also to keep  up  their fighting spirit; priests of the Middle
Ages tortured their bodies with hair-shirts; Indian  yogis take their  daily
nap  lying on a carpet of nails to remain fit. The English plan their  towns
in such a  way  that  these replace  the discomfort of  steel breast-plates,
hair-shirts and nail-carpets.
     On the  Continent  doctors, lawyers, booksellers -just to mention a few
examples - are sprinkled all over  the city, so you can call on a good or at
least  expensive doctor in any district. In England the  idea is that  it is
the  address that makes the  man. Doctors in  London are  crowded in  Harley
Street, solicitors in Lincoln's Inn Fields, second-hand-bookshops in Charing
Cross Road,  newspaper  offices in Fleet  Street, tailors  in  Saville  Row,
car-merchants  in Great Portland Street,  theatres around Piccadilly Circus,
cinemas in  Leicester Square, etc. If you have a chance of replanning London
you can greatly improve on this idea. All greengrocers should  be placed  in
Hornsey  Lane (N6),  all  butchers  in  Mile  End (e1),  and all gentlemen's
conveniences in Bloomsbury (WC).
     Now I should like to give you a little practical advice on how to build
an English town.
     You must understand  that  an English  town  is a  vast  conspiracy  to
mislead foreigners. You have to use century-old little practices and tricks.
     1.  First  of  all, never build a street  straight.  The  English  love
privacy  and do not want to see  one end of  the  street from the other end.
Make sudden curves  in the  streets and build them S-shaped too; the letters
L,  T, V,  Y, W and 0 are also becoming increasingly popular.  It would be a
fine tribute to the Greeks to build a few  and -shaped streets; it would
be an ingenious compliment to the Russians to favour the shape ,  and I am
sure  the Chinese would be  more than flattered  to see some  -shaped thoroughfares.
     2.  Never build  the houses of  the same street in a straight line. The
British have always been a freedom-loving  race  and the 'freedom to build a
muddle' is one of their most ancient civic rights.
     3. Now there are further camouflage  possibilities in  the numbering of
houses.  Primitive  continental races put  even  numbers  on one  side,  odd
numbers on the other, and you always know  that small numbers start from the
north or  west. In England  you have this  system,  too;  but you may  start
numbering your  houses  at one  end, go  up to a certain  number on the same
side, then continue on the other side, going back in the opposite direction.
     You  may leave out some  numbers if you are superstitious;  and you may
continue the numbering in a side  street;  you may also give the same number
to two or three houses.
     But  this  is far from the end.  Many  people refuse  to  have  numbers
altogether,  and  they  choose names. It is  very pleasant, for instance, to
find  a  street with three  hundred and  fifty totally similar bungalows and
look for 'The Bungalow'. Or to arrive in a street  where all the houses have
a charming view of a hill and try to find  'Hill View'. Or search for 'Seven
Oaks' and find a house with three apple-trees.
     4. Give a different  name to the  street whenever it bends; but if  the
curve  is so sharp  that it really makes two different streets,  you may
keep  the same name.  On the other hand, if, owing  to neglect, a street has
been built in a  straight line  it must be  called by many  different  names
(High  Holborn, New  Oxford Street, Oxford Street,  Bayswater  Road, Netting
Hill Gate, Holland Park and so on).
     5. As some cute foreigners would be able  to learn their way about even
under  such  circumstances, some  further  precautions  are necessary.  Call
streets by various names: street, road, place, mews, crescent, avenue, rise,
lane,  way,  grove,  park,  gardens,  alley,  arch,  path,  walk,  broadway,
promenade, gate, terrace, vale, view, hill, etc.*
     * While  this book  was at the printers a correspondence  in  The Times
showed that the English  have almost sixty synonyms for 'street.' If you add
to these  the street names which stand alone (Piccadilly, Strand,  etc.) and
the accepted  and frequently  used  double  names ('Garden Terrace', 'Church
Street', 'Park Road', etc.) the number of street names reaches or  exceeds a
hundred. It has been suggested by one correspondent that this clearly proves
what  wonderful  imagination the  English  have.  I  believe  it  proves the
contrary. A West  End street in London is not called 'Haymarket' because the
playful fancy  of Londoners  populates  the district  with romantically clad
medieval food dealers,  but simply because they have not noticed as yet that
the hay trade has considerably declined  between Piccadilly and Pall Mall in
the last three hundred years.
     Now two further possibilities arise:
     (a) Gather all sorts of  streets  and  squares of the same name in  one
neighbourhood: Belsize Park, Belsize Street, Belsize  Road, Belsize Gardens,
Belsize  Green,  Belsize  Circus,  Belsize  Yard,  Belsize Viaduct,  Belsize
Arcade, Belsize Heath, etc.
     (b) Place a number  of streets  of exactly  the  same name in different
districts. If  you have about twenty Princes Squares and  Warwick Avenues in
the town, the muddle - you may claim without immodesty - will be complete.
     6.  Street names  should  be painted  clearly and  distinctly on  large
boards. Then hide these boards carefully. Place them too high or too low, in
shadow and darkness, upside down and inside out, or,  even better, lock them
up in  a safe in your bank, otherwise they may  give  people some indication
about the names of the streets.
     7. In order  to  break down the foreigner's last vestige of  resistance
and shatter his morale, one further trick is advisable: Introduce the system
of squares - real squares, I mean - which run into four streets like this:
     With this simple device it is  possible  to build a street of which the
two sides have different names.
     P.S. - I have been told that my above-described theory is all wrong and
is only due to my Central European conceit,  because the English do not care
for  the  opinion  of  foreigners.  In every  other  country,  it  has  been
explained, people  just  build streets and towns  following their own common
sense. England is the only country of the world where there is a Ministry of
Town and Country Planning. That is the real reason for the muddle.

