Tribal Wives in Britain

I’ve recently been watching the BBC series Tribal Wives, and it got me to thinking. If I was to instruct a woman coming into our culture, here in the UK, what instructions would I give them? Trbal Wives in Britain

In Tribal Wives a British woman is transported from her home in the western world to an indigineous tribal society somewhere where there’s a dirth of Coca Cola billboards and running water. Inevitably she discovers how to cope without her eyelash curlers, and comes to terms with the ‘shared humanity’ of womenkind around the world.

Oh and she learns to stretch her diet to include baked goat’s hooves, and boiled yak!

When I arrived in the UK I realised that things were a little different. Now I gather that’s part and parcel of moving from New Zealand – a laid back country in the South Pacific – to UK – a rigidly stiff upper lip country in the Northern Hemisphere. But there were also cultural differences involved in moving from an upmarket urban environment as a self-employed professional woman, to becoming a working from home woman living in a rural town.

My first day at the local Sainsbury’s was littered with strange stares. I guess they don’t wear ‘arty’ clothes here (leggings, woollen tunic, all in black!) I needed to come up with a new uniform to fit in. Tracksuit pants or jeans and a sweatshirt (preferably with Bench written on it) were required.

I realised very quickly that expectations of a woman here in this little pocket of the countryside were conservative in the extreme. Here’s my advice to new tribal wives, greeted with a similar situation.

1/It’s all about the tea. A woman’s role is to bring tea to her man. Constantly. He must never have an empty cup. Her role is to run around all day ensuring that there is always milk in the fridge and tea bags in the cupboard. This is an English wife’s way of expressing her loyalty to her man.

2/An English wife must ensure that her man has time for fishing, golfing or the footy, whatever his fancy. She must not ask that he spend time with her, but rather she should be grateful that her man works ‘so hard’ for her and her children.

3/When asked what she did in a former life she is to either trot out a self-deprecating version of the truth, or lie. She MUST NOT reveal that she earnt more or had a high-flying job, or that her standard of living was better when she worked for herself. Whilst it may be a source of pride for her man (and herself) it is not information for public consumption. All talk of money, lifestyle etc is verboten.

4/English Tribal wives are to ensure that good honest wholesome food is on the table when her man returns from the coal face. I was previously unaware that food had a moral value, but have since been educated. Fancy, schmancy food like salmon, vegetarian, chilli, or sushi are definately ‘dishonest’ food.

5/An English wife should never rise above her station. Working class folk are good honest folk, the very salt of the earth and therefore closest to God who made the earth. Rich folk are toffs. Dishonest, unscrupulous and shifty. The class stratification of society is alive and well in England and despite feeling free and ‘outside’ of the system because of a hard-to-place accent, an English tribal wife must be aware of where her family fits within the strata.

6/English tribal wives of a certain class would prefer to lick their floors clean themselves than ask a cleaner in to do ‘their housework’

7/The English are very old fashioned and never talk about sex publically. Instead they adhere to the old-fashioned view that a good wife is a ‘cook in the kitchen, a hostess in the parlour and a whore in the bedroom.’

8/Children – English wives are compelled to provide their men with heirs. Full stop. Even if it’s inconvenient and a bit of a fuss.

9/An English tribal wife must present herself properly. What that actually means differs a little, but generally includes some of these aspects – never talking about her own needs, never drawing attention to herself, never using bad language or oversharing, never complaining that the status quo is sexist and restrictive….

10/An English tribal wife is most of all never to wistfully long for the days when her life was bigger, broader, and less restricted by convention.

I’m sure that if I actually adhered to any of these ‘rules’, my day to day life here in the English countryside would be a hell of a lot easier. Thankfully I have a husband who is modern, and outward looking in his thinking. We share common ambitions and mores and have a shared path into the future.We challenge the rules. Thank God!!

What tongue in cheek ‘rules’ would you suggest to a new tribal wife moving into your town, or country?

Image: Flickr CC



'Tribal Wives in Britain' has 46 comments

  1. August 24, 2010 @ 9:42 am Anonymous

    PMSL!!! You are SO right. It is a really big culture shock coming from good ol’ NZ to the UK. We moved to Oxford from NZ first and had to do to formal dinners and the like. It was much more stuffy and formal than in NZ and I found it very hard not to be my usual easy going self at such occasions. I think there is a fundamental difference in cultures in different areas of the UK and also throughout different classes. I am still caught out even now after almost 4 1/2 years here (this time around). I have just resigned myself to the fact that every so often some people will find me strange, uncouth, common, and far too opinionated. I will conform to the social norms here up to a point. I refuse to lose the essence of who I am and where I come from. If people are so narrow minded and unaccepting that they get uptight about it then that’s their issue, not mine. I haven’t the energy or the inclination to put up with snobbery or back stabbing and whinging. Stuff it, life’s too short to live according to others expectations.


