'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: ဘComment 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