A light-hearted look at England and the English culture. Things you may not know about, such as the weather, their favourite TV programme and the Royal Family.
Red London buses in the rain, bowler hats and the Queen. This is what comes to mind for a lot of people think when they think of England. Hollywood films have the English actor playing an idiot aristocrat or the bad guy (or both). Otherwise they’re the chirpy Cockney who loves the royal family and only eats steak and kidney pudding. That was a stereotype fifty years ago and it’s definitely wrong now. Considering it’s a tiny country perched on the edge of Europe, England and Great Britain as a whole have had an incredible past but time doesn’t stand still and the England of the 21st century has changed a huge amount in just the past few years.
The English don’t all talk like members of the Royal family! TV has shown the world cockneys but what about the Geordies, Liverpudlians and the Cornish? Just as a New Yorker doesn’t usually sound (or act) like a Texan, England is a multicultural country with a wide number of dialects.
I’ve never met a cockney yet who speaks in rhyming slang! If it does get used, it’s the odd word, and used more as a joke than anything else. So if you come to London and try to use it, don’t expect to be taken seriously! Even so out of the hundreds and hundreds of phrases which now never get used, a few have made it to the present day
‘Rabbit’ (from rabbit & pork = talk ) ‘He wouldn’t stop rabbiting’.
‘Loaf’(from loaf of bread = head). ‘Use your loaf!’
‘China’ (from China plate = mate) ‘How are you my old China?’
‘Barnet’ (from Barnet Fair = hair) ‘Time to get my barnet cut’.
It doesn’t always rain in London. It’s Northern Europe, not far from the coast - you’re going to get rained on now and then. At least the weather in England is not likely to kill you or destroy your home like it does in many other places in the world. It actually rains more in Paris than it does in London.
The English do like to drink tea. It’s true. Brewed in a pot or in a cup with milk added to it but they also devour cappuccinos like the rest of the western world. It use to be an indicator of class as well. Working-class people would put the milk into the cup first then add the tea, the middle-classes would add the milk last and the upper-classes were too important to care either way about such details! Nowadays, such things are far less important. Taking afternoon tea is a tradition enjoyed by very few people nowadays. Who has time to stop in a working day for tea and cucumber sandwiches? More tourists take afternoon tea in England simply because tourists have more leisure time to enjoy it!!
The English do not wear bowler hats! Honest!
London isn’t foggy any more. In past centuries industrial pollution and smog combined with London’s position on a river estuary caused poisonous fogs - the ‘pea souper’ named because they were so thick like a broth. Over time they killed thousands of people. London cleaned up its act after the second world war and the fogs are consigned to history! Like any city, it does have a problem with car pollution though but London hasn’t taken the step which some other European cities have done of completely banning cars from the roads on some days to cut pollution.
English food - bland, boiled, boring? Thanks to the arrival of immigrants from all over Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, not any more. The most popular take away and supermarket meal in England today? Indian curry. The portions are still smaller than in the US though!
As many English people visit Florida to meet Mickey Mouse every year than visit London. I’m afraid that many English people travelling around on vacation avoid London and Stratford-upon-Avon and leave them to the foreign tourists.
The English have a reputation in Europe for being great animal-lovers. They criticise the way some of their European neighbours treat animals while many Europeans accuse them of being too sentimental with their pets. OF course they love their kids and would put them before a dog but back in the 19th century when the English set up a charity to protect the welfare of animals some children were still being made to work in factories and down coal mines. It was several more years before kids got a similar charity looking out for them.
Soccer is very popular in England but I promise you a lot of people hate it! Unfortunately soccer hooligans are a problem right across Europe, with Holland and Germany suffering the same problems as England but England has got a bad reputation for soccer violence. These morons are condemned by the majority of English people and the majority of football fans who just want to go and watch a game.
Although the UK is tiny, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are in many ways different from England with their own languages and customs. In England itself, some regions, particularly Cornwall, are fiercely proud of their traditions and some would like to be independent of England and its government.
Most English people don’t care if Northern Ireland wants to be separate or not. For most English, they’d just like the problem to go away and sort itself out and for other countries not to get involved. Unfortunately hundreds of years of fighting between Catholics and Protestants makes it difficult to sort out and for logic and reason to triumph over tradition. The English and their government won’t support terrorism on either side but do support the choices made by the Northern Irish people in their own free elections.
There is strict gun control in England with a tiny minority, usually farmers, owning a weapon. It is difficult to get a gun license in the first place, then you must register with the police and any gun must be kept locked up. The English police are not generally armed - specially-trained armed police (like a SWAT team) are brought in for the pretty rare occasions where a firearm is used by a criminal. Apart from this the only armed police you should see in England will be at the airport because of the threat of terrorism. Every year there are more shootings just among the under 16s in California than in the whole of London. Fortunately, shootings across the entire country are very rare.
And talking of weapons, no one under 16 years old can buy a knife either - whether for the kitchen or camping. The under 16s can't buy glue either - as a deterrent to solvent abuse.
England’s longest running TV serial, a soap opera called Coronation Street, was first broadcast in 1960 and is still one of the most popular programmes on English TV. About a third of the population regularly tune in to this story of people living in a fictional town near Manchester. One actor, William Roache and his character Ken Barlow - has been in it since the very first episode! Back then he was a radical 60s student. Now he’s a respectable ex-teacher and in real life, the actor is a druid!
Many English people admire and respect the USA today. Others think the US is a bit crazy with its gun culture and talk shows compared to the ‘reserved’ English. One thing is clear - the English really don’t care about what happened between us in colonial times. George III and the Boston Tea Party were a long time ago.
The English have been an inventive race over the years. Here are a few of the things they’ve come up with -
Passenger railways - The Stockton and Darlington Railway (1825) was the first in the world to carry both freight and passengers.
Antiseptic - Joseph Lister, 1867.
Modern atomic theory John Dalton, 1808 and the model of the atom Ernest Rutherford, 1911.
The circulation of the blood - William Harvey, 1628.
Calculus and the law of gravitation - Isaac Newton 1670s
Electric light - the arc lamp, Sir Humphrey Davy, 1801 although Thomas A. Edison is rightly credited with mass-marketing electric lights
The jet engine - Sir Frank Whittle
Machine gun - James Puckle, England, 1718 (nearly 150 years before Richard J. Gatling)
Electric motor - Michael Faraday, 1822;
Tank - Sir Ernest Swinton, 1914.
Vaccination - Edward Jenner, 1796.
World wide web - Tim Berners-Lee 1989 (developed while working at CERN)
The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, which is made up of 54 developed and developing nations around the world. It is a voluntary association of independent sovereign states with members spread over every continent and ocean. Today, 33 members are republics and five have national monarchies of their own. Sixteen are constitutional monarchies which recognise Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State. All, however, accept the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. Its 1.7 billion people account for 30 per cent of the world's population. The old British empire and following decolonisation, the Commonwealth, have brought immigrants to England from all over the world contributing to a diverse multicultural society.
Because all British passports are issued ‘in the name of the Queen’, she is the one person in England who doesn’t need a passport herself. Prince Phillip, her husband, Prince Charles and everyone else needs to have one in order to travel abroad.
The Prince of Wales has written a children’s book, The Old Man of Lochnagar, which is based around the Balmoral Estate where the Royal Family stay when they visit Scotland. Prince Andrew’s former wife, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York who is now better known for her TV appearances, has also written several books for children which have been made into cartoons.