UK Culture: Tradition, Language, Etiquettes, Beliefs, and Practices

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Summary

  • Located off the northwestern coast of mainland Europe, the UK is made up of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Over the years, this island nation has become increasingly cosmopolitan.
  • The official language of the UK is English. Individuals throughout the nation interact with each other in this language. Other language speakers in the UK include Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Polish, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi. Apart from these, some individuals also speak Arabic, Mandarin, French, and Portuguese.
  • Festivals like Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s are widely celebrated in the region. Although individuals have their respective religious beliefs, there is an understanding and utmost respect for each other’s value systems.

The United Kingdom has an exceedingly multicultural society. Located off the northwestern coast of mainland Europe, the culture in UK is a blend of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Over the years, this island nation has become increasingly cosmopolitan. Around the world, it is seen as a destination of great diversity.

The region accepts and provides opportunities to individuals from all walks of life. So if you’re planning to study in the UK or visit the region for business purposes, this guide on the culture in the UK is all you need. So without any further ado, let’s get into it.

United Kingdom Culture: Overview

The British culture or the culture in the UK is heavily influenced by the combined nation’s history, its interactions with the culture of the surrounding countries, and its historically religious Christian life.

While the culture in the UK is a distinct entity, the individual cultures of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are excessively diverse, with varying degrees of distinctiveness and overlapping. In order to understand the UK culture in-depth, it’s best to talk about the culture’s different aspects point by point.

Study In The UK

British popular culture of the United Kingdom

The rich, popular culture of the UK is influential not only in Great Britain but globally. It imports talents that transcend varied forms of media. Some of the most prominent contributions of British Popular Culture include:

The Beatles

The rock band from Liverpool, England, comprised John Lenon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. They are responsible for pop hits like ‘I want to hold your hand,’ ‘Here comes the sun, and ‘Hey Jude.’

Harry Potter

Who hasn’t heard of the boy who lived? The brainchild of author J.K Rowling, Harry Potter, is loved by both children and adults globally. This book and movie series has won various accolades over the years and become a phenomenon.

Theatre

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were only two major theatres in London. However, with the rise of the art form and support coming in from various sections of society, theatre in the UK has grown.

Language

The official language of the UK is English. Individuals throughout the nation interact with each other in this language. However, some people in Wales still speak Welsh. But the same individuals also speak English, so you won’t have to worry about a language barrier.

Although, natives speak in different dialects throughout the country. Here are some of the main dialects that you’ll come across in the UK.

  • Brummy: Birmingham
  • Cockney: London (Most famous)
  • Geordie: Middlesbrough, Newcastle, and Sunderland
  • Mancunian: Manchester
  • Scottish: Scotland
  • Scouser: Liverpool
  • Welsh: Wales
  • West Country: Bristol, Cornwall, and Devon

With so many dialects and accents in the country, even the brits get confused at times while interacting with each other. Other language speakers in the UK include Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Polish, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi. Apart from these, some individuals also speak Arabic, Mandarin, French, and Portuguese.

Learn English for Ielts To Improve Your Exam Score!

Etiquettes

Here are a few key pointers on British society etiquette that anyone planning to move there must know.

  • When it comes to meeting and greeting, the etiquette in the UK is to shake hands, including children. It is also considered to shake hands before leaving, especially in business and social meetings. However, one must shake hands with a light, friendly touch while not applying too much pressure on the other person’s hand.
  • When greeting someone, last names should be used with the appropriate title unless invited to use the first name specifically.
  • When interacting with individuals, the British see them as their equal; the Britishers are modest yet direct. On the other hand, while interacting with someone they know, the tone is more informal yet reserved.
  • Most Britishers don’t use effusive language and are masters of understatement. They have a marked tendency to use qualifiers such as ‘it could be,’ ‘possibly,’ or ‘perhaps.’
  • Written communication is always addressed using the person’s surname and title. First names only get used if an individual knows the receiver of the email well.
  • Most natives don’t use abbreviations or slang. So it’s best to avoid them while communicating over email with people initially.

Traditions

Wondering what are some of the common British traditions? Read on to know.

Tea and biscuit 

No, it isn’t a stereotype. The people in the UK love their cuppa with some exquisite biscuits. A nicely prepared cup of tea forms the basis of many British social interactions. Many drink multiple cups of tea during the day at various times.

Visiting pubs 

One of the most popular traditions in the United Kingdom is visiting pubs. Almost every neighborhood has its fair share of pubs that locals visit regularly. A visit to a pub can include playing darts, drinking beer, watching sports on TV, and British food.

