The United Kingdom has a very distinctive culture and a recognizable identity. When you think of it, some of the things that pop into your mind are probably tea, Big Ben, the Queen, and rainy weather.
However, there’s so much that happens on the island that you don’t know about. British culture stems from its traditions, history, and folklore, and there are things other than tea that Brits enjoy. The British identity has something both classy and peculiar about it and we are here to show both those sides.
Here are the three surprising facts about the UK that you’ve most likely never heard about, which are going to make you even more interested in their culture and a bit amazed at how quirky Brits can sometimes be.
1 The UK is home to many strange old traditions
The Queen and her swans
Many traditions that stem from old laws and strange historical circumstances are still part of British culture. Some of them are still valid laws that people can be prosecuted on.
For example, one of Queen Elizabeth II’s titles is ‘Seigneur of the Swans’, which means that the Queen is a proud owner of all unmarked mute swans in English and Welsh open water (which is pretty much every swan in the UK).
Furthermore, killing swans is illegal for every citizen in the UK, except for the Queen. This law was written in the 1980s, and if you kill a swan, you could face court prosecution. However, this law does not apply to the Queen, as she could kill one of them if she wants that particular dinner dish.
There are places the Queen can’t enter
The Queen is also forbidden by law to enter the House of Commons. This law originates from the 17th century when King Charles I entered the building and placed five MPs under arrest, which led to the English Civil War. Since that strange historical event, the British monarchs have been forbidden from entering that place. So when the Queen gives her traditional speech at the State Opening of Parliament, she has to do it from the building next to it – The House of Lords.
Ravens can make or break the kingdom
One of the more bizarre traditions in the UK stems from a 17th-century decree/prophecy by King Charles II that says that if the six black ravens that reside in the Tower of London ever fly away, the monarchy would (or must) fall into ruin.
Since then, spare birds are being kept if any of the six black ravens leave the building. Furthermore, these ravens have their wings clipped as an extra precaution.
2 British people are the inventors and lovers of many sports and competitions
Many amusing traditions that we could have listed above are sports and competition-related. For example, there are traditional events like bog-snorkeling, wife-carrying, cheese-rolling, and even hen-racing competitions in the UK. The Brits are very sporty and competitive but also very creative when it comes to the competition itself.
However, the Brits are also the proud authors of many conventional sports of today. Soccer, rugby, golf, boxing, and cricket – all of these sports were invented in the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, many monarchs, politicians, painters, writers, and actors in the UK are great sports fans. It is said that the Queen herself is cheering for West Ham in Soccer, while Prince Charles was a Burnley fan. Winston Churchill was a Millwall FC supporter, and when he retired, he frequented many games.
Brits are very competitive, love sports, and are also big bettors. For example, Queen Elizabeth II is a big horse racing fan, has her own thoroughbreds, and would bet on them in her younger days. It’s not surprising, then, that some of the biggest sports betting wins in history happened in the UK. That fact alone speaks volumes to how passionate British people are when it comes to sports.
3 The culture of the United Kingdom has a unique ‘mythology’
British mythology is unique in two ways.
Firstly, there are several British mythologies. The Arthurian mythology, the story of Robin Hood, the epic history of the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien, the world of Harry Potter, the curious tales of Sherlock Holmes, and the amazing James Bond – all of these mythologies have an important place in the culture of British people and their hearts.
Furthermore, it would seem that these stories have become a trademark of the United Kingdom, something their country is recognizable for. British people have made these trademarks into a global attraction and use them to promote what’s best about their country.
But secondly, these mythologies have a somewhat different origin than the myths of other countries and cultures. While most other mythologies originate from a very distant history and have a folk background, the British myths have specific authors and are still being groomed, cherished, and developed.
It would seem that the Shakespearean tradition of storytelling lives within the British culture; thus, we get all of these new mythologies and stories that are equally embraced as legitimate British folklore.
British people are very fond of their symbols and folk heroes and go to great lengths to promote those products of their own creativity. We can see examples of that all over the media.
All of the James Bond actors have met the Queen, Harry Potter already feels like a living and breathing citizen of the UK, while the epic history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is being taught at universities, and there are countless theme parks, merchandise, and monuments to these folk heroes. The United Kingdom proudly demonstrates why a country is only as strong as its culture.
The United Kingdom is interesting for its culture, creations, laws, and traditions.
Some of it is quirky, but none of it is boring.