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2. Life in Britain, traditions

10. 10. 2007

 

Who are the British?

British people live in the UK. They are people who live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. British people can also either be English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish.

The British are said to be reserved in manners, dress and speech. They are famous for their politeness, self-discipline and especially for their sense of humour. British people have a strong sense of humour which sometimes can be hard for foreigners to understand.

Britain is a country of mixed cultures. London has the largest non-white population of any European city and over 250 languages are spoken there. Therefore not all British people are White or Christians.

Manners are Important
DOs and DON'TS (Taboos) in England UK

 

In England...Do stand in line: Do take your hat off when you go indoorsDo say "Excuse Me": Do Pay as you Go: Do say "Please" and "Thank-you": Do cover your Mouth: Do Shake Hands: Do say sorry: Do Smile: Do Drive on the left side of the road

In England...Do not greet people with a kiss: Avoid talking loudly in public

It is impolite to stare at anyone in public.Do not ask a lady her ageDo not pick your nose in public:Avoid doing gestures such as backslapping and hugging Do not spit. Do not burp in publicDo not pass wind in publicIt is impolite speak with your mouth full of food

Do not ask personal or intimate questions Never eat off a knife when having a meal.

In England...

Women in Britain are entitled to equal respect and status with men in all areas of life and tend to have more independence and responsibility than in some other cultures. Women are usually independent and accustomed to entering public places unaccompanied. It is usual for women to go out and about on their own as well as with friends. Men and women mix freely.

It is ok for women to eat alone in a restaurant.

It is ok for women to wander around on their own.

It is ok forbeer. women to drink

 

What are Britain's Social Customs?

We like our privacy. Please do not ask questions such as "How much money do you earn?" "How much do you weigh?" or "Why aren't you married?".
Now how can we say this politely? Let's say that you want to pass wind. What do you do? Go somewhere private and let it out. If you accidently pass wind in company say 'pardon me'.
You may feel better by burping loudly after eating or drinking, but other people will not! If you can not stop a burp from bursting out, then cover your mouth with your hand and say 'excuse me' afterwards.
Spitting in the street is considered to be very bad mannered.
This is only done among close friends.
We are disgusted by this. If your nostrils need de-bugging, use a handkerchief.
It is considered impolite to ask a lady her age
Privacy is highly regarded.
We only kiss people who are close friends and relatives.
Find out more about driving
A smiling face is a welcoming face.
If you accidentally bump into someone, say 'sorry'. They probably will too, even if it was your fault! This is a habit and can be seen as very amusing by an 'outsider'.
When you are first introduced to someone, shake their right hand with your own right hand.
When yawning or coughing always cover your mouth with your hand.
It is very good manners to say "please" and "thank-you". It is considered rude if you don't. Whenever You will notice in England that we say 'thank you' a lot.
Pay for drinks as you order them in pubs and other types of bars.
If someone is blocking your way and you would like them to move say excuse me and they will move out of your way. (men only)
It is impolite for men to wear hats indoors including restuarants and churches.
In England we like to form orderly queues (standing in line) and wait patiently for our turn e.g.. boarding a bus. It is usual to queue when required, and expected that you will take your correct turn and not push in front. 'Queue jumping' is frowned upon.

 

NB. Men should never wear hats inside buildings Time

British people place considerable value on punctuality. If you agree to meet friends at three o'clock, you can bet that they'll be there just after three. Since Britons are so time conscious, the pace of life may seem very rushed. In Britain, people make great effort to arrive on time. It is often considered impolite to arrive even a few minutes late. If you are unable to keep an appointment, it is expected that you call the person you are meeting. Some general tips follow.

You should arrive:

* At the exact time specified – for dinner, lunch, or appointments with professors, doctors, and other professionals.

* Any time during the hours specified for teas, receptions, and cocktail parties.

* A few minutes early: for public meetings, plays, concerts, movies, sporting events, classes, church services, and weddings.

If you are invited to someone's house for dinner at half past seven, they will expect you to be there on the dot. An invitation might state "7.30 for 8", in which case you should arrive no later than 7.50. However, if an invitation says "sharp", you must arrive in plenty of time. Invitations

“ Drop in anytime” and “come see me soon” are idioms often used in social settings but seldom meant to be taken literally. It is wise to telephone before visiting someone at home. If you receive a written invitation to an event that says “RSVP”, you should respond to let the person who sent the invitation know whether or not you plan to attend.

Never accept an invitation unless you really plan to go. You may refuse by saying, “Thank you for inviting me, but I will not be able to come.” If, after accepting, you are unable to attend, be sure to tell those expecting you as far in advance as possible that you will not be there.

Although it is not necessarily expected that you give a gift to your host, it is considered polite to do so, especially if you have been invited for a meal. Flowers, chocolate, or a small gift are all appropriate. A thank-you note or telephone call after the visit is also considered polite and is an appropriate means to express your appreciation for the invitation. Dress

Everyday dress is appropriate for most visits to peoples' homes. You may want to dress more formally when attending a holiday dinner or cultural event, such as a concert or theatre performance. Introduction and Greeting

It is proper to shake hands with everyone to whom you are introduced, both men and women. An appropriate response to an introduction is "I am happy to meet you". If you want to introduce yourself to someone, extend you hand for a handshake and say "Hello, I am....". Hugging is only for friends.Dining

When you accept a dinner invitation, tell your host if you have any dietary restrictions. He or she will want to plan a meal that you can enjoy. The evening meal is the main meal of the day in most parts of Britain.

Food may be served in one of several ways: "family style," by passing the serving plates from one to another around the dining table; "buffet style," with guests serving themselves at the buffet; and "serving style," with the host filling each plate and passing it to each person. Guests usually wait until everyone at their table has been served before they begin to eat. Food is eaten with a knife and fork and dessert with a spoon and fork.

