How do you know when one is simply joking?

British and humour. I could write a whole novel out of the subject, or a comedy show. British people seemed super skilled at taking life (and the weather) easy. Rarely complaining, always enthusiasts about one ray of sun striking through the clouds and never taking themselves too seriously. Humour is pervasive: in everyone and everywhere. The PM strikes ironical jokes in official speeches, Richard Branson’s Virgin company is famous for the ironic tone of its advertising campaigns and eventually, the best comic movie ever made is british: Monthy Python. The same humour strikes at the office where, every week, some anonymous graffiti addicts are leaving us some equivocal messages on our white board…

Humour might be involved in most conversations implicitly. As such, it is not easy to spot when one jokes if you are not british. It took me a while to understand British way of cracking jokes. British humour is a sophisticated form of irony playing with understatement and self-deprecation. An amazing performance is “not that bad”, a terribly traumatic experience, ‘no what I had planned really’ and the two months of grey sky for summer “a rather consistent weather for the season”. I already wrote on the subject talking about language and what british really mean when they say stuff. For a foreigner, it is really never easy to spot nor to understand. Especially because British don’t laugh or smile at their own jokes (and this is because they value reserve and being humble).

If your are not familiar with British humour and understatement, I have one advice for you: assume everything is ironic and bounce it back. I promise it is fun. At least, you will have a direct confirmation if it was a joke; or not.

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