01x03 - Feelings and Emotions

Britain, the home of the British. Its 60 million citizens busy themselves doing things like having a snack or a cup of tea, getting home from work and staring into their mobile phones until it's time for bed.

The British are united by a rich culture and a proud history, but we're also united by much more powerful and problematic forces...

Our very British problems.

(Thunder rumbles)

Music: Mis-Shapes by Pulp

♪ Misshapes, mistakes, misfits ♪
♪ Raised on a diet of broken biscuits ♪
♪ Oh, we don't look the same as you ♪
♪ And we don't do the things you do ♪
♪ But we live around here, too Oh, really... ♪

If you've ever tutted in a queue, worn an anorak on your summer holiday just in case, or apologised to an inanimate object, then you are suffering from very British problems and you are not alone.

I don't know why I do it, but I do it all the time.

VBPs are deeply ingrained in the national psyche.


From our adherence to strict unwritten social codes, to our excruciating awkwardness around others...

Sorry, sorry... we have a horror of offending and a boundless capacity for embarrassment.

I'd eat a plate of cold sick, I think, before complaining to a waiter.

But why are we like this?

Why do we insist on making things so complicated for ourselves?

And do we secretly enjoy it?

I'm an island race -- leave me alone!

In this series, we'll investigate the hidden prompts and signals we all somehow inherently recognise and understand.

Tutting is one of the most British things.

We'll look for the logic behind the British behaviour that the rest of the world finds baffling.

I've never met a people who were better at not getting to the point than Brits.

And if you're suffering in silence, we'll help you be proud of your condition.

Ah, it's tough being British.

These might be problems, but they're OUR problems.

Very British Problems.

Last time, we had a good look at the VBPs we have to overcome while out and about.

This time, I'm afraid we're going to have to talk about the very thing the British are worst at talking about -- our feelings.

The British have traditionally been proud to have the stiffest upper lips in the world.

We find it hard to express ourselves. It's...

It's hidden in so many layers inside us.

We don't like emotions.

I mean, I really don't like emotions, I don't even understand emotions, to be honest with you.

I think there are a lot of British people who struggle with emotion.

From the malaria-ridden heroes of the Empire to the cheery stoicism of the Blitz, there has never been anything less British than wearing your heart on your sleeve.

We don't even like wearing it round the house.

A survey found that a fifth of us have not expressed an emotion at all in the last 24 hours, nor remember when we last did.

Whatever emotions we might be feeling, there's always something stopping us expressing them, even in the most extreme situations.

I was on a flight coming back from Belfast, and it was the worst turbulence I've ever...

And at first, it was pretty bad, and then the plane basically did that.

My reaction was, "f*cking hell!"

I said, "We're going down, we're going down!"

And it turned into a sudden...

And you know that awful thing of going, "I should ring me family, I should do that," you know what I mean?

Let them know I love them. And then I immediately went, "Ooh, but if I don't crash, I could get into trouble."

And I was convinced we were crashing and then there was that thing of going, "What shall I text?"

You know, and then you're going, "No, cos they'll know that I've turned me phone on."

And I sat on a plane, convinced I was dying, but was too British to let the people closest to me know how I felt about them in my dying moments.

'We are, as everyone knows, a reserved, phlegmatic lot.

'A race of deadpans, little given to parading our emotions.'

Other more hot-blooded nations are mystified by our dignified restraint.

I was making a film in Mexico with Raul Julia, fantastic actor.

He's from Puerto Rico and I was the only English actor on the shoot.

And Raul said, you know, "As a British actor, British person, can you express happiness without saying anything?" So I went...

And then he said, "Now sadness." And I went...

So he did it and he was like, "Happiness," and, "Sadness."

But that was the difference between the two of us.

Happiness... sadness.

So our emotions are almost undetectable to the untrained eye, and other people not noticing them is just how we like it.

Because if there's one thing British people really don't like, it's being around other people when one of us is experiencing an emotion.

You don't want to cry, because that's awful.

No-one wants to see crying in public in Britain -- that's for Italians and people like that.

It's like you're doing a sh1t or something.

You go and do that privately, you go and have your emotions in a small room we've designed for emotions, and I'll be over there and when I come back in, we'll pretend that there's no extremes of anything going on in our lives.

If someone comes to me with a lot of emotion and... angst, my reaction is... "Please go away."

This complicated relationship with our emotions, although we don't like to call it a relationship, is made even more confusing by the fact that the British are completely incapable of expressing themselves simply, directly and honestly.

For starters, there are certain phrases that mean the complete opposite of how they appear, which can confuse things immensely.

I think we're great at euphemisms in Britain.

