A few questions--answer quickly: What was the most horrific torture device used during the Spanish Inquisition? Where is the phantom of the opera, really? What should one do with "the white man's burden?"
On Monday, England's Conservative Party-led government unveiled the new guidebook for recent immigrants to the U.K.: "Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents." The book, which serves as a kind of study guide for the 24-question U.K. citizenship exam, is an update of 2007's "Life in the United Kingdom," penned by the then-controlling Labor Party. A new citizenship exam will start in March.
The main difference this time around is that the book is less, well, boring. Or at least so says U.K. Immigration Minister Mark Harper: “We’ve stripped out mundane information about water meters, how to find train timetables, and using the Internet.” Now, the book pays a bit more attention to culture, history, and traditions.
What exactly does a less boring guidebook look like? For one, the book includes information on the English dietary staple Yorkshire Pudding, while also noting that lovely Britons both "enjoy cooking" and will often "invite each other to their homes for dinner."
And, yes, the huddled masses and wretched refuse of the United Kingdom will need to learn the ins and outs of Monty Python, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Rudyard Kipling. And, because this book was produced by the Conservative Party, don't expect much mention of that Tony Blair fellow. Or, you know, the mass violence and death that came with the postcolonial break up of the British Empire. The reputation of Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, gets a nice face-lift from the last, Labor edition.
But don't worry: The U.K. isn't all just puddings and silly walks. There are rumors of a secondary governmental campaign to let certain, unwanted immigrants know that it rains a lot over there! And did you know that the economy bites?
The new guide hasn't been all that well received in England. At The Guardian, Bernard Porter writes that the book distorts British history, while Tim Dowling tries his own hand at negative PR. Labor parliamentarian Keith Vaz told The New York Times that the Conservative Party took a "very odd approach" with the book, and suggested that maybe we'd all be better off by taking politics out of this sort of thing.
But, hey, lighten up and imagine how useful an engrossing guidebook could be. The U.S. has 11 million undocumented immigrants, and with a debate over immigration policy raging in Washington, there may be reason to get moving. Sure, the Homeland Security Department currently offers a basic guide for new immigrants, but in focusing on government services, it's as dull as can be.
Could the United States government push for maximum assimilation with a guide to the culture, history, and whimsies of the United States that rivals—nay, surpasses—that of the U.K.?
Of course it can! And since we at National Journal don't expect Congress to create a guide anytime soon, we're doing the United States a favor and offering a sample of our own.
Life in the United States: A Guide for New Residents
Section One: History
- America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who sailed the ocean blue in 1492. While relations were at first a little dicey with the natives, that was remedied forever after the first Thanksgiving in 1621, when everyone overate, watched professional football, and took tryptophan-induced naps.
- Slavery was a terrible thing, but racism in America was happily eradicated with the election of Barack Obama.
- A cold mass of land called "Canada" has existed above the United States since 1867. Don't pay it much mind.
- In America, you must affix the word "gate" to the name of all major scandals post-1972.
Section Two: Culture
- In the United States, children are sacred and are not to be used in factory work. They do, however, make good reality-television stars.
- As U.S. travel guides can attest, Americans are quite touchy about politics. Avoid mentions of "global warming" or "weather."
- There have been thousands of incredible novels written by Americans. Today, most books in America are written by Stephen King.
- For several years in the early aughts, many Americans actually enjoyed listening to the music of Creed.
Section Three: Tradition and Daily Life
- Roster of important holidays in the American canon: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday (does not include player photographed above).
- In America, don't be alarmed if haggard, slack-jawed people shout at you incomprehensibly in the early hours of the morning. These are people who have not yet had their daily caffeine intake.
- While you'll be hard-pressed to find Yorkshire Pudding in America, you should have no problem finding anything wrapped in bacon. Americans also enjoy eating quickly, alone, and often at their desks.
Worried that a colorful guidebook might just prove to be too enticing to foreign nationals? Well, the U.S. could always take one more page out of the U.K.'s book and run an anti-PR campaign. We'll leave that to you to come up with, but might we suggest something sung by Pitbull?
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