Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Think I Must Be British

After only one episode of Very British Problems I've realized I must be British. MY PEOPLE! Come! Let us cancel dinner plans and sit awkwardly in our separate homes together! 


Further proof? My deep-seated adoration of The Great British Bake-Off, Sherlock, and afternoon tea and biscuits. (Because "biscuits" are COOKIES, you guys. Awww yeah.)

If you've never seen the show, or read the book or Twitter feed, here's a small sampling of Very British Problems:

 


I think you could almost make the case - as I'm about to - that it'd be more accurate to call the show Very Introverted Problems, since we introverts tend to be the black-belt level gurus of social awkwardness. I find it fascinating that an entire nation might identify so strongly with the things I've always figured made me a weirdo. I mean, here in the U.S. bold, chatty extroverts are always shown as the ideal, so it's refreshing to be reminded that's only a cultural standard, not a universal one. (If you're curious about this, check out one of the most impactful books I've ever read: The Introvert Advantage. Total perspective shift.)



There seems to be a higher percentage of socially awkward introverts in geekdom, possibly because instead of being out at bars or parties, we're home binge-watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. (Which I just did, and which I *highly* recommend.) (The book is also fab.)

Obviously there are still loads of geeky extroverts among us, which is amazing, since they're the ones introducing us to each other. And filling the awkward silences. And cajoling us to go to that con and meet that actor and stay out just a little too late. Many - if not most - of my dearest friends are extroverts. They stretch my comfort zones in the best possible ways, give me courage, distract me from my panicky times, and don't hold it against me too much when I cancel last minute because I just need to go home and be quiet now.

If this post has a point, it's this: America and our media tends to make introverts feel outnumbered, unnatural, and like we need to change to be "better." To borrow from my newfound homeland, that is total bollocks

I say, learn who you are, get comfortable with your nature and your process, and find ways to be your best, happiest you. Do what works. Learn how to communicate your needs. And when you need some encouragement after a particularly draining day, go watch Very British Problems. It'll remind you you're not alone, because we are all here for you. In a virtual sense, of course. Because it's been a long day and we're all a bit pooped and maybe we could try again for next week? Yeah. Like that.



(You can find Very British Problems - as well as Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - on Netflix streaming.)

45 comments:

  1. We finished the first episode, and my husband says "I see they've made a whole show specifically for you!" My dad is British, so it must be in my blood!

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  2. It's funny that you have decided that you're British. My brother-in-law IS British, and my sister has lived in the UK for 20 years, so she's British by default now, too.

    Your sense of humor (and John's), both here and on Cake Wrecks, has ALWAYS reminded me of their humor, and I think that's why it's been so easy to 'put myself out here' and comment about things when I normally just read quietly and smile to myself.

    Not really sure what my point is, except maybe to say, "Thanks", for making me feel at home, even if you didn't know you were doing it :)

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  3. I've decided I should've been British as soon as I read Pride and Prejudice as an 11 year old. Since then their media and way of avoiding people only has confirmed it. My husband and I binged Very British Problems and I just nodded my head the whole time. As an aside if you haven't found and watched QI with Stephan Fry you should do so immediately. It is some of the best there is.

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  4. Being British I can confirm that most of the "problems" are sooooooo accurate but being British means we can't actually talk about it because...well because we're British....so you just have to pretend that they aren't really a problem at all! The struggle is real!!

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  5. I'm Canadian, so I'm ALMOST British. lol. I watch a lot of UK shows. Our Girl, Two Doors Down. every BBC Jane Austen adaptation. Coronation street, Downton Abbey.. I could still go on

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  6. I would highly recommend the book "Quiet" by Susan Cain. It's amazing. And, speaking as a fellow introvert, it really inspired me to embrace my natural being.

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    1. I was just coming here to recumbent that one myself!

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  7. British introvert over here! We do make an art of being socially awkward. I second checking out QI (Quite Interesting) and the comedian Jack Whitehall.

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  8. Wait... they made a show based on memes/Reddit posts...? Bwhaha. I need to see this, I'm British (Scottish, living in England) and I've never heard of it! Jen, I'm assuming you're also heartbroken at the Great British Bake Off* Break-Up too? Millions of Brits are crying over their cups of tea just now. Or they would be if it were not for the stiff upper lip. ;)

    *Great British Naming Show's British title

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    1. *baking. Never posting anything from my phone again. Not only did swipe pick the wrong word, the phone also double posted for me. :(

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    2. Awkward - but perfectly illustrating the issue! ;)

      P.S. Also a Scot - gaun yersel', hen!

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    3. Awkward - but perfectly illustrating the issue! ;)

      P.S. Also a Scot - gaun yersel', hen!

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  10. Welcome to the tribe! *waves from the UK*

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  11. Hi from the UK! unfortunately the very british problem show is not on UK Netflix :)

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    1. You don't need Netflix, it's a Channel 4 show. 4 episodes currently available on All 4.

