Reticence

Girl wearing a blank face mask

There was a time when it was considered entirely inappropriate for money, illness or sex to be discussed in polite society. Indeed, any assertion of individuality or tendencies towards self-expression were seen as 'unfortunate' and were ruthlessly suppressed by a rigorous and disciplined educational system.

Today, personal revelations are the very stuff of celebrity and reality tv culture, and self-expression is seen as a fundamental human right. Undoubtedly, some of this new freedom is a natural reaction against a rigid and formal society, although many traditionalists feel that the cult of self-expression has swung too far.

Nevertheless, reticence is still an undeniable British quality. It is manifest in a firm sense of individual privacy, and a feeling that it is intrusive to ask personal questions. While in many countries, detailed interrogation about family, children, educational qualifications and personal wealth is the norm, many Britons will recoil from such honest scrutiny. If they are curious about someone else, they are prone to ask oblique questions or to try and establish credentials by roundabout means.

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