One of the most inconspicous characteristic of the British (especially the English) is also one of their most omnipresent characteristic. This element binding the English (I can only speak of the English as I have direct contact with them daily) social fabric is the notion of class, of what class does one belong, how does one move above one's class and most importantly how one judges the class of one's entourage.
Of course the subject is not at all raised during the tedious, routine-bound and monotone flow of the daily life. But it is of course sub-conciously ticking in many people. That it of course what I observe. My English colleagues pattern of small-talk is littered with clues and hints of their social class. "Oh how was your holiday? I went to the French Alps for some skiing." "Really? I'm planning a trip with my family and my sister's family to the Austrian Alps for some skiing too" etc etc. As mentioned in an editorial I read somewhere recently, skiing is very much an exclusivity in the UK when compared to France for example where kids and adults grew up with the notion that skiing is simply a sport and not means to establish class.
At work I am also surrounded by very middle-class people. I have learned to tag them as "middle class" from a book I've read about the English mentality. Although I am aware that I'm painting a rather stereotypical perspective of them, but as a trained scientist and an amateur social scientist, I could not help but making sweeping generalisation to better understand my surrounding. How are they middle-class? Well they go to south of France in the summer, renting a "gite", they say "lounge" and not "sitting room", they say "sofa" instead of "settee", etc etc. Peculiar isn't it :-)
Ahhhh... the delight of living in a foreign country.