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  12. One of us! One of us! One of us! *waves awkwardly*

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  13. As a Canadian I'm pretty close to being a brit as it is. But I find myself using the slang and dodging the unknown callers, saying I like something when I really don't...
    And then when I took a trip over my first thought after I stepped off the plane was 'I'm home' lol.

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  14. As a Canadian I'm pretty close to being a brit as it is. But I find myself using the slang and dodging the unknown callers, saying I like something when I really don't...
    And then when I took a trip over my first thought after I stepped off the plane was 'I'm home' lol.

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  15. I started watching the show and hated and despised it.

    It wasn't funny, it was my life. Which isn't funny - it's painful and exhausting and hard to deal with (even though I've embraced my introversion since I had the language to do it). and for the record, I am Scottish and delight over dry British humor...
    Dunno. I wanted to love it, I just didn't. Maybe it just too close to home?

    Anyway, now that I tried to love it, hated it, and YOU really love it...now I feel guilty that I didn't like it, and that maybe something's actually the matter with me, and cue anxiety-monster. But I figure you'd understand. And maybe like me anyway (or at least not hate me) for this long confession.

    On the other hand:
    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? My new favorite. Hands down. Only I've chosen to savor it...only one episode a week (only two left!) 'cause I get all sad when my favorite things end.

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    1. I totally get where you're coming from. Freaks and Geeks was like that for me: it hit so close to home it hurt, dredged up painful memories. To a lesser extent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does the same. So please don't feel bad! We all click with different things, and that's what keeps life interesting. :)

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    2. Maybe it is more funny/less painful for Yankees because we see so little of it since we can feel bombarded with so much of the extrovert ideal. I enjoyed the show a bit, but found other parts cringe-worthy in its familiarity.

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  16. I watched the entire series a couple of Saturdays ago, came to the conclusion that I'm actually British just after seeing the intro to the first show! Never have I identified so strongly with anything.

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  17. Please don't conflate 'introversion' with 'social awkwardness'. Social skills can be learned and many of us introverts have! I love talking to people, but I'm an introvert because my inner life is more important than my outward life (would you rather read or vacuum? is a good introvert/extrovert separator) and I need alone time to recharge.

    Many extroverts are socially awkward, and it's more painful for them because they NEED social interaction much more than us innies do.

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    1. Totally agree the two don't always go hand-in-hand, but given how much we introverts prize our alone/recharge time, it's only natural we have less practice at social skills - and of course our introspective natures means we feel the awkward that much more. ;)

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    2. Yes! Thank you Kathleen. A true introvert is, by definition, not someone who doesn't want to be around other people/is awkward, but recharges their inner batteries by being alone. People never guess that I am very introverted and my husband is highly extroverted, but he NEEDS other people around, and I NEED to be alone in silence at least once a day. I have great social skills, and often enjoy a good party/event, as long as I know that I am going to have a quiet day or two surrounding it.

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    3. This. As an extrovert with social anxiety I tend to feel like I'm getting it from both sides sometimes. The 'extroverts are happy, gregarious individuals who always want to chat and hang out and party with you all the time.' And also the 'only introverts can truly understand being awkward and then feeling bad about being awkward and just wanting to go/stay home.' I don't think that's what you mean to say. But part of my problem is reading into things too much, and this is often the message I feel left with any time social anxiety and extroversion/introversion are discussed in tandem.

      I don't mean to devalue your experience in any way or try and tout some silly #extrovertsmattertoo or #notallextroverts message. I just...it's hard, you know? Not only do I have all this trouble running through multiple mental checklists every single time I leave the house, and taking 2 months to finally get up the motivation to call and make a doctor's appointment because I have to actually talk to someone -- and then I actually have to go to the appointment -- I feel like I must be the only one in this weird gap of dreading going places and also dreading being alone all the time. I realize rationally that there must be other people who feel this way, but that doesn't really help.

      I'm not really sure why I felt the need to unload that here. Maybe because I respect your opinion and experience, Jen, and because I applaud you for making yourself vulnerable in order to reach other people with similar issues. And so it...hurts. To feel like I'm doing it wrong by being both of these things at the same time (even beyond the pain of social anxiety on its own.) Actually, just typing this out is making me cry and completely second guess myself. I don't want to make you feel badly at all. I know you have no malice in your heart about this. But unlike my usual MO, I'm just going to post it anyway instead of deleting over half an hour of typing, deleting, retyping. Maybe someone else like me will come to these comments like I did to see if anyone else feels like they do, and feel less alone.

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  18. I just discovered that show yesterday! Great fun, so many actors that I love (Stephen Mangan!).

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  19. This show is hilarious! I finally broke down and watched a bit after this post. I especially relate to never being able to speak to someone again if you don't catch their name. I had this incredibly traumatizing event when I was about 13 in a library. I met a boy my age who had a very unfamiliar foreign name I didn't even want to try and pronounce. We spend a couple hours together becoming the best of friends sharing our favorite books and hopes and dreams. Then at the end, I was about to leave with a big pile of books he'd recommended and I asked him to tell me his name again. He then says, "Oh, sorry, but I think if you can't remember someone's name it means you never really wanted to meet them. Bye." All the books he recommended were awesome and I never saw or spoke to him again. I now have a little internal freak out if I forget someone's name!