Living:

Most people in England live in urban areas. Towns and cities are spreading into their surrounding environment to cope with the increase populations. In England, an average of 7,000 hectares of farmland, countryside and green space were converted to urban use every year between 1985 and 1998. This is almost the equivalent size of 9,600 international football pitches!

 

People buying their property almost always pay for it with a special loan called a mortgage, which they must repay, with interest, over a long period of time, usually 25 years.The main types of houses in England are:

Detached (a house not joined to another house)

Semi-detached (two houses joined together)

Terrace (several houses joined together)

Flats (apartments)


Festivals and traditions:

Although we have many festivals and special events in Britain, our two main ones are Easter and Christmas. We have many traditional festivals like Plough Monday. which are not so well known. We have included them on our Calendar of Traditional Holidays. We also have a new Month by Month Calendar which incorporates all the special dates both traditional and religious.

Bank Holidays are our National Holidays when many shops and tourist attractions are closed or are open for reduced hours

Christmas in Great Britain

Christmas is Britain's most popular holiday and is characterised by traditions which date back hundreds of years. Many Christmas customs which originated in Britain have been adopted in the United States and Canada.

The first ever Christmas card was posted in England in the 1840s, and the practice soon became an established part of the build-up to Christmas. Over a billion Christmas cards are now sent every year in the United Kingdom, many of them sold in aid of charities.

Christmas decorations in general have even earlier origins. Holly, ivy and mistletoe are associated with rituals going back beyond the Dark Ages. (The custom of kissing beneath a sprig of mistletoe is derived from an ancient pagan tradition.) The Christmas tree was popularised by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced one to the Royal Household in 1840. Since 1947, the country of Norway has presented Britain annually with a large Christmas tree which stands in Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the Second World War.

Popular among children at Christmas time are pantomimes: song and dance dramatisations of well-known fairy tales which encourage audience participation.

Carols are often sung on Christmas Eve by groups of singers to their neighbours, and children hang a stocking on the fireplace or at the foot of their bed for Santa Claus (also named Father Christmas) to fill. Presents for the family are placed beneath the Christmas tree.

Christmas Day sees the opening of presents and many families attend Christmas services at church. Christmas dinner consists traditionally of a roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing and roast potatoes. Mince pies and Christmas pudding flaming with brandy, which might contain coins or lucky charms for children, follow this. (The pudding is usually prepared weeks beforehand and is customarily stirred by each member of the family as a wish is made.) Later in the day, a Christmas cake may be served - a rich baked fruitcake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting.

The pulling of Christmas crackers often accompanies food on Christmas Day. Invented by a London baker in 1846, a cracker is a brightly coloured paper tube, twisted at both ends, which contains a party hat, riddle and toy or other trinket. When it is pulled by two people it gives out a crack as its contents are dispersed.

Another traditional feature of Christmas afternoon is the Queen's Christmas Message to the nation, broadcast on radio and television.

The day after Christmas is known in Britain as Boxing Day, which takes its name from a former custom of giving a Christmas Box - a gift of money or food inside a box - to the deliverymen and trades people who called regularly during the year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman, dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time.

In the Czech Republic, Christmas is also the most popular family holiday. It is also quite common for people to send each other Christmas cards with their best wishes for the holidays. People buy Christmas trees, hang various decorations and Christmas sweets on it. Some people prefer an artificial Christmas tree which can be used several times. We have the traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Some people follow the old tradition of fasting all day before the meal. Christmas dinner is very rich but it is different from the English one. We have fish soup and the main meal is fried carp and potato salad.

We have a different tradition for opening Christmas presents. Children wait to hear a ringing bell signal from the "Infant Jesus". This usually occurs after the Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. Then they unwrap their presents under the Christmas tree. Many people buy mistletoe like in Britain but in the Czech Republic the mistletoe is a symbol of happiness. People celebrate the coming of the New Year on 31st of December at midnight.

British festivals - New Year’s Day - January 1st - Titles and decorations are conferred by the sovereign.

 

Velentine's Day

Traditionally, spring begins on St Valentine's Day (February 14th), the day on which birds chose their mates. In parts of Sussex Valentines Day was called 'the Birds' Wedding Day'.

Each year in Britain, we spend around £503m on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts for Valentine's Day. Traditionally these were sent anonymously, but nowadays we often make it clear who is sending each 'Valentine'.

Valentine's Day Traditions

There are many traditions and tales associated with romance activities on Valentine's day including:

the first man an unmarried woman saw on 14th February would be her future husband;

if the names of all a girl's suitors were written on paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be.

if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a rich person.

All fools day

April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day occurs annually on April 1. The day is generally observed by playing a practical joke on a "victim" who soon becomes known as an April Fool. This custom is thought to have started in France during the 16th century but the British are credited with bringing it to the United States.

 

Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night, also called Bonfire Night, is an annual celebration (but not a public holiday) on the evening of the 5th of November primarily in the United Kingdom.

It celebrates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in which a group of Catholic conspirators, led by one Robert Catesby, and including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on the evening of 5 November 1605, when the Protestant James I of England (James VI of Scotland) his eldest sons and the majority of the English Parliament was within its walls. The conspirators were executed.

The celebrations, which in the United Kingdom take place in towns and villages across the country, involve fireworks displays and the building of bonfires, on which "guys", or dummies, representing Guy Fawkes, the most infamous of the conspirators, are traditionally burnt. Before the fifth, children traditionally used the "guys" to beg for money with the chant "Penny for the guy", although this is now rarely seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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