The United Kingdom is a unitary state comprised of four constituent countries: Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, and is governed by a parliamentary system with its seat of government in London, the capital, but with three decentralized national administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, the capitals of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. The UK is the land of Harry Potter, fish and chips, driving on the left, The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth II.
Located in Europe, the United Kingdom has given many historically renowned figures. It is a territory that contains a very wide military, sports and musical history; this makes it an extremely relevant area. It also has a series of curiosities worth knowing. Some are really funny; others are part of a past still very present, as the British culture is an incredible mixture of many races since Roman times, and even before. At one time, the British Empire was the largest in size, so its global influence is easily determinable, although it is not surprising that many of its customs are alien to what the rest of the world usually does.
15. The Irony Of Pubs
The word “pub” was invented by the British in the 19th century, but it does not mean what we understand today by that, but comes from “public house”. It refers to a meeting place in the settlements center, whether civilian or military. In fact, technically, the 1872 Licensing Act makes it illegal for the pub owner to allow anyone to get drunk there. This is a beautiful irony, because in the contemporary times in which we live in the 20th century, pubs are bars where, more than anything else, people drink beer until they get drunk while watching football or rugby games.
14. A Great List Of Languages
Nearly 300 languages are spoken in the United Kingdom. This is because it is a widely multicultural state. To get a clear picture, one in ten couples and marriages are ethnically mixed, and London has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai or New Delhi. In fact, French was the official language of England 300 years ago. Also, 21% of people living in London today were born in another country. These figures are not so hard to believe if you take a walk around the city center on a Sunday morning.
13. The Famous Tea
Everyone knows that the British drink a lot of tea and they even have an hour to drink it, usually at 5 PM. But you may not estimate the brutal proportion of tea they consume. Every day, the British drink 165 million cups of tea, which is 20 times more than the average American drinks. For example, in 2013, total tea consumption in England amounted to 328.2 tons. To be ranked as the second largest tea-drinking country in the world (after Turkey), it is striking that the British have never cared about its production on a massive scale. Tea is one of those typical British customs that goes back to the era of industrialization. In the olden days, it was taken up by the upper echelons, but in time it spread to the rest of society.
12. My Name Is Smith, John Smith
Continuing with the oddities, the total population of the United Kingdom in 2001 was 58,789,194 people, the third largest in the European Union; the fifth largest in the Commonwealth and the twenty-first largest in the world. However, of that grand total, about 30,000 people were named John Smith, like the explorer. When the British refer to someone without a name, they call him “John Smith”, just as in the United States they say “that dude, fella, folk, etc.”. That’s probably why so many characters with that name appear in the movie The Matrix, as the representation of any person. In fact, in the UK the most popular surnames are Smith, Jones, Taylor and Brown.
11. Calling 999
This number continues to be used in the UK as an emergency number, alongside 112, which is more standardized and popular. The use of 999 began in London and surrounding areas in 1937, after a fire two years before killed five women. A man had called to report the incident, but he was put on hold and during that time the fire spread. The authorities then opted to enable a specific number, which in case of dialing had priority over any other call. 999 was not only easy to remember, but it could also be dialed on a rotary keypad in a situation where smoke or any other element would have reduced visibility, as it simply had to be pushed to the top of the marker.
10. The Shortest Flight Ever
Let’s just say you want to fly on a plane. Let’s also say that you live on an island and to get to or from there, you have to do it by plane, because the rocky coastline makes it difficult to travel by boat. Well, welcome to the UK, since there is a flight between Westray and Papa Westray, both locations of the Orkney Islands. It’s the shortest scheduled flight in the world. The distance traveled is only 1.7 miles and the total travel time is less than two minutes. The funniest thing is that the record on this trip is only 53 seconds. Surely that day all its crew celebrated because they managed to save 60 seconds of travel time.
9. The Smallest House In Britain
The smallest house in Britain is a house in the Welsh town of Conwy in Clwyd County, considered the smallest in the world. It is located near Conwy Castle. The house is 3.05 metres wide and 2 metres high. It was inhabited since the 16th century and its last inhabitant was Robert Jones, a fisherman with a height of 1.90 meters. He was expelled from the house in May 1900 because of the danger of living in such a small space. The house is open to the public, and can be visited for £1.