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    1. That was an awful thing for him to say. But very, err, middle school? At that age you think you've accumulated all the wisdom.

      I just tell people right up front that I'm awful with names, and have trouble with short term memory, but that I'll be delighted to meet them every time!

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    2. Yeah, it was very middle school, wasn't it? I kinda wonder if the kid has spent the rest of his life cringing over that and berating himself for saying that. Ah, well. Hope he's happy . . . whatever his name is!

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  20. I haven't seen the show (must check it out on All 4) but their tweets and memes keep popping up in my facebook feed.

    Guys, not all Brits identify with this, just as not all Americans are the diametric opposite. Having said that, the memes speak to my soul and all of the above reactions are why I feel so at home being part of this America-based community.

    That and I have an automatic love for other people called Jen.

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  21. Will definitely check it out, as well as the book you recommended. Another recommendation of yours a while back—"Hope and help for your nerves"—has helped me immensely.^^ Am currently in a situation where i have to deal with lawyers, state department officials et cetera, which is a nightmare for me so I am super grateful for anything which helps me handle this, including humor.^^ I'm sure you all know "Sarah's Scribbles".

    Also, LOVE Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel, one of my favorite books ever. I mainly picked it up because I liked the cover art and there was a blurb on the back that Neil Gaiman loved it, that was enough of a reason to buy it. Never regretted it. Loved the show as well, it stayed very close and true to the book~!♥ Alas, no footnotes. *laughs*

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  22. Puts down her cuppa, finishes buttering her crumpet, waves and blushes, then hides under the table... hi from England!

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  23. Yeah Introverts Unite! But not all at once and not too often and can you keep it down?

    It's funny how your children can teach you so much more about yourself. My youngest is very much an introvert and I see myself in her so much. And helping her navigate the world is also helping me understand why I struggled for so many years!

    Also, my dream is to retire to a small cottage in rural England and be Miss Marple!

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  24. If you like that, you should enjoy the British Problems subreddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/britishproblems/

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  25. I am a Brit and the term "total Bollocks" is an everyday phrase that I always find usefull.
    Welcome to the dark side, we`ll have you being sarcastic with your tea and biscuits soon.

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  26. ... and just for the record I wasn`t being sarky in the above post I just didn`t phrase it well.

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  27. I took the AncestryDNA test with the estimated ethnicity...84% British!!

    Seriously. A person living in London right now is only about 60% British and I'm half a dozen generations separated from the dear homeland. There's a combo of factors that explains this, but I still enjoy sharing it.

    Well, I know what's next for me on Netflix. Also Poldark is nearly here!!

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  28. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is on my watch list! I haven't started yet, but I'm glad to see so many recommendations for it.

    I had not heard of British Problems, but it sounds like my life already. I always suspected I was meant to be British (if being British means loving tea, appreciating dry humor, and cursing about poop so that it rhymns with 'kite', among other things). ;)

    -Just Andrea

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  29. As a Brit who has been reading Epbot since its very first day (I don't even want to consider how many years that has been) I have a lot to say about this - especially as a Brit who went through a strong introvert-to-extrovert personality shift AND now lives in the US.

    I'll not write an essay, but should I ever be fortunate to meet you and John, I shall be sure to talk about this for a wee while. It's kinda fascinating really how different cultures view standard interactions, and what it can be like to be in 'reverse minorities' (I found the quiet, non-interacting middle-class part of british culture suffocating as an extrovert Brit when I first moved to Uni, for example). Especially when in the grand scheme of the world, British and US cultures aren't soooo divergent.

    Lewis x

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  30. I see your Very British Problems and raise you Finnish Nightmares. Here's the link to the webcomic:

    Finnish Nightmares

    I think our reputation as the most introverted nation is safe:)
    Oh, and Worldcon is in Helsinki next year! Anybody coming? We can all be awkward and slightly uncomfortable together. (Yes, it gets easier when we get to know you, I promise.)

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  31. After I read this post my husband and I watched a couple of episodes. In the second episode there was a bit where the narrator said "a study shows that Brits say 'sorry' about eight times a day". My husband and I looked at each other and said "Is that all???" To us Canadians that seems shockingly low. I guess because Canadians are more likely to talk to each other (usually about the weather), we have many more opportunities to be sorry.

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  32. I stupidly signed myself out instead of posting! ARG!

    Anyway, I totally watched VBP on my own without knowing you made this post. OMG, same wavelengths! I identify with so many of those things but I'm totally the loud American. You do NOT ruin my food and think you're not going to hear about it right away. You will also know about it if you're getting too close to my personal bubble.|

    Making my way through Johnathan Strange VERY slowly. I finished the book a few months back(after owning it and never even thinking about reading it for years) so it's still fresh in my mind. I'm not understanding a lot of the changes that have been made in it at all! They make zero sense to me and it's all rather blah to me.

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