It's all with a good intention, isn't it?

It's because you don't want people to feel bad.

Rather than say to somebody... "I think you're completely wrong," you'll say, "With respect, I'm looking at this from a different angle and I'm wondering whether..."

Foreigners coming to Britain often need extra guidance to understand our jokey understatement and opaque way of speaking.

But Brits understand how this doublespeak works instinctively.

My dad uses the code, "What's this rubbish on the television?" for, "Can we switch over?"

"Is that what we're having for dinner?" means, "I don't want that for dinner."

When people use the word "fine"...

What's the determination of "fine", anyway?

When someone says they're fine, you just know that they're not.

Yeah, if someone says to you, "I'm not bothered," they are bothered, they are REALLY bothered.

"Is that what you're wearing?" is what my mum says to me.

"Is THAT what you're wearing?" Which means, "That's the wrong thing you're wearing."

"What are you wearing?" is a cracker.

"Oh, you're wearing that?"

Which I get constantly. You know what I mean?

I get that now because I think one of the first dates I went on with my wife, she went, "What are you wearing?"

In that kind of, "What ARE you wearing?"

And it was a shirt... I took a gamble on this bowling shirt that I thought was really smart.

But this kind of thing is for beginners.

Sometimes, we can go to even greater lengths to say what we mean without saying what we mean.

I think foreigners think we're obsessed by the weather, and they think that because it's so variable here.

No, it's not about the weather, the conversation is not about the weather.

I'm going to have many conversations about the weather today, which I will enjoy, because it's a form of social interaction we all understand -- that's why we talk about the weather. Simple as that. It's the one thing where we understand.

If I come in and say, "Oh, this rain's really annoying, isn't it?" and you reply with, "Yeah, it is, it is really annoying, but I've heard it's going to clear up later."

And then I say, "Well, they said that yesterday, but it didn't..."

That's not a conversation about rain. It's not a conversation about rain.

It's a conversation about how you're feeling.

The first person is saying, "I'm really depressed."

"It's raining, isn't it?"

The second person is saying, "Cheer up, it might clear up later, they say it'll clear up later."

The first person's going, "No, don't do that to me. I'm so depressed, you can't cheer me up."

That's what that conversation means, it's not about rain.

But while the British are experts at speaking in euphemisms and using codes like talking about the weather to get our emotions across, other nations put a huge cultural value on straight talk and are infuriated by the circuitous way we go about things.

I've never met a people who were better at not getting to the point than Brits.

Of just dancing around the topic.

"I was wondering if it was in the realm of possibility that you might, on an outside chance... Well, to put it another...."

"WHAT?! What do you want?!" You could say anything at that point.

You could say, "Do you want some figs?"

That at least breaks their train of thought and then, "No, no, what I was wondering is... could you get out of my seat?"

And they will then get to the point, but you have to help them along, you have to nurture them.

Otherwise, they will just... It'll go on for hours.

Why don't you tell us how you really feel, Rich?

Despite what the Americans think, this lack of plain speaking works for the British... but only if both people are on the same page.

If one person takes the other at face value...

[SHE GASPS].. all hell breaks loose.

Even asking someone how they are, that's fraught with pitfalls and perils.

And no-one actually wants to know.

You ask someone how they are and they're not very good, it becomes very uncomfortable.

"Hey, how you doing?" "I'm not too good at the moment."

"Well, yeah, apart from that, are you all right?"

"No, I'm not all right."

"Well, apart from that, everything's been good?"

"No, I'm very sick at the moment."

"Well, apart from that, have you been well?"

"How are you?" "Well..." What?! What's wrong with you?

Why are you telling me how you are?

I didn't ask. I mean, I did ask, but you know I didn't mean it.

This kind of airing of personal information is very un-British.

Historically, being an island surrounded by water has made us vulnerable to invasion, which is perhaps why we feel so uncomfortable when asked to divulge intimate details.

There are certain coffee shops now where you go and order a coffee and they ask your name.


Why do you need to know my name? Why do you need to know my name?

They say it's to kind of make people feel more welcome.

Nada, doesn't do that to me.

Doesn't make me feel more... I feel intruded upon.

I don't want to give my name, so I always lie.

That's quite interesting, to lie.

Because you suddenly feel like you're a spy or something.

So, say, "And can I take your name today, please?"

And I'm always Jane.

I should think of something more exciting, I suppose, but I'm always Jane and they'll go, erm, "And it's a soy latte for Jane."

But I have questioned them about it and I've said, "Listen, I don't know your name, why do you need to know mine?"

She wanted a coffee, not a therapy session!

But though we're so uptight that we don't even want to tell people our names, luckily, us Brits do have one very effective way to let it all out.