  2. August 24, 2010 @ 10:53 am Notes From Lapland

    I can feel a post coming on…

    Great post vix, i am composing my own list in my head and may make a blog post of it. Can you imagine it the other way around, going from rural Hampshire to NZ and all these people walking around with no shoes on and women demanding things for themselves and that their men spent time with them! i don’t know which would be more alarming.


  3. August 24, 2010 @ 10:56 am Anonymous

    oh absolutely! I’m really hoping someone from UK who’s ,moved to NZ can fill us in from her perspective. Or someone in US..


  4. August 24, 2010 @ 10:57 am Anonymous

    Agree entirely. It’s a learning curve isn’t it. I’m not saying all of Britain is like this of course, just the pocket I live in. xx


  5. August 24, 2010 @ 11:05 am Anonymous

    Blimey where do you live that no-one talks about sex? Up north us tribal wives talk of little else. You’re right about the tea, food and cleaner though. x


  6. August 24, 2010 @ 11:53 am cartside

    Very interesting – I would have thought those rules should apply to Scottish women too, but I’m not so sure. Some ring very familiar, others not. Rich people who speak RP are definitely all toffs up here and never to be trusted!


  7. August 24, 2010 @ 11:55 am A Modern Military Mother

    I love it!! This is brilliant. Lead the revolution – I agree and I am ready to break free of the chains too. Bring on the service culture. It just simply cannot continue like this but in order to change first you need to know what is wrong in the first place. Us Tribal Brit wives we don’t like change…….but frickin hell we bloody need it!!


  8. August 24, 2010 @ 12:06 pm Anonymous

    Oh no one speaks around here at all. Definately not to strangers…..unless they’re in Poundland and they want to pick you up!


  9. August 24, 2010 @ 12:07 pm Anonymous

    Doesn’t it drive you nuts? So nuts with it all, probably why this piece is somewhat sardonic. Did Boudicea have these problems one wonders.


  10. August 24, 2010 @ 12:07 pm Anonymous

    Extended family are from oop north. I gather it’s different rules up there.


  11. August 24, 2010 @ 1:32 pm Anonymous

    From the US it is…

    A wife will only talk to friends about sex when she’s tipsy.

    A wife will only drink when she’s with friends. 4 PM happy hours become the norm.

    A wife will work until she has children, and return to work after the youngest goes to school.

    If said wife decides not to stay home with the children, she will bemoan the difficulties of her double life to anyone who will listen.

    If wife chooses to stay home while her children are small, she will have some sort of side work to do, be it an etsy shop, home party business, or writing novels that will never sell.

    Haircuts must be scheduled every 6 weeks, to keep up with celebrity styles, manicures and pedicures are obtained every other week, and eyebrows are never bushy.

    Brazilians are never spoken of, but a lot of time, energy, and money is spent on tending to the nether regions.

    She will strive to prepare gourmet food for her husband and children every night of the week.

    She will rise at 4 AM each day to exercise, thereby working towards a size 0 ideal.

    She will routinely go on detox diets, yet continue to keep her husband fed and happy.

    She will spend every afternoon shuttling various children from one extracurricular activity to another.

    She will do it all with a smile upon her face and Juicy Couture upon her behind.


  12. August 24, 2010 @ 2:27 pm Anonymous

    I am a northern woman and it is nothing like that here. Infact MadDad is the one keeping me in tea!


  13. August 24, 2010 @ 2:30 pm Anonymous

    Good to hear Mad Mum. Yay that things are like that in your house!


  14. August 24, 2010 @ 2:31 pm Anonymous

    Fabulous reply Tattie Tats! Wow detox diets? What are they? I’m familiar with a 0 in my bank account but not on my clothes labels.


  15. August 24, 2010 @ 2:37 pm MTJAM

    Blimey, I’m glad I don’t live where you do (although I’m quite certain you’d be my favourite neighbour). I adhere to none of these rules – not a single one. Fortunately neither do my friends.


  16. August 24, 2010 @ 2:40 pm Anonymous

    Does it explain why I’m a little keen (read very!) to move? I think you’d be a brilliant neighbour too, though we may need to expand the wine budget a little!


  17. August 24, 2010 @ 2:50 pm MTJAM

    Perhaps we should move to a vineyard together? That could solve several
    problems all at once.


  18. August 24, 2010 @ 3:07 pm Dara Squires

    So here’s my idea. Let’s us all buy ourselves an island together. Preferably somewhere warm. We can wear whatever we want; tell the men to bring us tea; and talk about the relative merits of anal vs. oral intercourse.

