The UK class system has been in place for hundreds of years with a legacy that lives on today.
The working class, middle class and upper class are still prevalent today and, depending on the one you belong to, you are judged on the stereotype.
Other European nations like the French and Germans lost their class system through war or revolution. The UK has neither lost a war (not since 1066, anyway) or had a revolution to dramatically change the social landscape.
The country is much more diverse than Victorian times of old but class is still prevalent. Some claim that the old class system has fragmented and new categories like ‘affluent workers’ have emerged.
Maybe, but working class, middle class and upper class, still lie within these new sub-categories. If you’re a ‘new affluent’ but raised working class then, sorry to break it you, but you’re working class.
Categorising people into their appropriate class is straight forward. Understand at least two of the variables below you and you’ll be able to make an accurate prediction on which class they belong.
- Place of birth
- Schools and universities attended (if attended at all)
- Dress sense
- Where they go on holiday
Everyone desires status and society is a social status game so whatever rung of the ladder you’re on you’ll try to move up it.
Provided you have some will and grit about you. Some people are happy with what they are born with and achieve very little in life.
We call those people losers.
Aspiring for more does not mean aspiring to be in a different social class, however.
I was born and raised working class and since moving to London eleven years ago I’ve worked with and have friends that are both upper and middle class.
I can tell you for certain that I’d rather be working class than middle class. But maybe not upper class.
1. Being poor is just as freeing as being rich. When you’re poor you have nothing to lose and when you’re rich you have so much you can’t lose it.
When you’re in the middle you’re stuck between the two. Always trying to get to the next level while avoiding dropping to the one below.
Many middle class people are unhappy. Being middle class is a burden.
Some went to prestigious private schools and universities not because their parents could easily afford it but because they worked damned hard and made real sacrifices to give their kids the best start in life.
They carry the pressure to succeed and honour their parents’ sacrifice from childhood to adulthood which can cause deep-rooted issues later in life.
Working class people go to a state school and, up until recently, didn’t even consider going to university or having anything remotely like a career.
They don’t suffer this sense of pressure and the psychological issues that come with it.
Speaking of careers.
2. Working class people don’t care “what do you do?” they care about your character.
Working class people have jobs not careers. They don’t stay in the office until 10pm every night working on an ‘important’ project.
They’re entrepreneurial and resourceful but they prioritise being with friends and family to enjoy the more important things in life.
They don’t use their time to network or hobnob to make acquaintances that can help them move up the ladder. They have friendships which will probably last a lifetime.
When enquiring about someone they don’t ask, “What does he do?” but instead ask, “What is he like?”
There is a greater unity among the working class.
A unity that has been passed down to each generation. It stems from harsher times when strength and solidarity were required to make a united stand against oppressive governments.
Unity and pride are part of their genetic hardwiring.
They know what community spirit is and when you need them they are there for you regardless of what you can do for them.
Middle class people aren’t exposed to this community aspect as much if at all.
3. While ‘working class pride’ is a thing there is no such equivalent for the middle class. There is no ‘middle class pride’.
Instead, there’s middle class guilt.
It’s a feeling of guilt because they know they should feel gratitude for being part of the most privileged people in history. Except in place is a constant gnawing that they should be something more in life.
It begins as a sense of entitlement that the world owes them something. This turns to shame and guilt when they discover they are not that special after all.
This causes a move towards proving their worth through external recognition and outward achievement. It provides satisfaction for a few years but the world of work is hard, the people are cold and it begins to feel unfulfilling.
They replace it with a lite version of the new age spiritual philosophy towards Mother Earth and oneness. On doing so they immediately book a ticket to Burning Man.
Humans are hardwired for struggle and we feel an increased sense of pride and self-esteem when we overcome life’s challenges.
The working class have done this in spades. Less so in today’s more affluent world but the attitude is programmed into them from each generation.
Economically and socially the working class has had to endure more struggles than the middle class. They look back on a harsh past with fond affection, and as a time when their will and solidarity refused to succumb to an oppressive force or ugly situation.
4. The working class are kinder with their time and money.
The working class care less about material things because they are limited to what they can buy. Gratitude is second nature to them because many know what having very little is like.
They don’t have to imagine how it would feel to struggle to pay the weekly rent because some have experienced it first-hand.
They don’t have to be reminded to ‘live in the moment’ because they’ve done that all their lives. There’s no pressure in who they should be in the future, therefore, their heads don’t live there.
With less focus on materialism and status, working class people are generally kinder with both their time and money.
There’s no sense of entitlement because they know you don’t get “owt for nowt” in this world. They weren’t brought up to believe they are some unique, gifted and special snowflake who can achieve anything their heart desires.
No, they were told they are no better or worse than anyone else.
The working class are freer than the middle class. They are not bound by the same social constructs and there is no pressure on them to achieve external recognition. They were born good enough and they’ll always be good enough.
And this is why it’s better to be working class than middle class.
The upper class are different, however. The British aristocracy are the most elite and privileged class in the world.
If you can, be one of them.