England, famous across the world as the country of Shakespeare, royalty, fair play and manners, is a nation of “overweight, sex-and-celebrity-obsessed TV addicts,” a new tourist guide said.
The Rough Guide to England, which was written by four British travel writers, says that there is nowhere “so fascinating, beautiful and culturally diverse, yet as insular, self-important and irritating, as England.”
The country has been scarred by the 2005 London bombings and the Iraq War, making it a “querulous, quarrelsome country” that could be in the grip of an identity crisis, it says.
English people may hold forth on politics, law and order and immigration, but also lap up “celebrity chit-chat.”
“As a glance at the tabloid newspapers will confirm, England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts,” it says.
Reserve is still a key national trait — attempting a conversation with a stranger “can be seen as tantamount to physical assault,” the guide says — and a person’s accent is the equivalent of a consumer brand.
Social inequality is rife, too, as “a tiny aristocracy, who in some cases trace their roots to the Norman Conquest of the eleventh century, still own most of the land” and there is an attack on creeping materialism.
The guide also rails against “identikit” provincial towns and “overpriced, under-funded public transport.”
Foreign tourists are also warned that the English are “the most contradictory people imaginable.”
“However long you spend in the country you’ll never figure them out,” it adds.
But the guide is not entirely negative, reserving a soft spot for the country’s love of animals, generosity to charities, irony, its openness to refugees, thriving arts and culture and the soothing quality of BBC Radio 4.