The United Kingdom has only been fully united for 300 years, but its shared history goes back 5,000 years to when civilization on the British Isles was centered around Stonehenge. That's an awfully long time for a shared cultural tradition to emerge - and while tradition is important to the British mindset, the idea of what counts as a tradition has always been very flexible. When new cultures arrive, they are initially treated with some suspicion and then their contributions are absorbed into the wider traditions and appreciated. From food to clothing to architecture to dance, Britain is a mishmash of ideas from all over the world, synthesized into something that is specifically its own.
How well do you recognize these symbols? Can you tell Nelson's Column apart from Cleopatra's Needle? Do you know a bacon butty when you see one? How about identifying the most popular dish in the United Kingdom, or labeling the most famous statue in the North? Even native Brits don't always remember all our national traditions, but anyone who wants to call themselves an expert on British culture will certainly be able to identify most of these. Click on through and let's see how you do!
A cup of tea is the only thing to do. During World Cup matches, so many people make tea at once that the National Grid registers the surge as millions of kettles simultaneously boil.
While many Brits think the monarchy is a silly idea, they don't necessarily want to replace it because the alternatives aren't considered to be better. Also a factor is the Queen's immense personal popularity, as she has a consistent 70+% approval rating, a figure generally unmatched by any elected head of state. Many people dislike the idea of monarchy but like or respect the Queen.
A stately home is a big fancy house that usually belongs to a lord (or these days, to a hotel chain!) and has a lot of land around it. Notable ones include Althorp House, residence of the Spencer family (Princess Diana's relatives), and Chatsworth, residence of the Duke of Devonshire and the house on which Jane Austen based Mr. Darcy's home of Pemberley.
A triskelion might describe a number of symbols but this particular one used by the Crown dependency of the semi-independent Isle of Man depicts three legs going round in a circle.
The Angel of the North wasn't very popular when it was first installed in 1998 but since then it has grown on people. It's 66ft tall and 177ft wide and impossible to miss as you drive past!
Edinburgh Castle sits on Castle Rock, which has been inhabited for 1800 years, though the castle is newer. It has been captured twice in its long history.
Morris dancers also wear bells on their legs. The dance is adapted from a Spanish version that arrived in Britain about 500 years ago.
The Crown Jewels live at the Tower of London where they are protected by "Beefeaters", guardians of the tower. Ravens also live at the Tower, and legend has it that as long as they remain, the kingdom shall stand.
The Duke of Wellington was a national hero for beating Napoleon. He didn't invent the welly boot, but he did make it fashionable.
Flax is for Northern Ireland, daffodil for Wales, rose for England, and thistle is for Scotland.
The traditions of Wimbledon include champagne, strawberries and cream, watching the top English player crash out in the semi-finals, and getting rained off.
Pimms is a fruity summer concoction that is the traditional drink of the garden party. Pimms o'clock is anywhere between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., depending on how bad a day you've had!
This flag is a portmanteau of several flags, combining into one.
The Stone of Scone (pronounced scoon) was last used to help crown Elizabeth II in 1953. It has gone back and forth between England and Scotland and is now kept at Edinburgh Castle unless being used.
It took thirty years, but the Lancastrians finally beat the Yorkists. This resulted in Henry VII ascending the throne and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.
November 11 is the day the guns fell silent in Western Europe at the end of World War One. It is thus the day that all soldiers are honored, with the symbol of this honor being poppies, the flower that grew on the deadly fields known as "no man's land" between the trenches of each army. The Cenotaph is a major war memorial.
Coronation Street is a beloved show indeed, having been on air continuously since 1960.
Keeping Up Appearances has been sold over 900 times, making it the most-sold show ever. It owes its success to Patricia Routledge's portrayal of its anti-hero, Hyacinth Bucket (it's pronounced Boo-KAY, darling!), a massive snob who wants to outdo her suburban neighbors by having the best china, the most desirable phone number, etc. Whatever culture you are from, however rich or poor you are, you have met a woman like Hyacinth and thought she was absolutely intolerable.
All these shows about posh Brits are very popular, but To The Manor Born achieved an almost impossible feat: its pilot was watched live by about 40% of the population in the 1970s.
"Red Dwarf" ran for 8 seasons on the BBC. It was a very popular show about the last human, David Lister, who is on a spaceship millions of light years from Earth after being in stasis for three million years. Lister is trying to get home, accompanied only by a hologram of his roommate, a neurotic cleaning mechanoid, the ship's daffy computer, and a creature that evolved from his cat. Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the creators, were credited as "Grant Naylor".
Fawkes was the most famous member of the Gunpowder Plot, albeit not its leader. Every year, a "guy" is burned in effigy while fireworks are set off, to celebrate the failure of the plotters' attempt to blow up Parliament. Usually a hate figure of the day is substituted for Fawkes himself: previous notable "guys" burned all over the country have included Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Un, and British Telecom (an unpopular utility company).
The Cornish pasty is a sort of more healthy hot pocket with beef in a pastry shell and hails from Cornwall in the southwest. That said, the Bakewell tart, which hails from Bakewell in Derbyshire, is very accurately named.
Eton is where future Prime Ministers go to high school. Its alumni would agree that it is basically Hogwarts (literally: you can watch Harry Potter walk around it in the movies) but the magical powers there are money and inherited privilege. Its very generous scholarships are expanding and it is becoming slowly more merit-based.
Pantomime comes out of the British tradition of music hall, which was a Victorian revue type show. In panto, the hero might ask the audience where his beloved went. The villain will lie and say, "She went into the house." The hero's friend might say, "Oh no she didn't", and the villain will reply, "Oh yes she did!", which repeats several times. The audience then gets in on the act by shouting along with the good guys (unless they're feeling evil, then they will back up the villain).
The Beeb is known as Auntie, because it's always there for us. It's generally considered one of the great national treasures of the UK.
Apologizing is as British as going outside in shorts because you glimpsed the sun for three seconds.
Cricket was invented in England, although we often do not play it as well as the nations to whom we gifted it, as that would be impolite.
Despite the name, the English muffin isn't a thing in England - you couldn't actually get them there until the last 15 years when foreigners wanted them. The crumpet is the way to go.
Go into a cafe and ask for a full English, they'll know what you mean.
The Hackney cab was modified from the carriage that preceded it. These cab drivers know London on levels that Google maps will never achieve.
The Mini is the most British of vehicles and was used in the movie "The Italian Job".
It takes a real man to pull this off, as proven by many a fine Scotsman. Kilts should be worn by those with a claim to the tartan (a kind of special plaid) out of which the kilt is made. If you're not a MacPherson, don't wear their tartan unless you want to cause a clan war!
As comedy group the Kumars at No. 42 taught us, "It wouldn't be Friday night if we didn't go for an English" - and what's more English than this dish from the Punjab, recreated for the English palate by immigrants? Nothing!
Yorkshire pudding is God's gift to the traditional roast dinner. It is a savory popover and it is best eaten exactly crispy enough (but never overcooked!) with roast beef, potatoes, carrots, and sprouts. Plus gravy, if you're so inclined.
Stonehenge isn't pale and it's not on a hillside. The Westbury White Horse is a chalk horse carved into a hillside. It has to be weeded regularly to help it stay white!