     there  is a  world of difference  between the English Civil Servant and
the continental.
     On  the Continent (not  speaking  now of  the Scandinavian  countries),
Civil Servants  assume  a certain  military  air. They  consider  themselves
little generals; they  use delaying tactics; they cannot withdraw armies, so
they  withdraw permissions; they  thunder like cannons  and their speech  is
like  machine-gun  fire;  they cannot  lose  battles,  they  lose  documents
instead. They consider that the sole aim of human society is to give jobs to
Civil  Servants.  A few  wicked  individuals, however  (contemptible  little
groups of people who are not Civil Servants), conspire against them, come to
them  with  various  requests,  complaints,  problems, etc.,  with the  sole
purpose of making a nuisance of themselves. These people get  the  reception
they deserve. They are kept waiting in cold and dirty ante-chambers (some of
them  clean these rooms occasionally, but  they  are  hired  commissionaires
whose duty it is to re-dirty these rooms every morning); they have to stand,
often at attention, whilst they are spoken to; they are always shouted at in
a rude manner and  their requests are  turned down with malicious  pleasure.
Sometimes - this is a popular cat and mouse game - they are  sent to another
office on the fifth floor, from there they are directed to a third office in
the basement, where they are told that they should  not  have come there  at
all and sent back to the original office. In that office they are thoroughly
told off  in acrimonious language  and dispatched to the  fifth  floor  once
again,  from there to the basement and the procedure goes on endlessly until
the  poor fellows  either get  tired  of the  whole  business and give up in
despair or become raving lunatics and go to an asylum asking for admittance.
If  the  latter case occurs they are told in the reception  office that they
have come to the wrong place, they  should go to another office on the fifth
floor, from which they are sent down to the basement, etc., etc., until they
give up being lunatics.
     (If  you want  to  catch me out and ask me who are then the  people who
fill the  continental lunatic asylums, I can give you the explanation:  they
are all Civil Servants who know the ways and means of dealing with officials
and succeed in getting in somehow.)
     If  a  former  continental Civil  Servant  thought  that  this  martial
behaviour  would be  accepted  by  the  British  public  he  would be  badly
mistaken.  The  English  Civil  Servant  considers himself no soldier but  a
glorified businessman. He is smooth and  courteous; he smiles in a  superior
way; he is agreeable and obliging.
     If so - you may ask - how can he achieve the supreme object of his vast
and noble organization, namely, not to  transact any business and be left in
peace to read a good murder story undisturbed?
     There  are various, centuries-old,  true British  traditions  to secure
this aim.
     1.All orders and directives to the public are worded in such a way that
they should have no meaning whatever.
     2. All official letters are written in such a language that the oracles
of Delphi sound as  examples of clear, outspoken, straightforward statements
compared with them.
     3.  Civil   Servants  never  make  decisions,  they  only  promise   to
'consider,'  - 'consider favourably'  - or  -  and  this  is  the  utmost  -
'reconsider' certain questions.
     4. In principle the British Civil Servant stands always at the disposal
of the public. In practice he is either in 'conference' or out for lunch, or
in  but having his  tea, or just out. Some develop an admirable technique of
going out for tea before coming back from lunch.
     The British Civil  Servant, unlike the rough bully we often find on the
Continent, is the Obedient Servant  of the  public. Before the war, an alien
in this country was ordered to leave. He asked for extension of  his staying
permit, but was  refused. He  stayed on all  the same, and after  a while he
received the following letter (I quote from memory):
     Dear Sir,  The Under-Secretary of State  presents his  compliments  and
regrets  that he is unable to reconsider your case, and  begs to inform  you
that unless you  kindly  leave this  country  within  34 hours  you  will be
forcibly expelled.
     Your Obedient Servant,
     x x x
     On  the  Continent rich  and influential  people,  or  those  who  have
friends, cousins, brothers-in-law, tenants, business associates, etc., in an
office  may have  their  requests  fulfilled. In  England there  is no  such
corruption  and your obedient servant just will not do a  thing  whoever you
may be. And this is the real beauty of democracy.

