Port Lockroy Antarctica taken in November … and a British penguin?

I have many English friends and have a real soft spot for most of the British I have met while travelling the world. They have been polite, friendly and all-around “salt of the earth” types. There is a question that has run through my head “is it because these are travelling brits and therefore more aware of the wider world?”.

Today I called a British bank and needed to ask a few short questions about some transactions. It has been some time since I have engaged anyone by telephone in the UK. The arrogance and the attitude I received from the customer service representative was incredible. Is it because I have been travelling and I was a bit sensitive? I don’t think so. Arrogance and bitterness was the mood of this so called representative of a major corporation in the UK. There are travellers I have encountered and even airline employees that have told me that next to the Russians, the British are the worst. One cabin attendant told me “no one wants to fly into London anymore as crew… those are the worse flights”. He explianed that in the past it was New york that had the worst behaviour and rudest passengers. Now the chalice was firmly with the Londoners.

This is quite a serious matter as London will soon host the Olympics and is in danger of looking the stuffy, arrogant and rude host country of the world. When I was last in London I had a cleaner tell me off in a hotel and had people pushing and shoving in the city with no regard for manners. Young ladies interrupting people mid conversation in shops and young men yelling at the top of their voices in public. What happened to British politeness and reserve?

I think being away for so long has shown me that there is a world where customer service and politeness is a normal way of life. Especially in South East Asia. There has been more courtesy in Cambodia than in most places I have been in the UK as of late. I have decided not to communicate by phone with British companies unless its an urgent matter or a last resort. The feeling I was left after the call today almost made me want to vomit. The bank has lost all my business and I will never return so congrats to them in this economy for losing a customer.

I had dinner with an expat in Phuket who left England a few months ago. We spoke about the current problems in the UK. As a man who grew up in England and spent his whole life there, he told me that the rudeness and arrogance of the British people is what drove him out of his own country. He told me that it broke his heart to see the nation behave so badly but that he was lucky to be able to escape. The government should take heed. Impressions last, and as all eyes look toward England in the coming months … attitudes may turn people off from visiting in the future.

I hope I am wrong.

By the way the friendliest people I had met in England in 13 years of living there, were in the countryside and Cornwall … not the cities.