Sunday, 1 March 2009

How to Survive Social Interactions in Oxford part 1

Me in front of a Liberation Monument in Momento Park, Budapest

Some tips for casual Friday night conversation in a bar or pub:

  1. Have a few politician stories to share, from personal scandals and fashion faux pas to early promises, mottos and soundbites that came back to haunt them. Oxford students eat this up.
  2. Know something about the financial state and organisational culture of the national broadcating companies of a few countries.
  3. Be prepared for the introduction or premise to a story to be argued about. For instance, if you want to talk about how something was embarrassing because...someone might well interrupt you and question the sincerity of your embarrassment given that you're telling the story.
  4. You simply must understand or at least be able to talk about a few aspects of the current financial crisis, corporate governance and renewable energy. It's preferable to have been to a conference on one of these that week.
  5. Take along your husband or wife as back-up (yours or someone who can stand in as one), someone who is ostensibly unaffected and even unpolished that is until you're intellectually challenged by someone at which point he/she will automatically turn into a fiercely erudite lion/lioness and paw your challenger to the floor. Two is better than one.
  6. Don't underestimate the coward factor. People very rarely check anyone for poor, unkind or distasteful behaviour here partly because they fear the transgressor may rule them one day in some form or other. Of course, certain behaviour is discussed behind the transgressor's back, but very carefully and only after several qualifications and other acts of due diligence.
  7. If you want to get a cheap laugh then say something saucy and cute, but remember: no matter how much they laugh and seem to enjoy your drollery, you're probably actually going backwards in the overall approval ratings. Being funny = one step forward, two back. Think medium-term.


ihatemornings said...

Very true. Oxford conversation is a minefield of sensitive egos and dangerous opinion. That's what makes it so interesting. And potentially devastating.

Like Lady Di (gawdrestersoul) famously said, "The navigation of minefields should be left to trained military professionals and slightly tipsy academics."

Alice said...

I love that Lady Di quote!

Great post, Ms. Academic, Hopeful! I particularly loved the grilling about 'allegedly' telling an embarrassing story. How horrid.

I'm not sure I'd survive an evening, let alone an academic career!

Conway said...

Very amusing! Crucial guidelines for those battling to win friends, whom they dislike, and influence people, they consider beneath them.

I predict a series of blog entries, a self-help book and a movie deal.

You’ve left out the biggest secret though – all people at Oxford really talk about is being at Oxford.

Academic, Hopeful said...

Too right Conway. I will have to include the Oxford talk in part 2. It may require some more thought as it's quite an elusive element of the social interaction here - What is it exactly? Is it as simple as bops, rowing, inter-collegial competitiveness, seminars, guest lecturers, internships etc, or is it something more complex and implicit? Please do throw me some ideas if you have any.

Thanks for all your comments. I am no better than any other Oxford prat who needs outside reassurance and constant encouragement... although I still think I am somehow different overall, of course! Right?

droid said...

This is not how I survived social interactions in Oxford. I am a proponent of the one-fold way: avoid talking to twats.

Ned said...

Hopeful! How awful! But I loved it, it's like looking inside a huge head. Look forward to the next installment. xx