As a child, when learning English as a foreign language, I often heard the phrase "English reserve", which seems to mean that the English people are cold, reserved, find it hard to show their sentiment publicly.
At the moment, I'm working in London and have some English neighbours. While I recognize that they treasure their privacy, I also see that they are very kind, eager to help. In the morning, when we saw each other, they always say hi merrily.
Is there a contradiction here?
I've never thought the theory of the "British reserve" was ever really true, some people are like that, others aren't and it's the same all over the world. I suspect it comes from the mistaken idea that Victorian attitudes persist to this day, mixed with the idea that because GB was the most powerful nation on Earth a century ago the British people must also be aloof and superior.