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British Culture: Facts & Customs

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Customs and traditions are the cornerstones for any particular cultural identity. The British have long-standing traditions, and their customs have had an impact on more than just their patch of land in Europe.

More Than an Endearing Accent

What represents culture? The aspects of a region, the traditions, and social behaviors of a given society all contribute to culture. So, before we get into what makes British culture unique and distinguishable, let's take a look at some facts about the British. British culture includes different races and ethnicities, though the predominant race is white or Anglo-Saxon. Britain is predominantly Christian with a majority of British being Catholic or Protestant. Their religious affiliation continues to influence their traditions to this day.

Some less savory facts about British culture is that the British are on track to be the most obese in Europe, which may or may not have something to do with their love of pubs and pub food, especially fish and chips on Fridays. The British still recognize their monarchy and many of their customs and traditions revolve around royalty.

The Monarchy

The most culturally recognized aspect of British tradition is their monarchy. When people say 'The Queen,' it's a pretty safe bet that they're referring to the Queen of England. Royalty is a significant part of British culture and the many ceremonies surrounding royalty has been a celebrated custom for over 1000 years.

The monarchy exists today mostly as a tradition. The British have a democratic government controlled by the Parliament. However, The Queen of England is one of the few people in the world who's not required to have a passport. Royal birthdays and weddings are often a widely publicized event, drawing worldwide viewers.

Since 1660, Buckingham Palace has held a 'Changing of the Guard' ceremony. It's a common recommendation for tourists to experience this ceremony. From January to March, the ceremony takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from 11:00 to 11:45 a.m. Daily ceremonies commence in the summer. To the British, the 'Changing of the Guard' is also known as 'Guard Mounting.'

Social Etiquette

The British pride themselves on their social etiquette. From something as proper as tea time or even as casual as fish and chips at the local pub, politeness, manners, and general courtesy are the hallmarks of their culture. For example, standing in line, what the British call a 'queue' is taken very seriously. People are respectful of this social contract and typically don't violate it.

The British sense of humor is also significant. The British are well known for their high-brow or intellectual humor as well as their sarcasm and wit, which is often portrayed in film, television and theatre.

The Arts

Britain has celebrated a substantial representation of the arts, especially in theatre. It's a little difficult not to boast a dominance in theatre, given that Shakespeare hailed from Britain. Their celebrations of acting and theatrical performance has extended into television and film as well, which would include one of the most renowned filmmakers and 'Master of Suspense,' Alfred Hitchcock. Anyone who's ever seen a Monty Python film knows the extent of British theatrical prowess.

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