What makes Britain great? After an American friend of mine was put off by the news that Birmingham has had a freak summer snow shower. I decided to find my top things that make Britain great and worth putting up with the generally mild, but occasionally inconsistent, weather (an excellent source for British humor and stoicism).
1. The NHS
Launched in 1948, this behemoth of free universal healthcare is world renowned and free to all British residents. The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world, with over 1.6 MILLION people serving over 1 MILLION patients every 36 hours and WE LOVE IT! Anyone scared about the idea of ‘social medicine’ should check out this clip from Michael Moore’s film, Sickco.
2. The Countryside
From the Cairngorms to London’s Royal Parks, Britain has 90,000 square miles of glorious countryside. Whether you’d fancy visiting the tranquil lake of Derwentwater, the towering but accessible mountains of Snowdonia or the purple-heathered moors of the Scottish Highland, there is truly beauty to be found here and something for everyone.
We’ve given the world The Beatles, Queen, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and more recently Ed Sheeran and Calvin Harris, to name a few. Britain truly has a rich and diversely talented music scene. Regularly influencing world music and inventing entirely new genres, e.g. Dubstep (we’re sorry). While the year is packed full of music festivals; all within driving distance. There are also the small independent gigs that make a perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with your favorite bands – be they local or from afar.
4. The Full English Breakfast
While not necessary a staple diet for most, there is no better way to start the day than with this calorie packed feast of mouthwatering goodness. American journalist and writer Mark Kurlansky put it best in his 2002 book, ‘Choice Cuts’:
“The English think their food, if at all edible, is suitable for the English alone. But actually they have successfully imposed their food on other cultures and nothing marks English hegemony more clearly than breakfast. In Scotland, Wales, and even Ireland, you can find English breakfast with the national name – Irish breakfast or Welsh breakfast. But in truth, ham and bacon and eggs in the morning is English.”
It also makes an excellent hangover cure.
Britain has been drinking ales since the Bronze Age, so it should be no surprise that we have pubs older than countries, with some even dating back to 1189 AD and over 60,000 pubs active today. These fine establishments make up an important part of British life offering a place to eat, drink, talk, relax and above all meet new people – everyone in a pub is instantly your mate.
6. The Seaside
Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside! No matter where you are in Britain, you will be no more than a few hours from miles of coastline. So grab a bucket and spade, some Brighton rock, a 99p flake, a wobbly deckchair and enjoy the full British Seaside experience – there’s nothing quite like it.
7. Fish and Chips
Ridiculously unhealthy, but ludicrously tasty. If it’s the seaside you’re visiting, grabbing some traditional fish and chips is a must! No where else does it the way we do. If fish isn’t your thing, go for a battered sausage or maybe a deep-fried mars bar instead.
The solution to every problem and something we do best. Britain is known world-wide for it’s tea drinking culture. Whether it’s just a cuppa or a spot of afternoon cream tea, you’ll be wondering where our tea drinking culture has been all your life.
9. British Television
Sure across the pond you may have your ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. But here we have public television with no adverts during shows, wall-to-wall comedy panel shows like ‘8 out of 10 cats’, ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ and ‘QI’, soap operas (high drama), our own take on Sci-fi in the forms of ‘Red Dwarf’ and ‘Dr Who’, Sherlock, period dramas like ‘Downton Abby’, and also a whole load of independently produced shows, e.g. ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Utopia’, and ‘Peep Show’, that cover themes you just won’t find from any of the power houses of television. There is a lot to explore!
10. Equality and Diversity
Few places are as accepting of other cultures and have the diversity we do, here you get the chance to be friends with people from all over the world. We’re a tolerant and open-minded society – gay marriage is legal, the gender gap is closing, religious and spiritual beliefs are free, women get at least 26 weeks maternity leave from work and we look after those less able than us.
Britain has many, many, accents and dialects. We’re all obsessed with it and can instantly tell where another Brit hails from – a great opportunity for a spot of friendly banter. Drive less than 10 miles from you are and you’ll find fellow Brits sounding so alien from you that you’ll be left wondering if you’ve entered another part of the commonwealth. Here’s a small taste from Anglophenia. Init.
12. The Royal Family
They’re cost effective, they entertain us, they’re ambassadors for our values, give us time off work and are part of our national identity. Royalist or not, we love our monarchy.
13. Our Manners
Few places will someone apologies to you, for you bumping into them. We’re all overly-polite and never boast about how great we are. We spend hours queuing, thank the bus drivers and invite people we’ve just met for dinner (if someone does this, you’re expected to not actually go). We aren’t known to freely give out compliments and some of our mannerisms maybe alien to English speakers from other countries, like how saying something is ‘quite good’ is not as good as saying it’s ‘not bad’. But in the end this is all just whimsy.
Apart from our world class football (soccer for the Americans reading this) teams, we also have Andy Murray the Wimbledon tennis champion, rugby (the true hand egg ball, see American football), cricket (no one knows the rules, you just drink and watch it), snooker and darts (the most entertaining crowd in any sport). There is something for everyone to enjoy here.
Remember, remember the 5th of November. Our nation has a rich and vibrant history, we have the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings (yes they came here too), Normans, Tudors and Victorian’s, to name but a few. All contributing to the tapestry of our fine culture. Whether it’s Guy Fawkes night, our extensive museums or our historic architecture and castles that have stood throughout the ages, there is much to discovery in the antiquity of these lands.
Anyone arriving in Britain will quickly learn the fine art of banter and become accustom to our style of dry wit. We celebrate our sense of satire and self depreciating humour, and so will you!
17. Stiff upper lip
You’d be mistaken for thinking that us Brits are pessimistic, we’ve just learn’t to focus our resolve and get on with things. This quote, that generally circulates the internet as coming from an ‘unknown American solider’, sums it up best:
“Those Brits are a strange old race, they show affection by abusing each other, will think nothing of casually stopping in the middle of a fire fight for there “brew up” and eat food that I wouldn’t give to a dying dog! but fuck me, I would rather have one British squaddie on side than a entire battalion of spetznaz!!!… Why? Because the British are the only people in the world who when the chips are down and there seems like no hope left, instead of getting sentimental or hysterical, will strap on there pack, charge there rifle, light up a smoke and calmly and wryly grin “well are we going then you wanker??”
An oddity you’ll find nowhere else. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, but you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it!
And incase you don’t believe me that Britain is great, I’ll leave it to my recently British friend Lana to explain:
“UK has my heart as my true home. With all of its perks and never-ending rain, it is a brilliant country to live in, no matter your nationality or faith. Everyone gets on and everyone strives for a better future together. What an idyllic picture!”