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to think that class isn't just a British thing

(154 Posts)
WyclefJohn Thu 05-Oct-17 12:43:00

Class gets discussed a lot on MN, and I often see someone say something along the lines of that is such a British obsession, and you don't see it elsewhere.

In my experience, social class exists in every country, because it's a natural result of what happens when some people have more privilege then others. In my experience, I've yet to visit a country where social class doesn't to some extent determine your success in life - be it from the US, to continental Europe, Africa, Asia and so on.

When British people go abroad, they may not recognise the cues, but I am yet to see a country where they don't exist.


splendidisolation Thu 05-Oct-17 12:47:43

Class exists everywhere but I see it as more pervasive in the UK, with stronger markers.

I think its generally more important to British people and more set in stone (aka you can become wealthier or poorer, but I'm not sure you can go up or down the class scale, although your children can.

So a working class Mum can get trained and start working as a doctor for example, she can have a beautiful house and all the trappings but will still be working class in her and others eyes. Her children however, will grow up to be middle class.

Obviously this is a massive generalisation.

WyclefJohn Thu 05-Oct-17 12:51:18

Thanks. My hypothesis would be that Brits are more aware of the markers, because they're Brits. But I don't doubt they're equally there elsewhere. Interesting to hear what others say.

PS I think someone can change class from working to middle class in their lifetime.

existentialmoment Thu 05-Oct-17 12:53:17

Of course there is class everywhere. People say things like "america is a classless society". Is it fuck! They just have different ways to talk about it.

splendidisolation Thu 05-Oct-17 12:54:00

You're right in that when I lived abroad I was unable to identify a person's class based on external markers despite speaking the language, just because I hadnt grown up exposed to these "codes"

EdithWeston Thu 05-Oct-17 12:55:26

Of course class exists everywhere (India being an extreme example) but if you are foreign you may well be oblivious. This is s predominantly British site, so of course when class is noted it’s the British version.

But any US person would be able to tell the differences between someone raised in a trailer and someone from posh Boston

WyclefJohn Thu 05-Oct-17 12:56:32

What was an eye opener for me was being in the Netherlands and finding out there are two words for a neck-tie. Someone told me "our sort of people say das, people who never wear them say stroopdas.

WhirlwindHugs Thu 05-Oct-17 12:56:49

I agree it exists in most (all?) countries but I think quite a lot in other countries class ends up being more obviously tied to, say race, or other factors like slum type homelessness and so that becomes the main way people talk about inequalities of treatment and opportunities instead of class.

0hCrepe Thu 05-Oct-17 12:58:15

Yes and regional accents are everywhere too which are harder to spot in a foreign language.

WyclefJohn Thu 05-Oct-17 12:58:31

Edith, my point is not that it's odd when people talk about class, they talk about it in British terms, but it is the claim that is sometimes made that class doesn't exist elsewhere, and it is a peculiarly British obsession.

splendidisolation Thu 05-Oct-17 13:04:14

What i find fascinating is the crossover between WC and UC.
W and U class homes can be very clean but can also be very dirty. MC homes will always be very clean (tidiness is a different story).
W and U class people can be very blasé about swearing. M class people avoid blatant swearing in public.
W and U class people either go all out in their grooming or look really scruffy and disheveled. M class people always look "nice" and tidy.

existentialmoment Thu 05-Oct-17 13:05:59

That's all just silly stereotyping with little basis in reality.

Birdsgottafly Thu 05-Oct-17 13:07:13

There certainly is stratification in every group of people,rarely is even a friendship group, equal.

But when the benefit cuts and austerity measures were imposed and called "an attack on the poor (so WC and below)" and the Tories spout crap as being in it all together, when they did most definitely set out to attack the lower sections of Society, then it becomes dangerous to deny the role that Class plays in people's lives, from start to finish.

splendidisolation Thu 05-Oct-17 13:07:39

Well the very concept of class is about speculation and generalising since it has little to do with money @existentialmoment

existentialmoment Thu 05-Oct-17 13:08:55

It has everything to do with money, it's just that British sensibility likes to pretend otherwise.

kiwiblue Thu 05-Oct-17 13:09:18

I agree with a PP that it is more pervasive in the UK and with stronger markers. Having also lived in NZ, I can say there it is less pervasive and the differences are more about wealth than class. You have wealthy people and not wealthy but you don't have classes in the same way. It's hard to explain. Also there aren't regional accents (except for one region) which may make a difference too.

0hCrepe Thu 05-Oct-17 13:09:26

My mum is uc then splendid and my dad. I told them off for swearing in a restaurant just last week. They did both grow up rich and boarded. I didn't think uc existed now really though apart from people with titles.
I thought clean and tidy was more wc or 'aspirational' wc.
There are clear cultural groups in our society maybe the labelling needs to stop reflecting inherited wealth.

guilty100 Thu 05-Oct-17 13:11:19

I guess it depends how you define class! On here, it's often defined in identity terms, as a series of empirical signs that people emit in everydal life (the way they look, talk, dress and live). I'm always amazed how extraordinarily precise these distinctions are on Mumsnet, and how very, very meaningful they are to some people - I think it reveals something both about the way social lines are policed by women, and the kinds of pleasure that certain people take in that exercise.

But sociological analyses might focus a bit more on structural relationships, either to the means of production (Marxism), or to a wider series of power relations that include the economic (Weber), or to a more statistical investigation of the relationship between, say, wealth and other kinds of power.

Birdsgottafly Thu 05-Oct-17 13:11:57

"What i find fascinating is the crossover between WC and UC."

Sociology has a explanation for that as well.

The Underclass would have been the lower section of WC, whose jobs and thanks to the whole Welfare system have merged, somewhat.

Although, previously criminal behaviour was needed to survive, it is now a choice to a degree. So some would like to do away with the term Underclass and use Lawless/Criminal/Scum etc.

0hCrepe Thu 05-Oct-17 13:12:30

Interesting about no accents in NZ. Do some not have stronger accents then?

Joeymaynardslimegreendress Thu 05-Oct-17 13:13:49

There are lots of tv shows though taking the piss out of commen rough feral people without money, benefits street and with money, real housewives of Cheshire!

British people love to take the piss out of idiots be they rich or poor.

0hCrepe Thu 05-Oct-17 13:15:50

What class would Donald trump be? Inherited wealth, rich, powerful, stupid and bad taste.

splendidisolation Thu 05-Oct-17 13:16:32

Just to be clear @Birdsgottafly i was using UC as upper class! The gentry dahling!

Birdsgottafly Thu 05-Oct-17 13:16:42

The issue with looking at it from a Sociological POV, is the old definitions no longer apply and changes within each decade.

A broader POV is opportunities and the ability to take part in all that the Society that you live in, has.

For vast amounts of people in the UK, they can't do that and that is and has decreased since the Tories came back into power.

drspouse Thu 05-Oct-17 13:16:46

splendid I think you've missed out a whole chunk of the MC - the group that are (or think themselves) intellectual/right on/"aware"/hipster/"holier than thou".
They will happily go out dirty and messy because it doesn't matter what other people think because that's for middle class people - despite being MC themselves. These are the people who are white yet have horrendously badly cared for dreadlocks - OK there are also some trustafarians who have these but mainly it's middle class hippies.

They will swear and teach their children to swear (a relative of mine taught his DCs to say "I need a piss" when they were potty training) because it doesn't matter what other people think etc etc.

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