Thursday, January 18, 2007

Life in a Big City

It's been windy today and all the trains are messed up because of trees being uprooted etc etc. Poor Mr K-E had a meeting in Tywford today. I don't know where it is either, but it's far away from London. This morning, Mr K-E had to take a taxi from Newport to Twyford, it cost him £65!!
Anyway, he's home now...hooray.

And the news is full of Shilpa Shetty, Jade Goody, Celebrity Big Brother and racist/non-racist bullying. Everything in the world must be familiar with the Big Brother format now - this year, there is a Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty in the Big Brother house. I think she's quite a big star in India, but of course unknown in the UK. Also in the house this year are three stupid young women - Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo (failed S Club singer).

Jade Goody - ex Big Brother contestent. Has been the most successful Big Brother survivor, despite being famous for being stupid.
Danielle Lloyd - Won Miss England contest but lost her title when it came out that she was sleeping with one of the judges, Terry Sheringham. A B-list WAG.
Jo from S Club - failed solo career. Now breeds dogs.

The three meanies have been nasty to Shilpa, who could be slightly annoying I guess. But I must admire her dignity and self control - she doesn't respond to Jade's awful comments eg "your head is far up your own fucking arse you can smell your own shit". Hmmm what a nice woman.

Danielle called Shilpa "a dog" and also said " I wish she would just fuck off home..."

I don't know if the racist element has been blown all out of proportion. I think it's more that they are just from such different backgrounds. Jade and Co obviously feel threatened by Shilpa, I believe part of the problem is that she doesn't fit in with their idea of what an Indian person should be like.

And of course they are doubly suspicious of her because she doesn't drink alcohol. I've worked in the UK for nearly ten years now and I can honestly say that people in England have a strange and complicated relationship with alcohol. It's their main way of socialising, relaxing and establishing social bonds. It's not just about getting roaring drunk and being sick in gutters, it's also about dinner parties, office get togethers and boozy lunchtimes in the pub. If someone asks you if you fancy a drink, he's not just asking you out for an alcoholic beverage - what he's really saying is - I want to be your friend. Not drinking means that you can't be trusted because obviously you are a "control freak", you can't be trusted etc etc.

Whether you agree with drinking alcohol or not, this is a fact of life here. I guess you could compare it to the status of food and eating in Brunei. In Brunei, if you love someone you feed them. You show your love by saving them best morsels from your plate and buying the most expensive food for them to eat. When you ask someone to join you for lunch, it's not just about the eating, is it? It's about the bonding over eating together. And would you ever invite someone round to your house and NOT feed them?

A few years ago I was invited to a party given by one of my (English) friend's parents. I didn't feel like drinking that day, so I stuck to the soft drinks. My hosts obviously didn't feel comfortable with this. I gently explained that it wasn't against my religion and I wasn't pregnant (!!!) but they must have felt that it was a failure for them as hosts. They kept offering me different drinks (wine? beer? port? sherry?) until it got really embarassing. Even my friend stepped in said - look. she's fine. she doesn't want a drink. Finally I had Amaretto (a kind of almond liqueur) just to escape.

But you can imagine something like that happening in Brunei, but with food not drink. You don't like chicken. Okay eat the lamb? How about the beef? Whats wrong, diet ka? You so thin, why don't you eat? Eat. Eat. Do you eat eggs? I can fry some eggs for you if you want eggs......etc etc....

When I first started working in the UK, if I was invited round to colleagues' houses for "drinks", I used to turn up hungry - thinking that I would be fed when I got there. Instead I used to get drunk because there would be lots of alcohol and a bag of Kettle chips. I remember one time, Mr K-E and I were invited by his colleague to visit his flat after work. We went there straight from work and I was starving....he produced two big bags of crisps (there were about ten of us) and some beer. I remember thinking OMG. How could you invite people round and not provide food...especially after work??

Now I know better. Eat first. Then drink orange juice mixed with lemonade. (It's more grown up then Diet Coke)


Jewelle Tan said...

Read a bit of the Big Brother controversy as well but I think it's just people playing on sensitive issues for (cheap) publicity sake. I mean, it is only 3 persons take, its not some nationwide polls or something. If there is anyone who is grateful for all that publicity, it is the producer.

I have a cousin who just returned from a few years of work in UK and he said the same thing, it's "see you at the pub" etc. Drinking all the time.

Thanks for sharing what it is like over there.

Katie-Ella said...

It's all about adapting, I guess. PS I'm always amazed that someone is reading my blog. Eeek. I'm glad you find it interesting.