     The Fact

     there was some trouble  with  the Buburuk tribe in the  Pacific Island,
Charamak.  A party of  ten  English  and  two American  soldiers,  under the
command  of  Capt. R.  L. A. T. W. Tilbury, raided the  island and took  217
revolutionary,   native   troublemakers  prisoner  and  wrecked  two   large
oil-dumps. The  party remained ashore  an  hour-and-a-half  and returned  to
their base without loss to themselves.
     How to report this event? It depends which newspaper you work for.

     . . . It would be exceedingly perilous to overestimate the significance
of the raid, but it can  be  fairly proclaimed that  it would  be  even more
dangerous to underestimate  it. The success  of the raid clearly proves that
the native  defences  are  not  invulnerable;  it would  be  fallacious  and
deceptive,  however,  to conclude that these  defences  are vulnerable.  The
number of revolutionaries  captured  cannot be  safely  stated, but it seems
likely that the number is well over 216 but well under 218.

     You may become an M.P. (Nothing is  impossible - this would not be even
unprecedented.) You may hear then the following statement by a member of Her
Majesty's Government:
     'Concerning  the two  wrecked  oil-dumps I can give this information to
the House. In the first half of this year the amount of native oil destroyed
by the Army, Navy and the R.A.F. - excluding however, the Fleet Air Arm - is
one-half  as   much   as  three  times  the  amount   destroyed  during  the
corresponding months of the previous year, seven and a half times as much as
the two-fifths destroyed two years  ago and three-quarters as much again  as
twelve times one-sixth  destroyed  three years ago.' (Loud  cheers from  the
Government benches.)
     You jump to your feet and ask this question:
     You: Is the Right Hon. Gentleman aware that people in  this country are
puzzled and worried by the fact that Charamak was raided and not Ragamak?
     the right hon. member: I have nothing to  add to my statement given  on
2nd August, 1892.
     EVENING STANDARD (Londoner's Diary)

     The most  interesting  feature  of  the Charamak raid  is the fact that
Reggie Tilbury is the fifth  son of the Earl of Bayswater.  He was an Oxford
Blue, a  first-class cricketerand quite good at  polo. When I talked to  his
wife (Lady Clarisse, the  daughter of Lord Elasson)  at Claridges today, she
wore  a black suit and a  tiny black  hat with a yellow feather  in it.  She
said: 'Reggie  was  always  very  much  interested  in warfare.'  Later  she
remarked : 'It was clever of him, wasn't it?'
     You may write a letter to the Editor of The Times:

