What’s it like living in a house where everything is covered in dog spit?
There was a reply in my inbox this morning. It read:
Better than living in a house with some humans who see no good in anything.
This is clearly a barbed riposte, a personal attack. I stand accuse of being just such a human.
But it isn’t true. The comment was meant light heartedly; it was a joke, and I’m sure the vast majority of Brits would instinctively know it was a joke. But the woman who made the reply had a non-English name which I’m fairly sure is Polish, and therein lies the problem.
I’ve seen lots of videos in which Americans, and a few other nationalities, give their impressions of UK life and culture, and one of the things they all pick up on is our dry sense of humour. ‘You can never tell whether they’re joking or not’ is the common complaint. It’s true, and I’m one of the worst offenders. Even Brits sometimes give me the quizzical look and ask ‘was that a joke?’
So here’s the old lesson to be learned all over again: my dry British sense of humour does not travel well. So should I stop using it, or at least find ways to make the joke obvious? Of course not. It’s part of who I am, and I like being misunderstood when I’m joking. It’s the misunderstanding which completes the joke.