Monday, February 11, 2013


I was wading through Twitter the other evening and came across this account @VeryBritishProblems and it made me giggle. You know the old saying “It’s funny because it’s true?” Well this is why I found myself reading these, nodding and giggling to myself. But then I wondered were the following really “British” problems? Or simply situations those of us that are a little awkward and polite get ourselves into?  For example...

“Never wanting to use an exclamation mark yet worrying you'll come across as miserable without one”

The problem with the written word is that there is no intonation and until someone designs a universal Sarcasm Font, we will have to resort to punctuation marks and emoticons to get our enthusiasm across. I’ve become so used to putting a smiley face into my correspondence that I no longer know where to draw the line. I’ll be drafting professional correspondence and be inserting a winky face just to lighten the mood and have to pull myself back from the edge. The exclamation mark DOES make things look super friendly but can also come across a little maniacal. It’s a fine line.

“Saying you're pleased with your haircut despite the deep inner sadness it is causing you”

I once believd this was only a women’s pain, but now I realise it is a shared pain for both the sexes. You sit and watch your reflection in the mirror as slowly your world falls apart but oh no, you won’t stop them or say anything as they shear off more than double the amount of hair you requested. You will answer the very personal questions they ask you as they continue to annihilate your fringe. And then you smile over excitedly and agree to be up-sold some unnecessary hair products whilst paying the equivalent to US National Debt, all whilst desperately muttering in your head, “it WILL grow back, it WILL grow back”

“Attempting to deal with a queue-jumper by staring fiercely at the back of their head”

I’m pretty sure I’ve never called out a queue jumper in my life. Why? I do give a mean stare though. A real ‘don’t fuck with me, even though you just did and I’m too chicken shit to call you out on it’ stare. 

“Keeping absolutely still when someone else walks in when you are in the toilet stall”

Why?? I mean I’m not in there to  get updates on the NASDAQ. I’m in there for one reason and one reason only. So why then do I get this kind of stage fright? Why do I have this great fear that someone will, heaven forbid, hear me drop a deuce?  This is insane yet I will probably forever wait them out OR make an inordinate amount of noise with the toilet paper roll to cover my tracks. Special mention also goes to the far too polite "Someone's in here" cry when some dipshit pushes on your door even though it clearly says ENGAGED.

“Getting stuck in a "fine thanks, how are you?" loop”

Urggh. Me. Daily. Often it’s because I can't remember a) their name or b) where I know them from. This prevents me moving the conversation ANYWHERE because I have no effing point of reference to go from. The weather can occasionally save me from this round robin. Especially in Melbourne.

“When someone knocks into you and you say sorry even though it wasn’t your fault”

How often do find yourself walking along, minding your own business and some jerk pushes past you only for YOU to be the one that aplogises? 

“Being incapable of placing your items on the counter in a shop without saying “just these thanks”” 

Oh, as opposed to all the other shit you DIDN’T place on the counter? The cashier is of course thinking this in their minds but will thankfully, never say it. 

“Not wanting to be the one that takes the last piece of garlic bread”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rejected the last piece of garlic bread in a group dinner situation even though I’d pretty much been willing to sell my 1st born child for it. Everyone at that table wants it but we are all just TOO polite to say so. I throw down the challenge to all of you – next time you find yourself in this situation, take it. Just damn well take it and enjoy that delicious bread. 

“Panicking in a sandwich shop and allowing a distressingly odd combination of fillings to happen”

I’ve walked out with a liver pate, beetroot and seeded mustard on rye. That is how cornered *I* have felt.

“Feeling you must keep your hands excessively on show while in a shop, so as not to be suspected of thievery”

This is kind of similar to the feeling I get when a police car pulls up beside me. For some reason I feel the need to act COMPLETELY cool so as to not attract attention. Which of course just attracts attention. And makes me look suspicious even though I’ve got nothing to look suspicious about. 

So is all this politeness just going too far? Should I just become less of a pussy cat and more of a Tiger in my approach towards these social situations? I don’t think so. I mean sure I might eat a dodgy sandwich from time to time and maybe even be unfairly arrested for looking undeniably suspicious on a major arterial road, but I can live with the fact that I am, at heart, a nice person. A nice person with a terrible haircut. 


BabyMac said...

They are hilarious!

Caro Webster said...

Bern, I agree with Beth. Hilarious! (excuse the exclamation mark) and what's more you made me snort my tea through my nostrils whilst reading....

allison tait said...

Love this!!!!!!! (see how much)

Benison said...

Ah, I've missed you lately. Hilarious and spot on as ever.

I'm getting a little more assertive in my old age and have occasionally tackled the odd queue jumper, but the toilet one... nah, I'll never get over that. At least we're not like the Japanese, where they have running water flowing in the loos so you can't hear women peeing! (Just one exclamation mark, you'll note). x

Stella Orbit said...

Someone very close to me never fails the call the queue jumpers at Silo (fancy bakery with LONG queues). I just gently pat his arm and hope that no one recognises me.

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Kylie Purtell said...

How weird is the hair thing right, why is it universal for hairdressers to just not listen to what you want. Maybe it's because half their job is having to sound interested in what people waffle on to them about, which they tune out, so when the all important part of what you say you want done to your hair comes around, they tune that out too? I don't know, but it's annoying! And I'm so with you on the toilet thing, it's like a weird compulsion!

Olivia said...

I'm with Caro " tea through my nostrils". Well said.

Olivia said...

I'm with Caro " tea through my nostrils". Well said.