Here in England we think of the Germans as being efficient.

They make Audis and BMWs. They drink beer and eat sausages. And they do all this with the minimum of fuss.

Which, conversely, makes us English, inefficient. If only because, while they are busy wringing every last drop of productivity out of their workday, we are busy stereotyping our European neighbours.

Whilst furiously attempting to disentangle ourselves from their “union”, spending a literal fortune and employing thousands of people in the process, and for no apparent reason.

Now, you’ll be pleased to hear I’m not about to run through the various caricatures of the other European nationalities. We’ve got Nigel Farage to carry out that ceremonial role for us.

If I did, though, it would be in the spirit of fun. But would no doubt be misconstrued by some as cruel, unfair, or casually racist.

I would also approach this list, the one that I’m not going to write, about all the funny things Johnny Foreigner gets up to, in scattergun fashion. I would pick countries at random, perhaps starting with Spain, moving on to Italy and Ireland, before heading into Scandinavia, and then back down to Greece…

If I were German, my list would be alphabetical. Or perhaps geographical. Either way, my cruelly casual racism would have a logic and a structure to it. It would be efficient.

Ruthlessly so.

I recall a phrase, I’m not sure where I read it, which the Spanish like to coin: to “work like an Englishman.” It means to work hard, with great effort, for little end result.


And so, we English are inefficient in comparison to the Germans, but also the Spanish – at least in their own eyes – who see us as the very definition of inefficient.

I’m steering well clear of the other twenty-five EU member states; god only knows what other disparaging national characteristic they have enshrined in their language to efficiently sum up the English.

I have a feeling that “inefficient” might be the least of our worries.

(Image: By Paul Bissegger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)



3 thoughts on “Inefficient

  1. I think there are other ways of doing things, aside from “efficiently”. Creatively, for instance, or Well Enough – leaving time and energy for actual enjoyment of life. As for us Brits, I think maybe the time has come for us to stop seeing ourselves through a European lens and develop a quiet self-confidence – balanced elegantly between that smug, self-deprecating self-disparaging, lazy mode of being “English” and the superior, jingoistic, lost-empire mode of being “British”.

    Liked by 2 people

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