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The man behind Very British Problems
Very British Problems is a Twitter phenomenon and the subject of a best-selling book. Created by tech journalist and Go Explore contributor Rob Temple, the @SoVeryBritish account provides 140-character snapshots of national awkwardness. Since its creation in 2012, Very British Problems has amassed more than 756,000 followers. We chatted to the man himself to find out more…
How did you come up with the idea of Very British Problems?
I wrote a regular column for T3 about awkward everyday happenings so I thought I’d keep the same theme and a friend suggested the British angle, though I think you could easily rename the feed ‘Very Awkward Human Problems’. This wouldn’t be quite as catchy though. I’d never bothered with Twitter before this and didn’t really know how it worked, so I set a target of 1,000 followers in a year. After a month it had over 100,000 followers and I was contacted by a literary agent in London, asking if I wanted to make it into a book.
What makes the problems British?
I’d probably say it’s mostly to do with language. The constant double-meanings (“I’m fine” meaning “you better leave me alone I’m about to explode” whereas “I’m chuffed” means “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been”). Some of the things I write have been compared to the sort of wordplay you find in The Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, which is nice. The Twitter jokes are related more to the sort of Brit you see portrayed in the films, a funny stereotype. The exaggerated politeness and stiff upper lip even if you’ve just lost a leg sort of thing. It’s basically the Black Knight in Monthy Python and the Holy Grail, in hundreds of tweets.
Running out of ways to say thanks when a succession of doors are held for you, having already deployed ‘cheers’, ‘ta’ and ‘nice one’
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) March 2, 2014
Tutting at strong wind
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) December 5, 2013
Saying hello to a friend in the supermarket, then creeping around like a burglar to avoid seeing them again
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) November 8, 2013
What’s in the book?
More! There are 250 completely book-exclusive british problems as well as 200 of the best from @SoVeryBritish, beautifully illustrated by Andrew Wightman. And there are more in-depth chapters. It’s 288 pages so I was able to expand and write meatier sections, not just one-liners. It’s a nice, thick book that sits handsomely in your living room bookcase as well as next to your toilet.
What has been your most popular tweet to date?
Anything to do with funny phrases, haircuts, tea or transport seem to resonate. And the weather. I did a tweet about how it was nice to be wearing jumpers again last Autumn and it got about 5,000 retweets in an hour. Most peculiar.
Who’s the most famous person that follows you?
Ricky Gervais, Hugh Laurie, Matt Lucas… Jennifer Saunders said it was very funny. Tom Hiddleston said it was his favourite feed in ShortList, which was nice. I love that Richard Herring is following. I’d say I’ve actually ‘met’ more celebrities during my day job as a journalist for excellent sites like Go Explore. Buzzfeed did a nice collection of some of the best tweets, too.
What should non-Brits know about Britishness?
1. The debate about milk or water first will never be resolved
2. Don’t talk on the tube
3. Push in to a queue and you will get stared at to death
- Very British Problems (Sphere) is available on Amazon.