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So what are the quintessential elements of British culture?

(83 Posts)
dinosaur Fri 05-Aug-05 13:05:12

What makes you proud to be British? What elements of British society would you like to see promoted? What's the essence of the British identity?

It's a hard one for me because despite living here since 1975 I have to admit that I don't think of myself as "British". Which isn't to say that there aren't good things about living here. But for those of you who do feel British - what's it all about for you?

frogs Fri 05-Aug-05 13:10:25

Decent cup of tea.

super1971 Fri 05-Aug-05 13:12:25


sistermoon Fri 05-Aug-05 13:13:17

Being British to me is about the celtic tribes, the druids and the old legends of King Arthur.
It is about having freedom to live and be who I want to be (although people do seem to becoming more closed now) It is about GMT . The fact that communities usually all rally around in times of crisis.
It is hard to feel British because I think due to history we are made or make ourselves feel we can not be us because of teh bad things taht have happenned. But there are positives such as local dialects, local traditions and legends andit is thes much older pieces of history that should be built on. I guess I feel British because it is where I was born it is part of me but unlike other countries and cultures they does not seem to be a positive identity to relate to and this may be teh reason for many of teh problems today

Gobbledigook Fri 05-Aug-05 13:15:20

I agree with sistermoon. It's hard to know, I think we've lost a lot of our identity. To me now, England (or Britain) only really feels like it in the countryside. Cities don't feel particularly 'British' to me but I like them anyway!

nailpolish Fri 05-Aug-05 13:16:06

dont ask me. im scottish

ks Fri 05-Aug-05 13:18:13

Message withdrawn

LilacLotus Fri 05-Aug-05 13:20:02

a cup of tea solves many problems. on 7/7 i heard on the radio the emergency services were handing out cups of tea.
the things i like most about britain is the landscapes and the language.
also, it might sound strange, but i like the roads. they are less bumpy than where i come from! and i like roundabouts.
in regards to people's attitudes, i find british people much more open and willing to have a chat. belgians are far more reserved.

lucy5 Fri 05-Aug-05 13:23:59

I was discussing this with a canadian friend the other day and she said look at the different reactions to the bombings in Madrid and London. She said that the british were affronted, how dare someone do this do us and out came the blitz spirit and stiff upper lip and that the spanish said no, this will not happen in our name and pulled the troops out.

Ive never felt particularly british until I moved away from the Uk and now I can see my cultural foibles, the reserve, the bumbling about and perhaps tolerance of other cultures, in Andalucia there is almost a caste system with the Morrocons being firmly at the bottom.

Anyway enough waffling, we do it so well, it's not easy to get to the point, so if you've got the time and you wouldn'nt mind awfully, perhaps you could read this, if you are really not too busy, you possibley might want to respond to my observations, but if you don't have the time, I perfectly understand and wont be offended in anyway .

tarantula Fri 05-Aug-05 13:28:13

lol NP. Cant really comment either Im Irish but have to say watery potatoes seem to be a very British thing

Off for a nice cuppa Earl Grey now. You do make nice posh tea too.

dinosaur Fri 05-Aug-05 13:29:16

yes I'm a fan of the floury purty myself (I'm Irish too)

Chandra Fri 05-Aug-05 13:29:42

Lucy, I would like to add that while I'm not British I was so proud of the British reactions after the bombings, while the American (or their government) were immediatly trying to find somebody to pay for it, the British were more concentrated in not allowing this atrocity to damage the relationships between the muslim and non-muslim population.

Gobbledigook Fri 05-Aug-05 13:30:12

Watery potatoes?? Eh?

dinosaur Fri 05-Aug-05 13:31:53

But let's not get sidetracked. I'll do a separate thread for Irish identity later!

Come on you Brits. Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough ( only joking)

bakedpotato Fri 05-Aug-05 13:32:06

It would be astonishing/good if we could get over the cultural cringe associated with Britishness; the endless apologising for colonialism and other ghastlinesses. There's plenty in our history worth celebrating. But we've got out of the habit. And bcs of this, the BNP has made off with the flag and we've lost touch with the idea that we might have some redeeming national characteristics after all.
When I think about the best of Britishness (and lordy, it's so hard to do this without feeling silly and somehow indecent), I think about a rich literary heritage, GSOH, horticulture, doughtiness and an enjoyment of eccentricity

lucy5 Fri 05-Aug-05 13:33:17

I agree Chandra, the only thing that worried me was some headlines I saw on the tv from the mirror or the sun about ungrateful asylum seekers. I obviously dont know the mood of the uk but im hoping that the public didnt bite. I watched a vigil for the young murdered boy in liverpool and it was really promoting coming together and solidarity, I hope that that is the case.

Chandra Fri 05-Aug-05 13:33:48

The pronunciation of the "th", only if you were born and breed in Britain you may get it correctly. Don't you zzzink so?

lucy5 Fri 05-Aug-05 13:36:06

Ive spent hours teaching this, i must add at students request as my firm belief is that it doesnt impede communication but the wont have it. Zay arrrrree rrrrreally berrry silly, hahaha!

Blu Fri 05-Aug-05 13:40:34

Irreverance. Free speech. Tolerance and diversity. Local sense of place - e.g wildly different accents in a very small geographical area. Landscape. NHS. Lack of pressure to conform.

lucy5 Fri 05-Aug-05 13:42:17

Blu, I couldnt have put it better myself, sit down and have a nice cup of tea.

Chandra Fri 05-Aug-05 13:46:22

I also loved the way they react to certain emergencies, for example, we were in a ferry that caught fire and the spent the night in lifesaving jackets, when we arrived to Belgium, there were television crews waiting for comments and most of them asked if there had been panic scenes. Ha, ha, ha, panic?, what panic? while ships and ships were getting lined up in case they needed to evacuate us, people spent the night having a nice cup of tea while wearing our lovely yellow jackets.

Lonelymum Fri 05-Aug-05 13:47:40

The British spirit for me is summed up as resilient (a cliche I know, but think of the Dunkirk spirit or the Blitz), tolerant, an ability to laugh at oneself, great culture, fantastic history, a down to earthness, a wonderful belief that a cup of tea will solve all problems (it works in most cases) and a wonderful diversity of local cultures and traditions. If I ever venture up into Scotland or the north of England, it can feel like a foreign country in some respects and yet, fundamentally, we are all in the same boat together, which is great.

Oh and also, an amazingly rich and descriptive language - ther surely can't be another one in existence with more words than ours, can there?

Chandra Fri 05-Aug-05 13:55:50

mmmmh, it will be difficult to prove the claim about the language, every language has to certain degree a right to claim that title.

(sorry felt the need to defend my own, 0

Lonelymum Fri 05-Aug-05 13:56:38

Well I was being polite actually. I think I read somewhere that English had more words than any other language!

Prufrock Fri 05-Aug-05 14:06:23

Dh and I were discussing this recently and I realised that I just don't think of myself as British. I feel no particular loyalty towards my country. I do however consider myself to be a Londoner - and that's despite being born in Nottingham and now living in Cambridge - I was 18 when I moved to London and the next 10 years were the most formative of my life.
I think many of the things other people have described as Britishness, the democracy, meritocracy, acceptance of others cultures and ideas, humour, community spirit in adversity, richness of ideas - these are all things that I associate only with my life in London, and not my time growing up in a small insular village. (Please tell me why I have moved to one )

I would definately not (as my dh suggested I should) support my country in something I thought was unfair (such as Iraq war) just because I am British. I do not support protection of British interests (farmers for example) when by protecting "our own" we disadvantage others with so much less.

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