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Instructions for American Servicemen in…

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, 1942 (1942)

by United States War Department

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195660,388 (3.87)2

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Just what the title says, this is a booklet that was distributed to American GI’s before they went to England in 1942 to brace them for what to expect once over there, and to provide guidelines for how to behave. It turns out it’s good advice for anyone visiting a foreign country, essentially a reminder to be polite and respectful of the host’s culture that the stereotypical “ugly American” tourist of today would do well to heed. The book is a reflection of both British culture and America’s, as the image formed comes from both the object under study and the lens through which it’s viewed. The language from the time is also sometimes cute.

“Don’t be misled by the British tendency to be soft-spoken and polite. If they need to be, they can be plenty tough. The English language didn’t spread across the ocean and over the mountains and jungles and swamps of the world because these people were panty-waists.”

“You can understand that two actions on your part will slow up the friendship – swiping his girl, and not appreciating what his army has been up against.”

“In the pubs you will hear a lot of Britons openly criticizing their government and the conduct of the war. That isn’t an occasion for you to put in your two-cents worth. It’s their business, not yours.”

“The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.”

“It is always impolite to criticize your hosts. It is militarily stupid to insult your allies. So stop and think before you sound off about lukewarm beer, or cold boiled potatoes, or the way English cigarettes taste.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Feb 3, 2013 |
Brought back from London for me by my sister (probably because she knew about my fondness for stories set in wwii Britain), this little volume is perfectly lovely in every way (though I wonder a bit at the decision to print it in this binding and paper - I know from wartime American paper & bindings, and this ain't it.)

A slim, readable, friendly volume, a wonderful conversation piece and especially for Anglophiles in America & anyone who is interested in the WWII home front: and worth keeping around just for the entirely practical table of old British currency conversions in the back! (It's amazingly how difficult it is to find a usable explanation of pre-decimal currency, even with the aid of the Internet: not least because the British people themselves are so fond of its confusion.)
  melannen | Oct 13, 2009 |
United States War Department

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; 2004; 31 pp.

This is a charming book I received from a dear friend from Devonshire, England. It is a reproduction of an original pamphlet produced by the War Department in 1942. It was meant to give a brief introduction to Britain and its people and some words of advice to the servicemen shipping over to England to join the Allies in destroying Hitler. The writing comes across quaint and nostalgic from the modern perspective.

I actually did learn a little about the geography and demographics of England. The discourse on the characteristics of Britons as seen from the American viewpoint was relatively true to form, I believe, and sometimes humorous as well. ( )
  shirfire218 | Jul 5, 2009 |
(Alistair) I saw this little book recommended on a blog I can no longer remember, as I added it to my wishlist quite some time ago on the grounds that it seemed interesting.

And it is indeed fascinating. For a short (seven pages of foolscap) pamphlet produced and issued by the War Department back in the day, to alleviate the culture shock of soldiers sent abroad, it offers surprisingly rich and perceptive comments on British culture of the day, from an American point of view, and some interesting reflections on American culture of the day also. And also interesting to see how the language has shifted just a bit since then, too.

I'll leave off with some of my favorite quotations from the book:

* To say "I look like a bum" is offensive to their ears, for to the British this means that you look like your own backside.
* The British are tough. Don't be misled by the British tendency to be soft-spoken and polite. The English language didn't spread across the oceans and over the mountains and jungles and swamps of the world because these people were panty-waists.
* If you are from Boston or Seattle, the weather may remind you of home. If you are from Arizona or North Dakota you will find it a little hard to get used to. [...] Most people get used to the English climate eventually.
* You will quickly discover differences that seem confusing and even wrong. Like driving on the left side of the road, and having money based on an "impossible" accounting system[1], and drinking warm beer.

1. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, the UK was still using the 240-system (12 pence to a shilling, 20 shillings to a pound) up to 1971, when the barbarous innovation of decimalisation was introduced to make life easy for people who couldn't divide by 12 in their heads. Silly sods.
( http://weblog.siliconcerebrate.com/cerebrate/2008/01/instructions-for-american-s... ) ( )
2 vote libraryofus | Jan 24, 2008 |
Interesting glimpse into history where the American troops are sensitised as to Bristish customs of the time and encouraged to appreciate the alliance between the two countries during WWII. ( )
  danielibrary | Aug 8, 2006 |
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