Reserve

The British are trained from an early age to be self-contained and reserved. Effusive displays of emotion are seen as false, self-promotion is seen as bumptious and boastful, sentimentality is plain embarrassing.

This general disinclination to show emotion is the British sense of 'reserve', where neutrality and diplomacy are valued, and there is a tendency to underplay everything. This can have unforeseen, and dangerous, results. A recent survey by the British Heart Foundation revealed that people experiencing the symptoms of  heart attacks will wait an average of 90 minutes before calling the emergency services - often with disastrous results. The explanation for this dangerous delay is 'our natural reserve and stoicism', a widespread refusal to make a drama out of a crisis.

This reserve is also apparent in the unwillingness of many British people to make complaints (in pubs, restaurants, shops), and to submit to terrible service with a weary stoicism.

Being reserved inevitably takes its toll, and a visitor to a British town centre on a Saturday night may find the riotous antics taking place somewhat alarming. The fact is that reserve and inhibition is inevitably broken down by alcohol or by tribal esprit de corps (a large, vociferous crowd at a football match, for example). On occasions like this, the British may become dangerously unreserved - but bear in mind that this is the exception rather than the rule.

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