You're allowed to express emotions when you're watching sport or playing sport.

Extreme joy, absolute rage, anger, sadness, passion, tears, all within the safety net of, "This doesn't actually matter."

I remember... I think it was Italia 1990 where Paul Gascoigne cried.

My brother and I were so invested and we balled our eyes out.

It was like someone had died.

I can't... I don't remember feeling such emotion for years again.

For Brits, the sporting arena is a safe space where, at an appointed time and place, with a clear set of rules, and presided over by an umpire or referee, we're allowed to truly let rip.

We invented rugby, snooker, curling, badminton, football, darts, cricket, netball, bowls, rounders and golf.

You're welcome.

Giving the rest of the world something to do, and ourselves an opportunity to express extreme emotion while pretending it's actually about something completely different, like a ball going where it's supposed to.

When you see those things of fans crying in the stands when their team's been relegated...

I honestly believe that that is a release of something else.

The man where life is just a bit too hard, it's just a bit too much of a struggle.

Perhaps working in a job they don't like or feeling unsatisfied in some way with their life, and you can... "Argh!" You can get it all out on a Saturday afternoon.

'For thousands of their supporters, it was, "Wembley belongs to me. Turf and all." '

In a survey, two thirds of men said football makes it easier for them to share their emotions with other men.

And in extreme moments of celebration, British men will even dabble with the kind of tactile behaviour you'd normally associate with Europeans.

When you go to the football, which I do, on a regular basis, you're allowed to be angry.

You're allowed to express moments of triumph.

If your team scores a goal, you can grab that person who you've never met sitting next to you round the shoulders and jump up and down, screaming, "Come on!"

But be careful -- sports have rules and those rules apply to the level of emotion you can express while watching them, too.

I went to the lawn bowls during the Olympics.

Me and my little brother, because it was our first time, we didn't quite know how to behave.

So when, you know, they attempted their bowl, like, me and my brother were like, "Yes, you go on, bruv!"

And everyone's like, "You don't behave like that at bowls."

"Sorry, guys, first time."

It depends what sport you're watching.

Cricket has totally different rules about what emotions are allowed to be expressed.

Pretty much none.

It's totally legitimate to shout at a football match, "The referee's a w*nk*r."

I mean, everyone will back you up on that. It's just... It's a given.

You can't do that at cricket.

No-one will start a chant of, "The umpire is a w*nk*r," at the cricket.

So, to recap, just because we Brits don't wear our hearts on our sleeves, it doesn't mean we're heartless.

You just have to understand the rules of how we express ourselves.

Say the opposite of what you mean, never tell anyone how you're actually feeling, even if they ask, and if you must vent an emotion, go to a football match.

Me? Oh, no, no, I'm fine, thanks. Absolutely fine.

No, no, I don't mind doing this at all. Honestly.

Before the break, we learnt that the British have some clever, unique and low-key coping mechanisms to deal with our feelings.

No need to make a fuss about it.

But there are some scenarios where we need to employ our hidden British codes to avoid an un-British emotional outburst.

One of these is when we're angry.

I think there is a common language of understated passive-aggression that we all know what we're doing.

A lot of facial expression stuff, hoping that the other person will pick up that it's not good enough, so kind of a lot of...

(She sighs and tuts)

I'll sort of like... and when they come close I'll go, "Hello," sort of leave it. It's ridiculous. It's ineffectual.

I was at the theatre recently and there was a woman in the audience sat the row behind me to my left and she started coughing.

Now, you can't help coughing, but consider those around you.

They may not want to listen to you coughing.

So she coughed for a bit, you sort of put up with it, and then it carried on.

So what I did was, at first she'd cough and I'd go...

(She sighs)

.. and carry on. She'd cough again, I'd sigh a bit louder.

Maybe raise the eyes this time, even though nobody could see me doing that.

She'd cough again. I thought, "I'm going to look at her this time".

So I just looked, glanced. It was just a glance.

Absolutely pointless, because she couldn't see me looking at her, carried on watching the theatre.

In my head I'm going, "Right, I'm going to let her cough three more times and then I'm going to say something".

She coughed again, and I went, "Oh, for God's sake!"

So I was probably annoying the other people around me because I was reacting to her coughing.

One of the reasons we like to keep our anger quiet is that we don't want to appear as rude as the person who made us angry in the first place.

It makes sense to us, anyway.

Brits can never seem to get over the fact that someone treated them badly.

Rudeness is just something that Brits love to bang on and on and on about, how someone was rude to them.

If you sit at a restaurant or walk down the street and listen to, you know, other people's conversations, 99% of the time it's somebody telling somebody else about how someone else was rude to them.

