That famous British reserve is being blamed for UK businesses struggling to compete with more strident foreign rivals.
According to a new survey, British companies "urgently need to change their attitude."
Despite UK growth outpacing much of Europe, UK companies were reluctant to rate their competitiveness. Whereas almost half of all other countries surveyed said they would be looking for growth financing, just 26 per cent of UK companies had the same plans.
Now, foreign competitors are "reaping the benefits of greater confidence in their ability to compete."*
We asked the CEO of a locally-based global concern whether he agreed with the findings.
"No... don't want to," he said, hiding behind his PA's skirt, smiling foolishly.
When the PA told him "come on, now don't be shy, talk to the nice man," he stuck his thumb in his mouth and ran off to hide behind his desk.
"I'm sorry," the PA added. "He's just being silly - he's not normally like this."
*We have no idea what any of this means - our business editor is on holiday.