25 Sep 2009

'Am I British?' An Identity crisis.

The other day (whilst being a supernumerary in a Philosophy and Ethics class) I was asked if I was British. I said 'yes'. I was born here and have lived my entire life on these isles. But it got me thinking, am I really British?

My grandma is Portuguese (I've nicknamed her '4 and a half feet of pure Portuguese terror' as she is without doubt the scariest woman I have ever met. She could play a tight-head prop and give Vickery a run for his money) so I'm a quarter Portuguese.

My mum was born in Tanzania and lived in Brazil for the first stage of her life. Whilst not a genetic factor it has impacted on her view of the world and thus, through my upbringing, impacted upon mine.

My family is (if one goes back far enough) Norman. Which then leads to a Viking past. So I'm kind of Scandinavian (and a bit French).

I have relations in Canada, Australia, The USA and New Zealand. Or as we still refer to them 'the colonies'.

I feel that I have more affinity with Europe than Britain and a 'British culture' is something that is at best a joke. We are seemingly belligerent when abroad, snobbish, obsessed with ourselves, grumpy, superior, reserved, conservative and emotionally repressed.

But then, is this really what being British is? Or is this just how other nations view us?

Now for those who read this blog regularly (John, Kelvin and Amanda...yep, just you guys) you may think 'but you covered this in your post about the English' but you'd be wrong. Being English and being British is different. Ask a Scot if he is British and he might (might) say yes. Ask him if he is English and he'll smash your face in.

What I'd like would be for people to comment their perceptions of the British. I'd like to see how I'm, as a British person, viewed. From this I might be able to see if I fit the 'British mould'.

Hopefully you can help me to answer the question:

Am I British?


  1. Are you fucking kidding me?

    In the first seven words of your post, two of the words were "whilst" and "supernumerary."

    Of course you're British.

  2. How interesting. I am a little French myself but mainly Welsh. I would definitely say though that I am an American citizen through and through. The only comment I have to make on Brit's is how amazing your accents are. I just love them.

  3. That whole 'we are seemingly...' paragraph -- I think that's untrue. I mean, I'm not like that when I travel. Are you? Are your friends? I doubt it. That's just a few dickwads that ruin it for the rest of us (but having said that, I've _never_ had any anti-British sentiment while travelling -- ask an American traveller if they can say the same...)

    The great thing about being British is that we ARE a mutt race (though going back a 1000 years is a bit of a stretch -- most 'modern' European borders weren't decided until the last 500 years or so). We're made up of so many different cultures and ethnicities, and that's what makes us great! And flexible! And so very varied.

    Obviously if people are going to be prejudiced, or believe outmoded/dated stereotypes, then so be it. But truth be told, I like to think that when I travel, no one's ever met someone like me before. Because I am uniquely British...!

  4. I'm inclined to agree Seb. I've always felt that alloys are stronger and I've never felt any kind of anti-British sentiment when abroad. I also don't think we really are any of those things (with the exception the aforementioned dickheads) I was just trying to understand how we're viewed from outside and try to then extrapolate some kind of understanding. And I was drunk when I wrote it.

    Perhaps being British is the ultimate postmodern identity - defined by what we are not and tongue placed firmly in cheek.

  5. Ugh, postmodernity... you're not one of them too are you?!

    I think there'll always be dickheads. Sure, some people will prejudge us based on what our dickheaded brethren get up to while abroad, but it's probably not worth caring about those few people anyway.

    I think, in general, and considering we ran a world-spanning empire for 250 years, the world has an incredibly nice view of us.

    I imagine that back during our expansion stage we probably weren't quite as popular -- but who knows. Maybe the Indians and Canadians and Africans welcomed us with open arms. I wonder.

  6. I actually had the same conversation with a Maasai chief who said that he really liked the British rule. He was a nice chap who had killed seven lions with a spear. I elected not to mention that he was sat on my iPod.

    I would never refer to myself as a proponent of postmodernism but hell, I learnt about it at uni and haven't used it since. Thought it would give a pseudo-educated air to proceedings.

  7. British? they use a lot of "s" than "z" in writing. when they speak, there's something in their tone.
    that was just my observations with my cousins whenever they visit manila.

    but besides that, i think british are arrogant/egoistical (i mean it in a positive way). maybe that has something to do with "world history" and the "royal impression" with the british monarchy.

    btw, i never met a scot before. but maybe i'll know one for sure. they wear skirts regarless of gender. lol