Who’s taking the piste? Review of the 'RahRah Survival Guide' for middle class students

Sunday February two 2070

The publication this week of the ‘Rah Rah Survival Guide’ for posh and middle class students marks the 50th anniversary of this essential annual guide. When first published in 2020, its purpose was to provide a comprehensive guide for students from advantaged family backgrounds wishing to fit in with their lesser advantaged peers. The latest guide has many of the traditional gems of advice in addition to recent updates. Hopefully ‘posh’ students will continue to avoid the common ‘faux pas’ traps into which many have fallen over the years. First and foremost is not to use French words that may seem to you to be ‘en vogue’.  It should be ‘de rigueur’ to use the vernacular wherever possible since doing otherwise will grate on some students. If caught out, then the classic comic defence of ‘pretentious moi’ may work but only the once. Here are a few snippets.

Living together.
Although the proportion of students coming from the poorest neighbourhoods has not risen at our universities significantly since 2020, it still remains important for students of means to try not to stand out.  Back in 2020, the different standards of accommodation meant that this alone marked out the wealthiest students. However, the  Student Equality Bill and accord of 2027, signed by all Former UK States (FUKS) universities, meant that all students were  compelled to live in equivalent standard accommodation. Rooms were all adapted to basic single study rooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms.  This means that all students now have the same facilities and advantage in term time. To most students, the rooms are basic and a radical step down from what they experience at home. For others, the rooms are a luxury with a sink and central heating and often for the first time they are not sharing a room with their siblings (use of the word sibling is discouraged in favour of brothers and sisters).
Studying together.
Don’t refer to anyone doing something out of the ordinary and alone as going ‘off piste’. Poorer students have never been skiing and are likely to get ‘piste off’. If you see a risky move from someone (not referred to as a ‘peer’ or ‘fellow’ student please) they are not ‘sailing close to the wind’.  Your less advantaged companions may have never been in a boat and will misunderstand the reference to ‘wind’.

You might be tempted to say they are doing it ‘off their own bat’. This term from the cricketing world will bamboozle those not familiar with the sport. Indeed, foreign students will immediately think of a small flying mammal and assume that you are insane.
Don’t call for a ‘tête-à-tête’ with fellow students to discuss an assignment; ‘let’s meet’ will suffice. Predictive text can be a source of much confusion. In trying to fit in with a message in the vernacular such as, “I can’t get nout” may send as “I can’t get Moët on your phone. Be warned.

Clothes.
What to wear and not to wear  has become an important factor in staying low key. It is important for male students that you NEVER wear brightly coloured, particularly red, trousers.  If you must wear expensive items such as clothes from Harvey Nichols, and similar upmarket stores, then remove all of the labels. Even Marks and Spencer labels are risky. Better still replace the labels with equivalent ones from Primark.
Food.
Mistakes are commonplace and widespread. Leaving a bowl of olives lying around that may be mistaken for grapes will leave a sour taste. Avocados are not pears and to be avoided along with foods such as quinoa and polenta. It’s ‘mashed potato’ and never ‘creamed potato’ or God forbid, ‘pomme purée’. French fries are American. Never ask if someone wants cream in their coffee. This will lead to incredible confusion when the reply is “I would prefer milk and not cream please”. Indeed coffee alone will be focal point for many problems and reverting to tea (‘ordinary’ and never Early Grey or the like) might be easier. Many families post ‘incident’ could only afford cheap instant coffee or even a chicory essence referred to as ‘tent’ coffee. They may never have seen coffee beans or a grinder before and the ‘fines’ in their cup will be a surprise. Fines are what you pay when you are caught surely. Wine only comes in three basic types, white, red and fizzy.
Family and holidays.

It is very easy to slip up here; especially when discussing the holidays or weekends. If you have been at the family estate in the country or family villa in Italy for the weekend, then referring to it as ‘visiting my father’s allotment’ might help. But note that an allotment in Tuscany is most likely to seem bizarre.
Planning a holiday with friends should be done with extreme caution so as not to offend. The less advantaged students will be seeking employment nearer home in the summer and they will not be up for a ‘grand tour’ of Europe. Upon return, you could say you were working as a delivery driver around various European cities. But definitely forget to explain that you were, in essence, delivering your parents cash to various bars and restaurants.
Lastly, NEVER EVER bring up the subject of the ‘incident’ of 2019 with a student from a less advantaged background. This may be precisely why they have fewer advantages than you.


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