5 interesting facts about the UK

Continuing our series of fun facts from different countries, today we’re looking at the UK.

Fish and chips (credit Ines Saraiva on Flickr)

1. Many of us Brits use the terms ‘Great Britain’ and ‘United Kingdom’ interchangeably, but we are wrong to do so. Great Britain consists of three countries – England, Scotland and Wales, whereas the full definition of the UK is ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. So the UK includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The rest of Ireland is a separate country.

So when we talk about ‘Britain’ or ‘Great Britain’ we are including Scotland and Wales. Many English don’t mind whether they are referred to as British or English, but people from other parts of Britain feel differently. For example, Scottish people tend to consider themselves Scottish and not British. (Of course I cannot speak for the whole of Britain so please feel free to disagree in the comments!)

2. The ‘average’ UK citizen drives a Ford Focus and eats fish and chips on Fridays. The tradition of eating fish on Fridays is shared with many Catholic countries due to the Catholic practise of not eating meat on Fridays (even though the majority of the UK population is Anglican not Catholic). Like many of our favourite ‘British’ dishes, fish and chips has foreign origins – fish cooked in batter was introduced by the Portuguese.

3. We love talking about the weather. Maybe it’s because the situation changes so frequently – it can start out sunny, cloud over, start raining and then back to sun again all in the course of a couple of hours – but it’s an endless source of discussion. A few centimetres of snow are guaranteed to get us excited. If you ever want to get talking to a Brit, the weather is a good place to start.

4. The moment an Englishman or woman opens his/her mouth we can tell (roughly) where he or she is from. It’s especially easy to tell whether someone is from the North or the South by the way vowels are pronounced. In the past this formed the basis for a whole lot of discrimination and prejudice regarding class. Nowadays class and origins are a lot less important, but there is still rivalry especially between the North and South of England.

5. Many of our laws go back centuries and some seem quite strange nowadays. For example, a law from 1592 says that all unclaimed swans belong to the Queen and that killing them is treason. A man was actually jailed under this law in 1993. Another law dating from the 1600′s makes eating mince pies illegal. Luckily this one is not enforced, because mince pies (which don’t contain meat any more) are a favourite snack at Christmas time.

Read more:
Britain’s ten favourite foods
World languages and their histories
Tempura in Japan

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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9 Comments

  • I am not sure that class and origins are less important, i think they are latent, it is just not pc to show it… but this being said i wish the BBC would not hire people who have such strong regional accents as it is impossible to understand them! It makes me, a “foreigner”, move away from any program that is presented by a person with a strong regional accent.
    In fact all foreigners used to rely on the BBC to improve their English…not possible anymore!
    Swans: I heard recently that the Queen was the only person allowed to eat them!
    All this is very odd for me as I come from a republican country and this sort of “rule’ seems to be so archaic and reflects badly on England, but it is very funny though! Gives people some topic of conversation other than the weather!
    Lucy, your article is obviously a perfect capture of the “Englishness”! :)

  • I actually find it a positive thing that the BBC have now presenters with regional accents. In the olden days this was not usually done, every presenter had to have … well, BBC accent!
    I didn’t know about those laws! Very interesting.

  • In the past it was very difficult to get certain jobs for people without the right accent, although I agree with DeeBee that class prejudices still exist in a less obvious manner.

    Aledys, I also like the fact that BBC presenters have regional accents, but I have a regional accent myself so I expect I am biased. It does make things harder to understand for non-native speakers.

    DeeBee, there are so many swan rumours around, I looked it up for this article because I wasn’t sure what was gossip and what was fact. Maybe we are secretly proud of our archaic and strange laws. Anyway I’m glad you approve of the post, it was surprisingly difficult to choose what to put in it.

  • Raygurl

    hi

  • One Direction LOVER

    I’m doing a report on the UK and this really helped me!

  • helloppl

    this is very interesting
    nd hello ppl :D

  • Re, Item number 5. Just to clarify – MINCE pies do indeed contain meat, usually minced beef. However MINCEMEAT pies contain minced fruits, currants, and raisins etc, and are usually called ‘mince pies’ usually only sold at Christmas time. Mince pies from a baker or a butcher, but mincemeat pies from a baker. Confused?? Here are the reasons.