Christmas 

Like other nations dominated by Christians, the UK celebrates Christmas on a grand scale. The season around December is lovely, and the streets are all lit up. Carols and nativity plays are famous in various parts of the region. Christmas dinner or lunch in the UK generally consists of roast turkey, roast beef, mini sausages, Brussel sprouts, baked potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding.

Boxing Day 

The day after Christmas day is known as Boxing Day. In a way, this day is an extension of Christmas day. Brits like to spend this day with their family and friends by playing games, going for walks, watching sports, and indulging in Christmas leftovers. Many individuals also like to go shopping on that day.

New Year’s Eve 

Around midnight, the grandest celebration of fireworks explodes at midnight over the London Eye. British people bring in the new year by singing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

Remembrance Day 

Also known as Poppy Day, Remembrance Day pays homage to the brave hearts who died during World Wars 1 and 2. It is observed in November.

Maypole 

It is a symbol in the United Kingdom, signifying community gatherings. The maypole is a stick highly decorated with colourful papers, attached hooks, and attractive flowers.

English Cheese Rolling 

Yes, you read that right. It is an event that takes place annually at the Copper hill in Gloucester. Generally, the event takes place on the day of the spring bank holiday. Thousands of individuals roll and chase a barrel of Gloucestershire cheese down the hill.

Cornish Hurling 

Played only in Cornwall, Cornish Hurling is an exceedingly different past-time. It is an annual event played with a small silver ball at St. Ives.

Bonfire Night 

Another famous tradition in the UK is Bonfire Night. It is celebrated every year to commemorate the failed plan to assassinate King James 1 in 1605.

Beliefs and religion

The official state-sanctioned region in the United Kingdom is the church of England. It is of the Christian protestant faith or Christianity. However, since the middle of the last century, there has been a significant decline in the church’s role. But even today, it makes for 40-45% of the religious population of the UK. The Canterbury Cathedral in Kent is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in the United Kingdom.

Apart from the Church of England worshipers, this population consists of Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. In addition to these, various minority individuals practice minority religions. These include Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Judaism. It is also estimated that about a third of the UK has no religious connection.

Practices

Here are some of the cultural practices in the United Kingdom.

  • If invited to someone’s house, it is customary to carry a small gift in the UK. It could be chocolates, flowers, or a bottle of wine. However, it is not usual to exchange gifts in business setups.
  • Although the natives enjoy punctuality, being late by 10 to 15 minutes is completely fine.
  • It’s polite to ask the host if shoes can be worn inside their house on arrival.

Conclusion

The United Kingdom is undoubtedly one of the most culturally diverse islands globally. The culture in UK or British culture is hugely influenced by the traditions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. While the first language spoken in the UK is English, individuals also interact in Welsh, Irish Gaelic, Punjabi, French, Portuguese, and Scottish Gaelic, amongst others.

As of today, there is significant British influence all over the world. Cliches like the Brits love their afternoon tea and don’t leave the house without an umbrella exist for a reason. Festivals like Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s are widely celebrated in the region. Although individuals have their respective religious beliefs, there is an understanding and utmost respect for each other’s value systems.

If you’re a student or working professional planning to move to the UK, go through the above guide on the culture in the UK to understand the region better. In order to get further information on the culture of the United Kingdom, book a free counselling call on LeapScholar today.

FAQs 

Q1. What are some things that make residing in the UK so great? 

Ans. The region of the UK offers splendid landscapes and historic cities like London that are bustling with life. Individuals from all walks of life and areas migrate to the UK for sheer opportunities. It is a multicultural island that offers immense diversity.

Q2. Is William Blake a vital part of UK culture? 

Ans. William Blake was a romantic poet and painter responsible for crafting some of the most vital images in British cultural history. He was heavily influenced by the political context and social changes of his era. Over time, his work has been immortalized.

Q3. Does the Queen from the royal family hold much power in the UK?

Ans. As the UK is a constitutional monarchy, the ability to pass legislation belongs to the parliament and not the Queen. She has a symbolic role in the United Kingdom. For instance, she opens up the parliament every year and puts a stamp on every bill so that it becomes an act. In that sense, her powers and duties are representational.

Q4. Is Ireland a part of the United Kingdom?

Ans. The island of Ireland is divided into two parts. The first is the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign country independent of the UK. Conversely, there is Northern Ireland which is a part of the UK.

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An International Higher Ed professional with 7+ years of experience studying, working, and living across three geographies, currently on a mission to share his journey as an International Student.