"They were so rude!"

And you just think, "Yeah, it's a rude world, people are assholes."

Buddha taught that anger was an obstacle to enlightenment.

To Brits, it's an obstacle to everything.

Like a Delia Smith casserole, our inner rage bubbles away constantly.

But while the French or Italians are quite happy to let it all out with a blazing row in the street, we could never sink to those levels.

Instead, we invented a tiny, uniquely British noise, capable of conveying a thousand angry words.

Do you ever tut?

I think tutting is one of the most British things.

I'm a bit of a tutter. Obviously, I go (He tuts).. but mainly I'll do it for...

You don't really tut for yourself, I think.

I think you tut for the benefit of those with you.

So I will tut for my wife and she will tut back for me, perhaps.

Sort of like a British mating call, isn't it? The lesser spotted tutter.

We want to show that we're annoyed or we don't like something but we don't want to tell you, so we'll just make this noise which is meant to be like a happy medium.

The British have been tutting since the early 16th century, but even after all this time we can still get tutting wrong.

I went to see Schindler's List, which was a fabulous but horrific film.

There was some awful, heart-rending scenes in it, and there was one where he was on a balcony, the Nazi stood on the balcony popping off Jews as they strolled by in the morning.

So it was really horrible and upsetting, and there were four women in front of me going...


As if something really minor had just happened, tutting.

"Did you see that? Some people! Some Nazis, eh?"

And I really wanted to tap on their back and say, "Can you up the horror a bit, please?'

"Bit more than a tut."


Tutting does help us let off steam, but occasionally there comes a point when something's really got to give.

I remember when we were younger being in a restaurant.

It was very, very busy and we just weren't getting served, and eventually all these other people who'd come in after us were getting served, and my dad just couldn't take it any more.

Rather than going up to someone and saying, "Excuse me, it's my turn," he just stood up and shouted, "HEY!"

And the whole place went quiet.

Because he just was holding on to the "I can't say anything, I can't say anything, I can't say anything, I'm having a nervous breakdown".

And he just yelled, and we've never forgotten it.

It was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me in my life.

It's not just the Mangan family.

Restaurants are trouble spots for many Brits, because they tend to be the main setting where we are faced with that most horrifying of British dilemmas, whether to complain.

As if you need to ask!

I think it's hard in restaurants to complain because you always think they're going to spit in your food.

So if I have a complaint, I save it till after they have served me everything and can't add any bodily fluids to anything I'm going to ingest.

Archive: Believe me, in the dining room some odd requests are made.

People ask for things they'd never dream of in the best hotels at home.

I'd eat a plate of cold sick, I think, before complaining to a waiter that there was something wrong with the food.

If I don't like something, I will really show them by not eating all of it.

That'll tell 'em! Oh, yeah, they'll know who they're dealing with.

You end up eating the food, trying to force the food in your mouth that you don't like, that you're paying a lot of money for, and there's that moment where the waiter comes in, she's like, "Hi! How are you doing? How are you enjoying your food?"

And you're like, "Oh, it's lovely, mmm, yeah, it's great, it's lovely, lovely".

They go away and you're, like, putting it back out of your mouth.

I was in quite a posh restaurant and had a fish. It was like a sea bass.

So, the waiter, as they do, came round and said, "Are you enjoying your meal, sir?"

I said, "Yes, very nice, thank you," thinking to myself, "This is horrible but I don't want to say anything".

So I wrapped it in some tissue and then I took it to the toilet and flushed it down the toilet.

I came back and the waiter said, "Did you enjoy your meal, sir?"

And I said, "It was delicious, thank you".

He said, "You enjoyed it so much, you eat all the bones?"

So the only thing you can respond to with that is just a look until he goes away.

Brits will try and avoid complaining about poor service in any scenario, even when not getting what you asked for can leave you practically disfigured for a few weeks.

Archive: After a shampoo, the foundations of the new creation are laid with his barber's magic wand, called "a blower".

It seems incredible, but hair CAN be moulded as easily as Plasticine.

I have cried after haircuts... but not said to the hairdresser, "This is the worst haircut I have ever seen in my entire life".

They show you the back and it's not what you wanted at all.

And you have to go, "Oh, that's really great. Thanks.

"It's really nice. Thanks."

My wife had... She came home, like, almost in tears hating her hair, because she'd had it dyed and the roots were... I don't know.

I don't know. And I was like, "What did you say to them there?"

She said, "I loved it."

Archive: Sometimes, however, even a normally reliable head of hair fails to rise to the occasion.

And in emergencies like this, when it just isn't long enough, a switch of false hair is thrust into the breach.