     Sir, - In connection with the Charamak raid I should like to mention as
a matter of considerable interest that it was in that little Pacific  Island
that the distinguished English poet, John Flat, wrote his  famous  poem 'The
Cod' in 1693. Yours, etc. . ..
     You may read this answer on the following day.
     Sir, -  I  am very  grateful to Mr . .  . for calling attention to John
Flat's poem 'The Cod.' May I be allowed to use this opportunity, however, to
correct a widespread  and  in my view very unfortunate error which the great
masses of the  British people  seem to share with your  correspondent.  "The
Cod,'  although John Flat  started writing  it in 1603, was only finished in
the early days of January 1694.
     Yours, etc. . . .
     If you are the London  correspondent of the American paper THE OKLAHOMA
SUN simply cable this:
     'Yanks Conquer Pacific Ocean.'

     the verb  to  naturalize clearly proves  what the British think of you.
Before you are admitted to British citizenship you are not even considered a
natural  human being. I looked up  the word natural (na'tural) in the Pocket
Oxford Dictionary (p.  251); it says:  Of  or  according to  or provided  by
nature, physically existing, innate, instinctive, normal,  not miraculous or
spiritual or artificial or conventional. . .  . Note that before you  obtain
British citizenship, they simply doubt that you are provided by nature.
     According  to the Pocket Oxford  Dictionary  the  word  'natural' has a
second meaning, too:  Half-witted  person. This second meaning,  however, is
irrelevant from the point of view of our present argument.
     If you are tired  of not being provided by nature, not being physically
existing and being  miraculous  and conventional at the same time, apply for
British citizenship. Roughly speaking, there are two  possibilities: it will
be granted to you, or not.
     In the first case you must recognize  and revise your attitude to life.
You must  pretend that you are everything you are not and you must look down
upon everything you are.
     Copy the attitude of an  English acquaintance of mine - let us call him
Gregory Baker. He, an  English  solicitor, feels  particularly deep contempt
for  the  following classes  of  people: foreigners,  Americans,  Frenchmen,
Irishmen,  Scotsmen  and  Welshmen,  Jews,  workers,  clerks,  poor  people,
non-professional  men,  business men,  actors, journalists and literary men,
women,  solicitors  who  do  not  practise  in  his immediate neighbourhood,
solicitors  who  are  hard up and solicitors  who are too rich.  Socialists,
Liberals, Tory-reformers (Communists are not worthy  even of  his contempt);
he looks down  upon  his mother, because she has a business mind,  his wife,
because she  comes  from  a  non-professional  county  family, his  brother,
because although  he  is a professional  officer he does  not serve with the
Guards, Hussars,  or at least  with a county regiment. He adores and admires
his seven-years old son, because the shape of his nose resembles his own. If
naturalized, remember these rules:
     1. You must start  eating porridge for  breakfast and allege  that  you
like it.
     2. Speak English with your  former  compatriots. Deny that you know any
foreign  language (including your mother  tongue).  The knowledge of foreign
languages is very un-English. A little French is permissible, but  only with
an atrocious accent.
     3.  Revise your  library. Get rid of all foreign writers whether in the
original or translated  into English. The  works  of Dostoyevsky  should  be
replaced by a  volume on English Birds;  the  collected works of Proust by a
book  called  'Interior  Decoration  in  the  Regency Period';  and Pascal's
Pensees by the 'Life and Thoughts of a Scottish Salmon'.
     4. Speaking of your  new  compatriots,  always  use  the  first  person
     In  this  aspect, though,  a  certain  caution is  advisable.  I know a
naturalized Britisher  who,  talking to a  young man,  repeatedly  used  the
phrase  'We Englishmen.'  The young man looked at  him, took his pipe out of
his mouth and remarked softly: 'Sorry, Sir, I'm a Welshman,' turned his back
on him and walked away.
     The same  gentleman  was listening to a  conversation. It was mentioned
that the Japanese had claimed to have shot down 22 planes.
     'What - ours?' he asked indignantly.
     His English hostess answered icily:
     'No - ours.'

     The Land of the Rising Yen
     Everyone writes about the tea ceremony in Japan, but who, except George
Mikes, notices the way the rubbish  is thrown out?  Everyone reports his own
reaction to the Japanese sense of tradition, but who else spots the reaction
of the Japanese to their own sense of tradition?
     Whether he is describing  morals or manners,  George Mikes looks at the
Japanese as he looks at the rest of mankind - with his own inscrutable blend
of curiosity, respect, affection and charm.

     Also published

     How to be a Brit
     How to be a Decadent
     How to be a Guru
     How to be Poor
     How to be a Yank

Last-modified: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 21:19:18 GMT