This February we’re looking forward to the release of How to be an Alien in England from September Publishing, a witty, dry and perceptive book on ‘Englishness’ from Hungarian expat Angela Kiss. Observational books about English culture have always been successful within the UK trade; think back to Watching the English by Kate Fox and Bill Bryson’s classic Notes from a Small Island. We expect Kiss’s book to be no exception; it’s well-written, discerning and packed full of charm.
When Kiss arrived in England in 2008, she moved from one low-paid job to another, constantly lost in translation and baffled by the ‘English way.’ The thing that kept her going was a copy of George Mike’s 1946 book How to be an Alien, itself a book of observations of Englishness, which was reissued by Penguin last year. How to be an Alien in England is at once Kiss’s tribute to Mike’s classic and an updated version for the modern age.
Englishness is described through the eyes of an intelligent, hard-working and hopelessly romantic Hungarian. Split into short chapters, the book offers snapshots of English culture, such as ‘How to be Optimistic’ and How to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Kiss describes how “In England everything is typical. If your train is late, it is typical. If there are no seats on the upper deck of a bus, it is typical. If the printer breaks down at your workplace just before you want to use it, it is typical… If there are severe delays on the tube because of suicide, it is typical.” The book humorously sets Englishness against the Hungarian psyche: “[The English] say ‘don’t worry’ nearly as frequently as they say ‘sorry’. But thinking of me, how on earth should I not worry if I come from the Hungarian Republic of Worryland? And, believe me, we have had plenty of reasons to worry: we were ransacked, raped and invaded by the Mongol hordes, the Turks, the Habsburgs, the Russians and the Nazis – pretty much by everyone. So excuse me for having the Worry Genes in my DNA. The English don’t have Worry Genes in their DNA at all. Instead, they have the Keep Calm Gene.”
Kiss also offers up 50 of her best tips on how to pass as English, tips such as “Get rid of your bad habit of looking at English people’s lips in the hope to understand their accent easier. They will think that you want to kiss them,” or “Enter Harrods as if it is a shop. Only aliens behave as if it is a museum.” Her observations are as funny as they are sharp; both visitors to the UK and natives will find them witty and astute, giving the book enormous appeal.
Angela Kiss is a writer and accountant; her self-published memoir, titled One Way Ticket to London has been described by readers as ‘funny’, ‘charming’ and ‘inspiring’, adjectives which aptly sum up How to be an Alien in England. Like Watching the English, Kiss’s book acts as both the perfect gift for any anglophile and an alternative travel guide. It could be shelved in both the travel and humour sections of any bookstore, and priced at a very affordable £8.99 with an eye-catching jacket, How to Be an Alien in England looks set to become a modern classic of its kind, just as George Mike’s bestselling How to be an Alien was a classic for the last century.
How to be an Alien in England is published by September Publishing, out on February 18th at £8.99.
Keep an eye on this blog for upcoming extracts from the book!