To Cyril, the new style is a work of art.

I said, "I want me hair cut short."

I said, "Just do it like this," like this picture of Elvis Costello.

And the hairdresser looked at it and went... and then just carried on. I thought, "Something's not right."

He started trimming and I was thinking, "This isn't going where I wanted it to go".

I said, "That's not what I wanted. I wanted it to look like Elvis Costello."

And he said, "No, no, you don't walk out of my barber's looking like that. This is what you wanna look like."

It was actually like an early Noel Edmonds, it was kind of high there and went round into a bell shape.

And so I didn't complain, I just simply went, got on the bus, made sure no-one could see me, went home and chopped it all off.

So we're a nation consumed with anger, not that you'd know it unless you'd heard us tut, and we'd happily die of food poisoning with an awful haircut than face the horror of actually complaining. [TUTS]

So far, we've learnt that the British have a complicated relationship with their emotions and that anger in particular presents us with a whole world of very British problems.

But there's another feeling that's even more difficult for us Brits to deal with than anger.

It's an almost constant state of affairs for the British and can strike without warning at any moment.

If I have done something and I think someone's got an opinion of me that isn't correct, or have said something, that feeling... days, I'll have it for days. I could be walking home, you know, like, a day after I've been out drinking or something and I'll be like this, "Oh, God," and I'll physically do that.

I'll physically stop and be like, "Ah, no!"

Sociologists explain that embarrassment is felt when we unintentionally violate a social norm, and so people who find societal rules important and want to conform get the most embarrassed.

Step forward, the British.

Well, I've picked up other people's rubbish.

I almost felt embarrassed for them. And that's weird, why am I embarrassed for someone doing something wrong?

I'd be blushing while I picked up someone else's rubbish for fear that I was doing the wrong thing when I'm clearly doing the right thing.

It's like a downward spiral of, like, anxiety.

Embarrassment has the capacity to ruin even the nicest of occasions.

We are a private people, so anything that accidentally or intentionally draws attention to ourselves goes against every grain of our being.

Birthdays, for instance, should be fun. But they're not.

For one very good reason.

I find joining in with singing Happy Birthday quite awkward.

I'll tell you for why -- the song's too long.

Even when you go to someone's birthday party, it's like, how loud do you sing?

Do you lead the birthday singing?

When someone starts singing, you know, it's always, you have to join in.

Happy Birthday was written by two American teachers in 1893.

Around the same time in Britain, a popular 21st birthday treat was to have all your teeth removed and replaced with dentures to prevent expensive dental treatment in later life.

Ah, but it still sounds less excruciating than the Yanks.

(She sighs)

To me, personally, as a restaurant critic, when I see all the waiting staff being forced to go and sing round someone's table Happy Birthday, I just think, "These poor bastards have probably had like six hours' sleep this week."

You know, they're on minimum wage and they're...

You just feel so sorry for them.

I was at a party recently and someone got a ukulele out.

They'd brought a ukulele to sing Happy Birthday.

We were all mortified.

The person whose birthday party it was, I saw, she made eye contact with the ukulele and it's like, "Holy f*ck, they might be singing to me using a ukulele, I don't want to hear that," then at one stage I was involved and she went, "Shall I get the ukulele out now?"

Don't put this on me, don't make me complicit.

And I went, "Yeah, yeah, I think so. OK."

"Do you think they'll turn the music down?"

I've got to ask them to turn the music down!

That's the worst thing you ever have to do in a restaurant.

Ukulele came out, "Happy Birthday..." Oh, please.

You want the building to collapse.

Even when the building has collapsed and the song is over, the embarrassment continues.

Do you go onto "he or she is a jolly good fellow" afterwards?

And then you have to do the, "Hip hip, hooray, hooray, hip hip, hooray, hip hip..." and in your head you're just going, "Oh, please can we just get it over with, cut the cake, let me have a slice, it looks actually quite nice."

This sort of cheering, singing and "hip hip, hooraying" is a level of public bonhomie that the British find acutely awkward.

The Europeans love a public sing song, that's why the Swiss invented Eurovision, and why the Brits always come last.

Even on formal occasions, where you'd think we'd find the decorum and protocol reassuring, we still find singing in public embarrassing.

I mean, even in church, when I'm singing hymns, it's like, "Am I now singing too loudly?"

If I sing quietly, someone looks over.

I'm singing quietly, do they think I'm anti-religion? Am I a Satanist?

So you've got to sing loud enough so that you don't send off the Satanist vibe.

There's always, like, a random factor in your crowd that you've went with who will be really quiet and then it'll start and then they'll go, "I danced..."

