Home Rules


At W&L, there is no privacy. Everyone knows everyone, we see each other all the time, and there are no secrets. While W&L might represent an extreme due to its small size, I imagine that most other colleges in America are the same way. As a generally private person, one of the things I look forward to on breaks is the ability to go back to Houston and relax in the privacy of my own home. Relative to college life, my home is incredibly private. However, after reading “Home Rules” in Kate Fox’s Watching the English, I discovered the extreme extent to which the English appreciate privacy in their homes. Kate Fox describes the fact that English streets are windy and change names often and house numbers are very obscure making it incredibly hard to find people’s homes. While I consider my home private, it is easily traceable on a map. Fox calls this difficulty in locating English homes the “Moat and Drawbridge Rule”- the English treat their homes like their personal castles, and the convoluted street names and numbers are their effective moat and drawbridge.

Other characteristics of English households that Fox describes further reiterate the importance of privacy to the English in their homes. According to Fox’s “Nest-Building Rule,” the English take great pride in implementing DIY work in their households. I did not find the implementation of DIY work in English homes any different from American homes- my father insists on building everything in our home himself, fixing everything that breaks himself, painting all the walls himself and so on. While the DIY rule itself does not differ much from the culture of American households, the class rules surrounding showing off not just DIY work in the household but general household décor differs between American and English society. According to Fox, showing visitors around the household is characteristic of the lower and middle-middles class. From the upper-middles and above, showing off the household is disapproved of, and it is considered improper to notice one’s surroundings when visiting someone else at their home. These class rules struck me as unique from American culture. Whenever my dad builds something new, redesigns part of the house, or redecorates, he is eager to show other people. This eagerness to show off the home is not just unique to my father and is characteristic of many other families of every class in Houston as well, including the wealthy ones. In driving through some of the incredibly upper-class neighborhoods in Houston, it becomes obvious that many wealthy families build their homes for the sake of showing off to others. They welcome visitors by hosting dinner parties and various other functions just for the sake of showing off their homes. The difference in American and English attitudes towards showing off their homes further demonstrates the intense English desire for privacy in the household that we lack in America.

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

  • I agree with your observation about Americans loving to show things off. In her post, Julia mentioned an interaction with Sara at her apartment when asking about a 14th century Italian painting. She said that Sara was sort of squeamish about the painting and didn’t want to discuss it for very long (she was the same way when I asked about it that night). However, I think if any American I knew had that painting, it’d be on display front and center, and you’d have all the time in the world before they were done telling you all about it.

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