Traditions and customs of the UK / Традиции и обычаи Великобритании
Many things that are always regarded as typically British were written long ago and are not representing "modem life".
In the 20th century a lot of immigrants came to the British Isles and now it is extremely incorrect to identify these stereotypes with all people living there. It is a multicultural society. But still there are many interesting peculiarities in the British culture.
Most British people live in towns and cities. But they have an idealized vision of the countryside. The countryside for them means peace and quiet, beauty, good health and no crime.
People in Britain are fond of gardening. They like to plant and grow different flowers.
The British have sentimental attitude to animals. They like to keep pets.
The British are the sport loving nation. Sport is a popular leisure activity. Football and rugby are very popular with British people. Over three million people participate in basketball in the UK.
Horse-racing, "the sport of Kings" is a very popular sport.
Polo is popular too. It was brought to Britain from India in the 19th century by the English soldiers.
Fishing (angling) is one of the most popular sports.
Traditionally, the favourite sports of the British upper class are hunting, shooting and fishing. The most widespread form of hunting isfox-hunting. This is a popular pastime among some members of the higher social classes and is a mark of their status.
Darts is a very popular pub game.
The word "pub" is short for "public house". Pubs are so popular in the UK that there are over 60,000 pubs there (53,000 in England and Wales, 5,200 in Scotland and 1,600 in Northern Ireland). Pubs are an important part of British life. People talk, eat, drink, meet their friends and relax there.
The British is a nation of tea-drinkers. It is a stereotype which is out-of-date. Of course, they like it to be made in a certain distinctive way Ч strong and with milk, but more coffee than tea is bought in the country's shops.
Afternoon tea was always thought to be a very important tradition in the UK.
Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon and a long period of time was still between lunch and dinner. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
This pause for tea became a fashionable social event.
Nowadays, however, in the average household, afternoon tea is likely to be just a biscuil or a small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag. The tradition of afternoon tea is supported by retired people or by upper-middle class people.
Many think of British conservatism and call it "the land of tradition" because of their loyalty to traditions, but it is only true of public life. Annual ceremonies are centuries old. Speaking nationally they like stability in terms of state. In their private everyday life the British do not follow these traditions so precisely.
The British and about a quarter of the world drives on the left side of the road, and the countries that do so are mostly old British colonies. This puzzles the rest of the world. However, there is a perfectly good reason. Up to the late 1700's, everybody travelled on the left side of the road because it is the sensible option for feudal, violent societies of mostly right-handed people.
Why driving on the left?
The knights with theii lances under theii right arm naturally passed on each other's right, and if you passed a stranger on the road you walked on the left to ensure that your protective sword arm was between yourself and him.
It was changed under Napoleon because he was left-handed. His armies had to march on the right, so he could keep his sword arm between him and an opponent. From that time any part of the world which was, at some time, part of the British Empire, was thus left-handed and any part colonised by the French was right-handed.
The drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA to become free of all remaining links with its British colonial past. It is very difficult to imagine that the British will ever refuse from driving on the left. Not being like everyone else is a good reason not to change.
In Britain they shop in pounds and ounces, though almost everywhere in the world people use grammes and kilogrammes.
As for temperature, even weathermen use Celsius while people in the UK use Farenheit.
The English continue to start their financial year not as other countries do, at the beginning of the calendar year, but at the beginning of April.
The class system has a special meaning for the British. And the most peculiar thing is that the class system there. It is not totaly dependent on money. This system is more historical than money-measured. Old aristocracy Ч the royal family, all the dukes, earls and barons are of very small number.
The accent reminds of the class greatly. Most ordinary people have regional accents and upper-class people speak the same language throughout England and Scotland. It is like upper class, which has their own dialect with a pronunciation called RP (Recieved Pronunciation).
The British form the queues whenever they are waiting for something. Some people even joke that an Englishman even if he is alone forms an orderly queue of one. But this does not mean that they enjoy it. They regard the necessity to wait in the queues for about 3 minutes already a problem.
It should be noted that the British police is unarmed. That is very good for their public image Ч they are serving people and controlling them. The policemen are occasionally called "Bobbies". Originally though, they were known as "Peelers". Before 1829 there were no police anywhere in Britain. And the police was the creation of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. That is where the name "Peelers" comes from. And Bobby is short for Robert.
If the British like formal ceremonies, many visitors draw a conclusion that they like formalities in their general behaviour. They do observe formalities, but this does not mean that they are formal in everyday life. Bank workers wear a tie and a suit. But they like to dress down because of clothes formalities. Some offices have recently adopted the American custom of "dress-down Friday", when employees can wear more casual clothes for one day a week.
The difference of formality and informality is sometimes regarded as coldness of the British people. Being friendly in Britain is sometimes showing that you are not bothering with formalities. For example, not shaking hands when meeting and not saying "please" when making a request. When they avoid doing these things they are not being unfriendly* as it may seem, they just mean that you are in catergory "a friend", so all the rules can be ignored.
► Читайте также другие темы раздела "Traditions and customs of the UK":
- Traditions and customs of the UK (Wordlist) / перевод некоторых слов
- Traditions and customs of the UK / Традиции и обычаи Великобритании
- Holidays in the UK / Праздники Великобритании
► Перейти к оглавлению книги Страноведческий справочник. Топики (темы) о Великобритании на английском языке