You're like, "No!"

If the British hate singing in public, then don't get us started on dancing.

No, seriously, you won't get us started.

While other, more passionate countries gave the world fiery, sexual dances such as the rumba, the salsa and the tango, we don't even like to talk about s*x, which is why the steamiest we ever got was Morris dancing.

I generally find that British people are quite appalling at dancing. But we try our best.

I don't know if you've ever seen a man attempting to grind.

It's... we don't have the hips for it.

Every Brit goes through a stage in their lives where they attempt to dance.

I tried to dance for years and I understood it was an important part of the nightclub courting ritual.

(Up-tempo music plays)

I used to clear quite a big space around me but then, you know, thought that was a good thing.

I loved the euphoria at the time that you're going, "I'm breaking down barriers."

(Music stops)

While some people under their breath are going, "He's a prick."

But there comes a point when any Brit who's tried to embrace dancing realises they've made a terrible mistake.

Dancing's mad.

The idea that you and a group of people that you know really well leave a place where you're comfortable to go and pay 20 quid to go into a bigger place to stand round and just do that at each other and pretend you're enjoying it.

"How long have we got to do this for? To what time?"

And you sort of run out of moves really fast and it's just an odd... it's a really odd thing to do with your friends.

There's a point when you sort of think, "I don't want you "to shake at me for the evening, let's go for food."

Get rid of dancing, it's rubbish, it's not British.

So we're embarrassed by singing in public and mortified at the thought of dancing in public.

Is there any form of physical expression we're comfortable with?

Basically, no.

It all comes down to the fact that we hate joining in.

One of the times for me is being asked to clap, clap along to a song.

You know when they say, "Yeah join in, you can clap along too."

Music: Happy by Pharrell Williams Ugh!

Sing along! And everyone goes, "No!"

I made it a policy not to do it. I'm a non-clapper.

Man: Hands above your head now, come on, let's see everybody, hands above your head.

Fundamentally, we don't like being made to enjoy ourselves.

That is something we have to decide ourselves.

It's not in our DNA to be really kind of out there.

But embarrassment isn't just about being forced to do things.

A huge source of embarrassment comes from the things other people do to you.

Like be nice to you. Oh, no, how awful(!)

I'm not very good at receiving compliments.

I think that's a very British thing.

Instinctively it's to like, "Oh, no, no, no, I'm made of sh1t."

You know?

I deal really well with criticism, I've just not been prepared in life for kindness.

In accepting a compliment, you have to appear grateful without looking big-headed by appearing to agree.

Which would be very un-British.

The rules are that any compliment received by a Brit must be immediately batted away and wrapped in a bin bag, set fire to and thrown off a cliff.

If someone says to you, "I think you're fantastic," your first instinct is to go, "No, I'm not really."

"In some way or other, you were great in that thing."

"Nah, well, it was actually brilliant writing." You deflect.

And because I'm always looking for people's approval, if they start off with approval, I've got nowhere to go.

I've noticed it again with women when somebody goes, "That dress looks nice," and they'll go, "15 quid. 15 quid."

You know what I mean, "in such and such a place... end of season."

This fear of praise is unique to the British.

Our American cousins find it baffling.

In LA, they can't cope with that, they don't know how to deal with that.

They'll say, "We think you're amazing."

If you go, "I'm not that great," they'll go, "Aren't you?"

They'll move onto the next person who does think they're great.

So you have to learn to do that very un-British thing of agreeing with them.

"You were amazing in that film."

"Thank you, yeah, thank you, I was."

And you're dying inside because it feels so wrong.

Every fibre of your being saying, "Don't do that, don't agree with them because you'll be murdered."

But even if you can get through the embarrassment of singing along, being made to dance and being complimented, there is one scenario so hideously awkward and embarrassing for the British I can hardly even bring myself to say it.

In fact, I might just wait until I get home.

One of my big issues when I go to someone's house is, how long... If you go to someone's house and you need the toilet when you get there, how long is polite enough to stay at the house holding yourself...

Number one or two?


The Germans are so willing to discuss their doings that their toilets even have a little inspection shelf.

In France or Italy, you're still sometimes presented with a casual hole in the ground.

But in Britain, the toilet is a sanctuary of privacy and order.

In a survey, we even voted the flushed toilet to be the ninth greatest invention of all time above the combustion engine.

But none of that helps when you're standing in somebody else's en suite at two in the morning.

Do you ever get it when you go to the toilet in someone else's house and, like, you know that they're in the bedroom next to you and you try not to make any noise when you're going because you don't want to have a house guest that's like, "Yep, so I'm laid in my bed and I can hear my house guest pooing, so this is brilliant."

