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Queues, weather and politics: Brits share their Austin etiquette lessons

Brits attending SXSW have been feeding our Lion with their first impressions of Austin – from the etiquette of queuing, the politics of discussing politics, and the most British of topics … the weather.

A. Britabroad: Day Three: South By So Wet Yay! The Brits are here (said no American ever, if my memories of history lessons serve me well). So they must be absolutely hating us right now. The reason? We’ve brought the weather with us. The technical terms that we use in the UK for this kind of weather are “p***ing down” and “brass monkeys” (and no, not the animal kind. It’s an ace story – look it up. It’s nautical, dontcha know…) “Pack for warm and bring sunscreen,” I’d been told. “Awesome,” I said, trying desperately to sound like I might fit in with my linguistic flair. But being a Brit, I brought at least two jumpers (that’s sweaters for US readers), long trousers (that’s pants), two pairs of trainers (sneakers), long-sleeved shirts (um, that’s the same) and a waterproof coat. I brought shorts too, just in case, but be thankful that this inclement weather means that nobody in Austin has to bear witness to my lower extremities. Quite pleased with my hat though - over three days it’s protected me from sun (yes, there was some, for about 20 minutes), rain and cold. Winning. So, you could say I came prepared. I wasn’t even a boy scout. Just a pessimistic Brit abroad. Sorry about that.

Q. N. Forser: "A quick Q, Austin" Hold the phone! What the hell is going on here?! Queuing? In an orderly fashion? Now I’m from England, and we invented queuing. We’re the best at it. We wrote the rulebook and we enforce it with an almost pathological zeal. The rules are as follows: Queues are meant to be joined, not disturbed in any way, shape or fashion. There are two ends of a queue. If you are standing at one end of it, and the people look happy, that is not the end you join. No, you may not push in, No, your friend may not push in. Do not make eye contact with people at the correct end of the queue (that's the back). This could be misconstrued as an attempt to push in. We reserve the right to tut loudly and roll our eyes when people do push in (be warned: if a confrontation ensues at this point, the person doing the confronting is almost certainly a foreigner). You may chat idly to people behind you, but never in front (any attempt to ingratiate yourself with people further ahead in the queue will not be tolerated by the queue as a whole). Said chat must be limited to the following topics: how long you’ve been standing in the queue; how you travelled to the queue; the weather, the price of petrol. (Avoid Brexit. Riots have started that way.) Should rain start to fall, you will only open an umbrella with prior agreement from all parties within a 15ft radius. You will be expected to share. Snacking is not permitted. (Drinking is, as long as you brought enough for everybody). At no point must you answer the question “What are you queuing for?” You must pretend that you don’t understand and stare straight ahead. The curious must be taught that to find out what is at the front of the queue, you must join the back of it. No exceptions. These are the main rules, and, I must say, Austin, you’re doing a splendid job. Really, first class. I feel most at home here 😉

John Thorne: As a Brit at SXSW, I've been fascinated by how many of our fellow American hosts have questioned my view of President Donald Trump and the controversial topic of 'fake news'. As our closest international ally I'm clearly an interested observer in American politics – but the feeling I'm get from conversations whilst waiting in line for SXSW sessions is one of concern about how this new direction of American politics is being perceived on the world stage and specially by us Brits. I don't have strong views either way - I'm naturally curious as to what changes lie ahead and how this new style of presidency will play out - but that doesn't change how I feel about America or our American friends! I love this place - it's like visiting an extended family - so let's enjoy the ride together and see where it takes us…

The Lion Tamer: Dear Mr Lion. Today is freezing. British people like to talk about the weather. So, just so you know, this isn't the weather I bargained for at SXSW. It's cold. Cold to your bones. Cold inside your bones. I think in the UK you'd say it was chilly. When the weather gets cold the people of SXSW seem to go inside. They're huddling in lobbies and packed into Starbucks. My midday on any other SXSW day you'd expect people to be dashing into the air con. Today they are huddling for warmth. So Mr Lion of Britain, wrap up warm if you're coming into downtown. It's not the jungle or savannah you'll be used to roaming. It's pretty cold out there for a lion. Maybe it's warmer in Britain today. And here is my tip for a Lion in SXSW. Be careful out there. And maybe stop for a hot drink whilst you're prowling.

The Lion that was at the centre of 18th Century coffee house culture is roaring again at SXSW 2017.
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