    If you produce heirs I’ll throw them in with my lot on Wednesdays and Fridays, you can have the gang of em on Tuesdays and Thursdays and someone else on Mondays and Saturdays. Sundays,of course, we’ll send them adrift in boats to fish for us and haul them back in in the evening.

    In the in-between times we can just work on whatever the heck we want. We’ll live in dirt floor huts so no one will know if our kitchen floor is filthy.

    Sound good?

    Right-o then. Let’s start saving our pennies, dollars, and pounds to buy that island.

    This is brilliant vix. I think you may have started a meme.


  19. August 24, 2010 @ 4:52 pm Anonymous

    My suggestions to NZ wives coming to the UK. Do not to any of the following:
    (1) Don’t use the 2 finger whistle to round up your children at the park or in the school playground, people look at you really oddly.
    (2) Bugger! is not a common expression, is not used often used and can be considered by some to be very rude.
    (3) Loudly saying Tai hoa (slow down) to your children as it is pronounced Tie Hoe-a which from a distance sounds like you are calling them prostitiutes, also Whakarongo mai (listen to me) is pronounced ‘farka ron gor my’ and may give the impression you are swearing at your children.
    (4) Warn the neighbours if you are watching the All Blacks play, especially if you are rather vocal when the match is on telly. The haka can be rather off putting to others performed at full volume by 8 shirtless kiwi males in the backyard, even in winter the neighbours will still notice.
    (5) Asking your husband what his last slave died of and telling him that his hands aren’t painted on for decoration is not permitted in public, you’ll only confuse people and get foul looks.
    I think that just about covers it. Hope this helps Kiwi gals!


  20. August 24, 2010 @ 5:36 pm Adventures of an English Mum

    Wow….your Town sucks!!! They all sound like Stepford Wives. My friends & I confirm to none of these as far as I’m aware….maybe that’s why I’m still single!! I’ve never understood the Cleaner thing? If I’m paying for a cleaner I want her to bloody well clean!!!


  21. August 24, 2010 @ 9:18 pm Anonymous

    Wow, Vix!! I would definitely be an outcast in your neck of the woods. But that is okay by me. Like you, I enjoy bucking the system and I think being an outcast can be kinda fun. As long as I have some other groovy outcasts to hang with.

    PS Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. Kind of a busy crazy summer it’s been around here. But I’m getting back in the swing! I’ve missed you…


  22. August 25, 2010 @ 9:08 am Tribal Wives In Rural Finland | Notes From Lapland

    […] tribal society. Vix, an expat from New Zealand now living in a rural Hampshire town, wrote her own tongue in cheek rules for women about moving to her little green part of the […]


  23. August 25, 2010 @ 9:38 am Cate

    Gosh – and I found that I trod on toes being what is considered an “outspoken Aussie” in New Zealand!


  24. August 25, 2010 @ 10:06 am Anonymous

    I’ve never done one, I like food too much. But, during a detox, you only drink specific types of juice for days on end. No food at all. Supposedly it cleanses your system and all that junk. I’m not nearly a size 0, either, but it seems to be what all the fabulous mommies strive for.


  25. August 25, 2010 @ 11:39 am tattooed_mummy

    Judging by what you think a Brit wife is – I’m not! (although I am!!) I dress like a hippy, hubby is a SAHD and does the housework and child rearing while I work, I speak loudly in public (including to strangers about anything, including sex)….hmmm maybe I’m just very very odd 🙂

    happy though!


  26. August 25, 2010 @ 4:26 pm Anonymous

    I know a wonderful little winery in a scenic spot on a beautiful island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, if you’re interested. Great place to write a novel. ;-p x


  27. August 25, 2010 @ 4:27 pm Anonymous

    You sound like fun and more like the people I’m used to I think 🙂 You do realise I was making a broad sweeping generalisation… right?


  28. August 25, 2010 @ 4:28 pm Anonymous

    I can imagine that. The Australians are not as reserved as the Kiwis. Maybe that’s why I’m so ‘out there’, because I’m half Aussie? ;p-


  29. August 25, 2010 @ 4:30 pm Anonymous

    Yeah there are berks to bucking the system. You should see some of the great looks I get and even chatted up in Poundland (Men Still make passes at girls who wear glasses) all because I chat to people instead of ignoring them. I understand you’ve been going through some tough stuff hun, one of your posts had me in tears and I meant to ask you how you were coping. I’m sorry I didn’t do that. Hope you’re ok!! I’ve missed you too…. absolutely. Hey, do you think you’ll try and get to BlogHer in San Diego next year?


  30. August 25, 2010 @ 4:32 pm Anonymous

    ‘You took the words right out of my mouth…’ yup! Very conservative and yet so bogan too..weird.