To flush or not to flush in the middle of the night.

You could be in the toilet and you're like, "Oh, what do I do, I need to flush but I don't want to wake anybody up."

And, you know, you start thinking about, if I put the lid down, if I shut the door, will that be quiet enough?

Probably not, and so you're just sat there like, "What do I do?"

And sometimes I'm like, when I go to bed, set the alarm, wake up very early and then flush when I feel like people are gonna be waking up.

We put a lot of effort into trying to deny we do anything as un-British as using the toilet, but sometimes we're faced with the ultimate horror --

IBS. That's Impossible British Scenario.

You're at a friend's house, or maybe less of a friend, more of an acquaintance or someone you don't really know and you have to go and have a dump and it won't disappear.

Probably first thing you'd do is have a look around the bathroom toilet for a stick, which people never have.

You should either bring your own or you should have one hanging on the wall, "Break this in case of emergency," just a good long twig.

To break up the matter.

It's the unholy grail of the possibility of offending your host, a situation where the protocol is at best unclear, and the embarrassment of a personal matter made undeniably public.

I did it once, at a place in Florida.

And they had to get the... The people had to get the plumber round and he walked in and said, "Who did the mega dump?"

And everyone pointed at me.

Sometimes you've just got to say, "Yeah," hold your head up and say, "It was me. It's happened to all of us and it will happen again."

So, we've learnt that the rule-obsessed British have an innate capacity to be embarrassed by almost any given scenario, however fun, pleasant or entirely natural the same experience is to the rest of the world.

Let's just say if someone invites us to karaoke in a nightclub toilet for someone's birthday, we probably won't be going.

Music: Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now by The Smiths So, we've learnt that we Brits are constantly embarrassed and have difficulty venting our anger.

This makes us sad.

But sadness is an emotion too -- which, of course, complicates things even further.

In Italy or Spain, having a good public wail is part of their heritage, but it's very un-British.

I mean, start crying in public and, the next thing we know, we'll be draping pastel-coloured knitwear over our shoulders and wearing Speedos(!)

No, we prefer to keep our emotions to ourselves, which can be tricky at occasions like funerals, where we're supposed to be sad.

I think funerals are a real challenge for British people because, clearly, we know what it's about and, clearly, either you're feeling grief or you're acutely aware that there are people there who are who are feeling grief... and they've got some healing to do.

We're out of our depth, emotionally and socially, because we're in this, kind of, uncharted water that you just don't know what to do.

When I get socially awkward or when I encounter emotions I don't know how to deal with, I will laugh.

So, someone will say something like, "He died and it was such a shame" and I go, "Ha-ha-ha! Oh, I'm really sorry."

It's like I don't know what to do, I don't know how to...

Something's inside responding to you but I don't know, socially, what's OK for me to say.

Our Irish neighbours are astonished at our reluctance to grieve publically.

I do not understand the way British people bury their dead at all.

There's only, like, five or six people at the funeral.

That is unbelievable to me.

I do not understand it.

I remember my friend's father died when I first moved over here and I said to all of my group of friends, "Right, well, better hire a minibus, then."

And they looked at me like I'd said, "Do you want to dress up as clowns?"

I mean, I could not believe it -- that it was the most disrespectful thing in the world.

In Ireland, even if you were the local evil landlord... who had killed all of the people in the town... through poisoning the water system, you would still get a good 200 people at your funeral crying and wailing.

But it's no wonder we try to avoid sad occasions.

A Brit at a funeral can't win.

Turn on the waterworks and you just aren't being British.

Keep it all in and you appear cold and unfeeling.

Perhaps this is why some British mourners choose to find distractions from the emotional side of things on the day.

I used to think, as a young man, I'd go to funerals because it was a great place to pick up good-looking girls... because there'd always be a granddaughter of someone there.

I used to think, "Oh, God, that's a very good-looking girl..."

.. and I'd comfort them.

Well, we all grieve in different ways.

I quite like funerals because I quite like the buffet.

There's something about...

That always keeps me going.

I always think...

You know, because someone I knew died recently and I was really sad -- really, really sad -- and I was sitting in the church and then suddenly I thought, "I bet their family's put a good spread on, though."

And everyone's like that, you know, cos they get down and people are kind of distraught but they also quite want a vol-au-vent.

So, sincerity is a big issue for Brits when we're worrying about whether or not we look sad enough... but it's almost worse when we're in a situation where we're supposed to look happy.

My dad is the master... of... pretending to be excited over really unexciting gifts.

When we receive an unwanted gift, the overwhelming response is disappointment, but a British person must remain polite at all times.

