I am at a barbecue with, amongst others, a very nice American television network casting person, who has never been out of America before, and is still getting to grips with London on her third day in the city.
NCP: ...so I got on this bus, and I tried to ask the guy if he went down a particular road? And he's like 'I don't know'. And then he wouldn't talk any more. I don't understand, how can he not know where his bus goes?
ME: Ah no, he just didn't want to engage with you. That would be a sign of weakness.
NCP: But you British people seem so polite!
ME: Only in certain situations. Aside from that, I'm afraid we're a bunch of complete cunts.
NCP looks a little disappointed. Later, she tells us how much she likes the fact that our more relaxed attitude to alcohol at an earlier age installs us with a respect for drink, and an ability to appreciate wine and beer for the taste rather than their ability to render us shit-faced and abusive. Shamefacedly, we have to tell her she is probably thinking of the French. NCP looks disappointed again.
Later on, whilst explaining how the BBC works, NCP looks shocked.
NCP: So this 'licence fee' is basically a tax? They make you pay a television tax?
We all shout at her.
I feel bad about this, as my policy has always been to treat Americans in the UK with the utmost sensitivity and tact, because they're the ones who have bothered to explore the rest of the world, and so should be rewarded. Also, the American tourists I have encountered have always been polite, enthusiastic and charming, so it's quite easy to be nice back. I decide to gird my loins, and shore up some support for my country, before NCP becomes utterly disillusioned. I tell her how enthused I am at the moment by American television, the best of which is making our stuff look like the load of lowest-common-denominator, celebrity-worshipping, mean-spirited pile of old plop that, er, it is.**
NCP: So what US stuff do you like?
ME: Um... Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, Dexter, Heroes, The OC-
NCP: (doubtfully) 'The OC'?
ME: Well, only the first couple of series, but yeah, I think it's-
NCP: The OC's kinda shitty.
I narrow my eyes. Finally:
ME: Have you ever tried the echo in the british library reading room?
NCP: They let you do that?
ME: They love it.
* I think both these are courtesy of Alan Coren. Or possibly Willy Rushton, in which case I don't have to worry about it, because he's dead.
UPDATE: further research suggest both these jokes were originally released into the wild by Gerard Hoffnung
**Apart from Doctor Who, which has unaccountably turned in the last few episodes into the GREATEST TELEVISION EVER.