17 Distinct things you did not know about English culture

 

Introduction

 English cultural traditions are unique and influenced by history. English cultural traditions are well-known and their influence can be found all over the world because of colonization. The British began colonizing other regions of the world (e.g. the Americas and India) in the 17th century to establish control, settlement and wealth.

When learning a new language or moving to a new country, it is important to develop an understanding of the history and culture of that region. Learning about the traditions and culture allows you to develop a deeper understanding of why people do the things they do. For example, people’s actions and the language they use may be different than you are used to.

There are distinct differences between English culture vs. American culture, especially in regards to language. Aside from spelling and grammar, there many differences in vocabulary (e.g. in American culture one would say “where is the bathroom/washroom”, whereas in English culture one would say “where is the toilet/Loo”). In other parts of the world, English culture can be found because of colonization. For example, English culture in India is prominent because of the historical role the British empire played. The British empires reign and influence was never fully eliminated, even after India’s independence. In fact, knowledge of the English language was regarded as a taken of superiority because of its colonial history.  

Learning about culture and traditions promotes understanding. Language and culture are connected as ways of expression and through the exchange of knowledge. To fully master a language, understanding the culture is a critical first step. Keep reading to learn more about distinct English cultural traditions!.

 

1)    Pub Culture

Pub is actually short for “public house”, which is a place where people go to socialize, relax and enjoy a drink or two at the end of the day. There is a distinct pub culture, as pubs serve lager, ale, bitter and spirits, not cocktails and they are not required to serve food. Pubs are not designed for meals or related seating and in most cases you will need to order your drink at the bar as there is no table service.

 

2)    Red Poppies

The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance and peace and are worn in support of the Armed Forces. People wear a red poppy leading up to November 11th (Remembrance Day) to show their respect for all those who have lost their lives during the war or fighting on behalf of their country.

poppy

3)    Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is one of the most historical and famous English cultural traditions. It originated in 1840 when Anna Russell (seventh Duchess of Bedford) would request snacks in between lunch and dinner. Now between 2pm and 4pm, afternoon tea comprises of select teas, traditional scones, simple sandwiches and petite cakes.

4)     Queuing

In English culture queuing refers to standing in line. The history of queuing traces back to World War II when they would form a line to receive supplies. Standing patiently and at a respectful distance from the next person in the queue became a normal part of British culture. Don’t jump the queue or you will be in trouble!

people queuing

5)     Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a holiday tradition that occurs the day after Christmas. It is an official bank holiday in the UK and Ireland. It is sometimes referred to as the second Christmas, as most people have the day off work and spend time with their family or take advantages of the boxing day sales at the mall.

6)      Red K2 Telephone Box

The red phone box is considered an English cultural icon throughout the world. They were first introduced in the streets of London in 1926. There were only 1500 K2 telephone boxes created with few remaining today.

old phone box

7)      Kilts and Tartans

A tartan is the woven checked pattern material, while the kilt is the garment. They are part of Scotland’s national history and have been worn for hundreds of years. The kilt is most commonly worn for formal occasions (e.g. a wedding) and at the Highland games and other sports events.

8)      Cheese Rolling

Cheese rolling is a tradition that goes back more than 200 years. It takes place on Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England and involves a ball of Double Gloucester Cheese. Participants chase after the cheese for fun on a sloop so steep that it’s hard not to stumble down. The crowd gathers every Spring Bank Holiday at 12 in the afternoon.

9)      Punctual

In English culture, it is customary to be punctual and on time. It is very important to people to be on time as it is considered impolite to be late even by a few minutes.

10)     Fish and Chips

Fish and chips is a popular English meal. It gained its popularity in London and Southeast England in the middle of the 19th century. Fish and chips were one of the few foods that were never rationed during World War II in an effort to boost morale.

fish and chips

11)     Black Pudding

Black pudding is a type of blood sausage made from pork or beef blood, fat, and oats or barley. It is said to be an essential part of any breakfast as it is a kind of sausage.

black pudding in full english breakfast

12)     Football

Football is a great example of English culture vs. American culture. In English culture, football is actually what American culture refers to as soccer. Football is ingrained into day to day life, is considered part of the national identity and has helped to shape English culture.

13)      Idioms

Idioms are common phrases which mean something different from the literal meaning. They are not unique to English culture but are very popular within it. Idioms have a close relationship with history and tend to represent cultural characteristics. For example, “break a leg” means “good luck” or “it’s a piece of cake” means “it’s easy”.

14)     The Monarchy

The monarchy is a huge part of English culture. It is the older secular institution and includes the royal family. The royal family support the King or Queen and carry out important public and charitable service work.

15)     Harry Potter

Harry Potter is an iconic part of English culture as it was created by J.K. Rowling and the entire cast of the movies featured British actors. Harry Potter originated as a series of novels but has evolved into much more, with everything from movies to theme parks.

16)      The Curry Mile in Manchester

The Curry Mile is a nickname for part of Wilmslow Road in Manchester, England. Although it is not technically a mile long it consists of Pakistani and Middle Eastern foods and culture. It is said to be one of the largest concentrations of Middle Eastern cuisines outside the Indian subcontinent.

17)      The London Bus

The iconic double-decker London bus is a convenient and inexpensive way to get around the city. They were created shortly after World War II and are popular among tourists and locals alike because of their aesthetic appeal and historic design.

london bus

 

Conclusion

Did you enjoy learning about distinct aspects of English cultural traditions? While there are many more English cultural traditions, we hope that this article taught you a thing or two about English culture and language.

Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture, as it is spoken or expressed within the constraints of a society. Developing an understanding of culture is therefore essential to learning a new language as it provides context and allows you to understand the correct meaning behind each word. It also allows you to understand the differences among cultures, for example the difference between English culture vs. American culture. There are many English words that have different meanings in English culture vs. American culture. For example, rubber vs. eraser and biscuits vs. cookies. Mastering another language requires understanding cultural contexts and dimensions that underpin that language.

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