We're desperate to appear sufficiently grateful for those scented drawer-liners.

One way to do this is to have a pre-prepared strategy for these occasions.

When I get something and I have to open it in front of the person, and it's something I really, really don't want, I say, "Oh, fantastic. Thank you so much," and give them a big kiss and a hug, "Thank you very much."

From a very young age, I realised I couldn't mask my disdain... for gifts I didn't like it.

So much so, that it got to the point where I'd take my presents in another room... because I know if I open something and I don't like it... my voice goes up to a certain...

(High pitched): "Wow!"

When we first started dating... and she knew that I was into Star Wars and she got me a couple of Star Wars figures.

(High pitched): "Wow! Queen Amidala and Jar Jar Binks."

And you just repeat what's in front of you there because you have NOTHING ELSE to offer.

And actually, what you're saying is, "You don't know me at all."

When you're not expecting it, receiving an unwanted gift can leave you in an especially awkward situation.

But it has happened to me, when friends pop round at Christmas with a gift for you and you haven't got one for them... and you leave them sitting on your sofa while you search FRANTICALLY around your house for something that looks new.

I always find that a wrapped CD or a DVD is a good guess -- or if you have some toiletries and a small wicker basket, you can emulate Body Shop.

So, the British are well versed in disappointment, either in the gifts we've received or our fear of disappointing other people.

Other nations, like the endlessly optimistic Americans, who are taught from birth that anything's possible and you will have a nice day, struggle with disappointment.

But the British have embraced it and revel in it where we can.

It's our version of happiness.

♪ Back home They'll be singing about us ♪
♪ When we are far away ♪
♪ Back home, they'll be really behind us... ♪

I think there's something inherent in us where... we quite enjoy failure... and so, therefore, we're a bit uncomfortable with success.

I think there's a glory in defeat.

If someone said, "What would you prefer to watch -- the 1966 World Cup Final or images of players crying after missing penalty kicks?"

I think it's a lot more glorious to lose, isn't it?

No-one likes the showiness of winning the World Cup.

If someone's got no chance of winning, we'd naturally feel warm towards them and want to give them our support.

So, in a way, we're more comfortable when our team... doesn't have much hope.

I think Tim Henman was a great example of that.

I mean, what a brilliant sportsman.

He was in the top four in the world, amazing.

But he had this reputation of being, you know, someone who's never going to win, he's so British.

This is British practicality at its finest.

Set your expectations low... (Laughter) and you'll never be disappointed.

(They gasp)

Just see everything as a bonus.

We do it with everything, don't we? We do it with tennis.

As if Tim Henman was going to win Wimbledon and everyone bangs on about it -- "This will be Tim's year."

"No it won't. It's not going to be Tim's year."

When we won the Ashes in 2005, we celebrated hard because we were surprised, we were in shock, we never expected that.

But then, when we started winning, we got caught out a little bit because people expected us to win -- and I don't know if that's a British thing, but we're not very good at that.

When we turn up and people expect something off us, forget about it.

It's incredibly complicated.

You go to Wimbledon and you watch a game of tennis... and everyone will cheer for the person who's got no hope.

Until they start doing quite well, then they start cheering for the other guy cos he's no longer the underdog, this first guy.

Andy Murray, we don't quite know what to do with him, because he wins things.

How dare he?!

How confusing for the rest of us.

Which seems an appropriate place to recap our survival guide to Very British Problems.

Over the series, we've learnt that no true Brit is immune to this unfortunate affliction.

Who's ever, ever in the history of air travel gone on a plane and said, "I would like some fuzzy wah-wah?"

We've helped VBP sufferers like Ruth come to terms with the British burdens they must shoulder.

Why do you need to know my name?

Why do you need to know my name?

We've investigated the rules of British hospitality...

When I say, "Make yourself at home,"

I don't mean it. I mean, "This isn't your home."

.. and we've shared in Vic's very British small-talk struggles.

I felt the finger and, as he did it, he said, "So, got a busy day today?"

We've learnt about some Britishness necessities, like having a phone voice...

Politely: Oh, hello..


And if you talk to my mum, "I don't talk like that, I don't talk like that, Tameka."

.. and how to say goodbye.

"Bye-bye, bye-bye, bye."

But most of all... we hope we've shown you that VBPs are what make this nation great.

So, to hell with German efficiency, forget about Italian passion --

Americans, you can keep your dream -- because as long as there's a Britain, there'll be Very British Problems.

Music: Just When You're Thinking Things Over by The Charlatans

♪ Just when you're thinking things over ♪
♪ And you need a set of vows ♪
♪ And all your friends seem disappointed ♪
♪ To see the sun go down... ♪