8. The Queen’s Double Birthday
A curious tradition of British royalty refers to the “Queen’s Double Birthday”. Officially, she was born on April 21st (when no official celebration takes place, but the flag is hoisted in public places and the national anthem is played). However, it is traditional to celebrate her birthday in the European summer. Since 1805, the Monarch’s “official” birthday has been distinguished by the ceremony of the Cavalry Parade, which takes place on the second Saturday of June. This ceremony had its origins when it was essential for soldiers to recognize their flag or the color of their regiment to follow it in battle. Each year, one of the five infantry regiments turns to display their colors at the ceremony.
7. I’m sorry. All the time.
I am sorry, I am a very apologetic person so I think the UK is my ideal country. The English love to say “I’m sorry.” This is so genuinely kind that it can make you feel very uncomfortable if the failure is really yours. For example, if you meet someone and ask them for an address, the guilt of being lost is yours, but that person will be the first to say “sorry” before helping you. This is perhaps the most widely used expression in the UK; probably an average Brit will have apologized at least once in the last two hours. A recent study involving more than 1,000 British participants found that, on average, they say “I’m sorry” about eight times a day and that one in eight of them apologize up to 20 times a day.
6. The Russians Can Finally Sleep Peacefully
The Berwick-upon-Tweed town were officially at war with Russia for 110 years. For centuries, England and Scotland alternatively assumed control of this town for being on the border. In the state documents, they referred to the locality as a “separate entity”. With the outbreak of the Russo-Crimean War, the United Kingdom declared war on Russia in the name of Britain, Ireland, Berwick-upon-Tweed and all British domains. But when the war ended two years later in 1856, the Paris Peace Treaty omitted Berwick. So, Berwick was technically at war with Russia until 1966, until a Soviet officer noticed the situation and managed to declare peace.
5. Meals Worthy Of A British Spy
Another UK tradition and custom has to do with its typical foods, which are not as extravagant as in other countries, but are quite popular. The main dish is fish and chips, with beef, lamb, chicken and vegetables also standing out. At lunchtime (between 12:30 and 14:00), it is very common to eat a quick sandwich. For breakfast, the most traditional is the British breakfast, a plate with eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sausages and baked beans in sauce. When it comes to beverages, tea is clearly topping the list, although the British also drink coffee, warm beer, whiskey and wine.
4. The Ones Who Drive Weird Are Us
Curious as it may seem, at the beginning, all vehicles were driven on the left, even when motorized cars did not yet exist, since the carriages were driven that way. This is because most people are right-handed, so the charioteer went right. In this way, he avoided hitting the rider who came face to face when hitting the horse with the whip. In almost all countries, cars go in the right-hand lane, while in the UK (also Ireland, Australia, India, Japan, etc.) they are driven in the left-hand lane. That is why the ones who drive weird are us, though.
3. The Saving Thistle
The thistle is the national flower of Scotland. It has been its national emblem for more than 700 years. Legend tells that centuries ago, the Vikings decided to invade Scotland during the night and in complete darkness, and not wearing proper shoes, one of them stepped on a thistle and a sharp scream of pain warned the Scots and prevented a terrible slaughter. This pink (or orange) flower that saved them from the invasion was known as “The Guardian Thistle”. When James IV ascended to the throne in 1488, the thistle had become a popular emblem and was also found in the former Scottish order of cavalry known as “The Order of the Thistle”.
2. Consumption Of Jam By Mistake
In an attempt to boost the industry of a valuable product such as silk, King James I of England ordered 10,000 mulberry trees to be imported. But in a mistake that almost disrupted the kingdom’s finances, the monarch ordered a variety of trees that was not suitable for worms. While the silk industry did not work in the United Kingdom, the trees brought in by mistake turned out to be exceptionally sweet fruits that were perfect for jam-making, a product that has become popular since then and is almost as popular today as tea.
1. Count Of Sandwiches
The sandwich, an undisputed element of British cuisine, has a story behind it that seems to come from a fairy tale. John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was a British aristocrat who held important positions in the second half of the 18th century. However, this character has not gone down in history because of his political or military career, but because he is the inventor of the sandwich. Apparently, Montagu was a hardcore card player and he was annoyed to have to interrupt his play for lunch. That is why he began to order his servants to serve him the food, usually meat between two slices of bread, and thus the popular and world-famous sandwich was born.
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