  31. August 25, 2010 @ 4:34 pm Anonymous

    Oh you made me laugh, just when I really needed too. As you know struggling with the old ‘h’ problem again. Been here two years and it still raises it’s nasty head. I did tell you about when we arrived here and Son investigated the neighbourhood in bare feet…we had a knock at the door from a concerned neighbour asking if he was mentally retarded and needed some assistance..cos he was in bare feet I guess..Odd. On the right day I laugh, on the wrong day it gets me down a bit, and then I write sarcastic piss-takes like this one. Thanks for commenting honey! xx


  32. August 25, 2010 @ 4:35 pm Anonymous

    Yeah I think that’s a workable plan. I know a few islands. Can’t remember the last time I did clean the floor. Oh and I did have to advise someone that we didn’t actually live in dirt floor huts (whare in Maori) anymore in NZ. Sheeesh! x


  33. August 25, 2010 @ 5:11 pm Steve

    Sounds to me like you understand the rules perfectly. It’s like you were born and bred here, Now. About that cup of tea…!


  34. August 25, 2010 @ 10:50 pm Anonymous

    Vix – brilliant as always and v funny.

    I would add another: the British wife bears her in-laws with faux tolerance to the point of complying with her F-in-L’s tedious requests for food/drink/snack/transport/slippers/remote control/cup of tea (delete as appropriate, if at all) in the knowledge that this is preparation for her later years as the husband will merge into a newer version of the elder one.

    Oh joy.

    LCM x


  35. August 26, 2010 @ 3:14 pm Gill

    Very funny post! You should have moved to the north of England, we’re far less stuffy! lol
    I personally don’t know a single woman who would adhere to any of those wifey rules … actually, the wifey DOES rule in most households I know (especially mine). 😉
    Long live the barefoot bohemians – you’d be welcome to be my neighbour any time!
    Gill xx


  36. August 31, 2010 @ 4:22 am geekymummy

    I’m sure glad I moved to California!


  37. September 5, 2010 @ 5:11 pm Bev

    I am (like my mother before me) clearly very un English! haha

    My Grandma (who adhere’s to all the rules, except whore in the bedroom I am quite sure! ;o) haha) Once said to my husband in front of me “Oh I’m sure Beverly looks after you and makes sure your fed well,” etc, I was so insulted and replied “For Gods sake Nan, this isn’t the 1950’s anymore, he’s big enough and ugly enough to looks after himself” To which she was completely horrified. She is a true Dot Cotton (which is what we call her!).


  38. September 7, 2010 @ 7:57 am river

    I wouldn’t fit in at all. I force my hubby make his own cups of tea/coffee. Because I’m not a waitress.


  39. September 12, 2010 @ 3:25 pm Tribal Wives of New Zealand wk 36/4 « Momentsofwhimsy's Weblog

    […] dairy, before checking in on what the whanau are up to tonight. Make sure that you pop over to Vegemitevix’s blog to read her far more entertaining tribal wife […]


  40. September 12, 2010 @ 11:41 pm Sarah Lee

    I’m a bit late, but here it is – – for the SAHM tribal wife in Wellington, New Zealand


  41. September 13, 2010 @ 6:38 am Helen

    Great post! It gave me the perfect nudge to get back into blogging – I did one on Taranaki Wives! Thanks for the inspiration. *Heart* your blog!


  42. September 13, 2010 @ 12:24 pm Overtiredmum

    Oh my word – you’ve got to move house that area sound like hell and those women are the ones I would avoid at all costs!

    Having seen Sarahchezlee’s go at her tribal rules and yours I’m very tempted at having a go at doing my corner of the UK’s. Must drag myself from the tea making and do later!

    Great blog x


  43. September 13, 2010 @ 5:49 pm bilbo

    I don’t think this is true at all, I find brits to be much more friendly and interesting than New Zealanders or Aussies. They certainly have more class and are more polite and don’t think the sun shines out of their own bleep. I’m a kiwi whose lived here in the UK for 11 years. You sound to me like a feminist kiwi the kind which used to be around in the 70s who hasn’t really gotten over it yet. Why do
    us expats think we are better than our hosts, time to pull your head in and enjoy living in a better country and admit that NZ or Oz aren’t all they are cracked up to be.


  44. May 18, 2011 @ 8:24 am Tribal Wives with Blackberrys, Blogs and Babies | Vegemitevix

    […] year I investigated the phenomenon of the Tribal Wives in Great Britain. It was a huge success as Tribal Wives scattered across the globe pitched in with their stories and […]


  45. March 14, 2012 @ 8:07 am Windmilltales

    Brilliant I would love to watch a series the other way round. Also would be great to do an expat one, like an Wife Swap but Expat wife swap!!!


    • April 17, 2012 @ 12:18 am vegemitevix

      Think that’s a brilliant idea, I wonder if my Englishman would go for it.


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