"Self-important and irritating"

LONDON Fri May 9, 2008 1:26pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - England is an irritating and insular country full of overweight, binge-drinking, reality TV addicts, a new guide warns tourists.

But in the new Rough Guide to England, the English are also hailed as a nation of animal-loving, tea-drinking charity donors who love nothing better than forming an orderly queue.

Gone, it seems, is the image of a genteel country awash with Englishmen politely tipping their bowler hats, groping through the London fog and being kinder to pets than kids.

The writers confess to bafflement over the quirky English, concluding that of the 200 countries the guide reviews there is none "so fascinating, beautiful and culturally diverse yet as insular, self-important and irritating as England."

They said the English are proud of their multi-culturalism and are united by one thing -- their sense of humor.

But there are constant contradictions. In a country priding itself on patriotism, they have a Scottish Prime Minister, an Italian football coach and a Greek married to the Queen.

They are gently mocked as voracious consumers of celebrity chit-chat and "as a glance at the tabloid newspapers will confirm, England is a nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts."

(Reporting by Paul Majendie, Editing by Steve Addison)

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