Somebody recently asked me “what is the British culture like?” and I honestly didn’t know where to start. Culture incorporates so many aspects of everyday life. Everything we do and say, the language we use, the way we behave is defined by our culture. So, let’s take a look at some of the key aspects of the British culture.
Even the name of our country can be a little confusing. We can be individual countries, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, we can be Great Britain or we can be the UK. Despite small differences, the overwhelming majority of cultural norms are the same. The main language is English, although Welsh is spoken in Wales, Scottish Gaelic and Scots in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland.
The main religion across the UK is Christianity. Under this umbrella religion, Scotland’s leading church is the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, England’s leading church is the Anglican Church and after this there are numerous Catholic, Islam, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish followers.
We’ve already written a blog on the most popular British foods. Having said that, just because these foods are British doesn’t mean that it’s what we always eat. In fact, the British are very diverse when it comes to food. On the list of most popular foods, you can find pizza, spaghetti bolognese, tikka masala and omelette. When it comes to dining out, we also visit a whole range of restaurants from American (Five Guys, TGI Fridays) to Italian (Pizza Express, Bella Italia) from French (Café Rouge, Côte) to Asian (Wagamama) and Mexican (Chiquito).
Drinks play an important part in British culture. We’re most famously known for our obsession with tea! There are numerous black tea brands from the UK, including Yorkshire Tea and Tetley’s, which we then mix with milk to get a proper British cuppa. When it comes to alcohol, we do consume a fair bit! Our favourite alcoholic drink is beer, which goes down perfectly when you visit the pub.
Sport plays a hugely important role in British society with British athletes representing the country across a huge variety of sports. The most popular sport, both played and watched in the UK, is unsurprisingly football. But the UK is home to many global sports, not just football… cricket, golf, polo, croquet, rugby and snooker to name just a few. In times of global sporting events, such as the Olympics, World Cups and Six Nations Rugby, the British people always get behind their athletes and support them!
The history of music in the UK is also extensive dating back to folk music from each of the British countries continuing on to pop music from some of the world’s biggest bands in the 1900’s. Some of the biggest names in British music include The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, David Bowie, Queen and Pink Floyd, to name just a few. Nowadays, the most popular music is pop music, R&B and dance music.
The style of clothing in the UK is ever changing. In the 21st century, the UK follows the typical fashion styles and trends of the Western world and could range from jeans, a t-shirt and trainers to a dress, high heels and a jacket. One of the most traditional items of clothing from the UK is the kilt, in tartan patterns, that can be worn by men in Scotland. The UK also has some world-renowned designers, including Vivenne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.
The UK doesn’t really have many traditional celebrations. The main celebrations are based on religious events – Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day and New Year. Each of the British countries has an individual patron saint and may celebrate these too. The UK is extremely commercial and when these events are coming up, you’ll often find the shops decorated accordingly and people celebrating all month long.
Art is also a strong industry in the UK. The most famous British artists range from impressionism, such as JMW Turner, and romanticism, such as William Blake, to contemporary, such as Damien Hirst and even street art, such as the infamous Banksy. This art as well as that of many other international artists is displayed in the numerous art museums and galleries across the country, including The National Gallery, The V&A Museum, The National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern.
English literature is also renowned around the world. Some of the all-time greats include William Shakespeare, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, George Orwell and Charles Dickens. Nowadays, reading has become less and less popular in the UK, especially with the increase of technology. On average, the British person will read just 10 books per year, although this decreases dramatically to 6 books per year for under 35s. The most popular genres to read are crimes, thrillers and mysteries.
We’ve covered the main areas of life in the UK but, in reality, there is so much more that comes under culture. Here are a few fun facts about some other areas of British culture;
- We sometimes use the imperial measurement system
- Our Head of State is the sovereign, currently Queen Elizabeth II
- The UK has a parliamentary government, ruled by two houses – the House of Commons and the House of Lords
- One key political cultural event is Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), held every Wednesday and gives the chance to any MP to ask the PM questions
- Symbols of the UK include the red telephone box, the guards standing outside Buckingham Palace and the Union Jack flag
- British people send greetings cards on all occasions
- Each country within the UK has its own flag, patron saint, national anthem, flower, animal and coat of arms