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British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Slang

Slang in Britain flourishes, from North to South or East to West you’ll find an interesting mix of English and regional dialects, sometimes heavily influenced by international culture (heightened by internet culture).

You can easily find yourself puzzled by the quick retorts of youth, or the savvy lingo expressed by the professional and even by the old pensioners outdated observations.

The following table reveals the meaning behind the words:

slang table

This is by no means a complete list as there are thousands and thousands of slang words in the UK. You will probably pick up many of them yourself whilst you stay in the UK.

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

UK Regional Weather Differences

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Each different region of the UK can face very different weather conditions, even at the same time of the year. Not only do Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ from one another, but also the different regions of England. In general, you can see it as the further north you go, the colder and windier it gets, and the further west you go, the wetter it gets. Although the regions of England have no official boundaries, the areas highlighted in red are rough outlines.     

Southern England’s Weather

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Generally the South of England is the warmest area of the UK and has the less rain than most other regions. The conditions are affected by location even within this region however. The closer to the coast you get, the cooler the summers and warmer the winters, due to proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. However, this also causes more rain to fall in coastal areas.

London almost creates its own weather conditions due to its sheer size. The urban landscape means that temperatures are often a couple of degrees higher than in surrounding areas, meaning snow is less common in the winter.     

Northern England’s Weather

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Generally, the further North in England you go, the colder the average temperatures get and the windier it gets. However, in terms of rainfall, it depends on where in the north you are. Whilst the North East has relatively little rain, the North West experiences quite a bit.

The East of England’s Weather

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The East of England is the furthest from the Atlantic Ocean and the weather is therefore least affected by it. This means that the East is generally drier, cooler and less windy than the rest of Britain and also experiences the largest range of temperatures. The clouds that bring rain to the UK have emptied themselves over the West of England by the time they reach the East, meaning it stays dry.

The West of England and Wales’ Weather

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The West of England and Wales face pretty similar weather conditions due to the fact they are located so close by. In general, both regions have warm summers, mild winters and lots of rain. The fact that the West of the UK is so close to the Atlantic Ocean means that it has milder winters. This is because the huge mass of water holds heat better than land and so ‘heats’ Wales and Western England during the winter.  

Scotland’s Weather

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Scotland is the coldest part of the UK throughout the year, and has average minimum temperatures of just -0.2oC during the winter. It is also the wettest place every month of the year except May, June and December, and almost always the cloudiest too.

On top of this, Scotland has the shortest daylight hours in the winter in the UK, but the longest in the summer (up to 18 hours a day!) due to its northerly location. Overall, this may not make Scotland sound too appealing, but it is important to remember that the figures are swayed a bit by the northern and Highland areas of the country that are largely uninhabited.    

Northern Ireland’s Weather

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Northern Ireland is warmer than Scotland throughout the year, and has milder winters than England or Wales. In terms of rain, Northern Ireland is generally drier than both Scotland and Wales, but wetter than most of England.  Really, in terms of weather, it is best to think of it as half way between England and Scotland in temperatures, and half way between England and Wales in rainfall. Simple!  

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Stereotypes

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There are lots of stereotypes and misconceptions related to the British. It is to be revealed here which ones are true and which ones are completely made up. You might think that all British people drink excessive amounts of tea to solve their problems, or maybe you have heard that their upper lips are peculiarly stiff, presumably since birth.

Heaven forbid you may have even heard that they have no sense of humour, if so leave this site right now! (Please don’t literally do that…this is an example of our famous dry wit).

 Misconception One: All British people like to queue

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Queuing – some say it’s nonsense, others view it as the ‘right thing’ to do. Whether or not it is justified, most cities have thousands of queues that you can’t avoid.

A bank or a bus stop both require a level of courtesy, that is to say members of the public in Britain are brought up in a culture that has a tendency to queue in a range of everyday situations.

Since this is the norm, those who break it - or ‘queue jumpers’- are often frowned upon. Having said this, don’t let this put you off - just learn to love the queue and you’ll fit in perfectly!

Here we have a society, which has evolved to queue, but it isn’t all or nothing and even those native to the country sometimes break the unwritten social laws of the queue, and when they do, this is your opportunity to be a part of the crowd and also mock them!

 Misconception Two: All British people hate other nationalities

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British people like to think they were once rulers of the world, so some of this quest for global notoriety still lingers up until the present day. However, nowadays most of the comments made about other nations are meant in jest.

You may think that the British hate Americans, Germans and French, in fact this is not true - really the British hate everyone! OK, that was a joke, but you can rest easy knowing that hate is a very strong word for a British person, the average Brit is very fond of friendly rivalry with other nationalities.

This is taking into account that most British people would rather swim the English Channel than face any confrontation with someone; they are as timid as a church mouse (except when at a football match). Britain is a very open society to live in, and you’re much more likely to receive genuine and friendly interest in where you’re from than any form of hostility whatsoever. 

Foreign Students Top Tip:  Judge Britain for yourself. It’s one of Europe’s most multicultural countries, so the Brits aren’t that full of hate after all!

Misconception Three: All British people speak the Queen’s English

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The English language is often misconstrued as being only understood as an elite expression of lords and ladies. Why golly gosh, this is absolute utter incongruous pish posh my dear boy!*

In the days of Kings and Queens, the language was certainly more Dickensian, but modern Britain is an eclectic blend of different sounds.

In fact, the true vernacular is refreshingly diverse in its slang and you’ll probably surprise the person on the street with how good your English is. Like with most things Britain exports, they invent something but are then always outdone by foreigners (see cricket)!

* Translation: "Damn, this is made-up nonsense my friend".

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Royal Palaces and Castles

The Royal family has a number of different residences in the UK that they stay at depending on the time of year and occasion.

Each place has its own purpose, though they all share one thing in common - they are all massive! The royal family has two different types of residence - the official state owned royal residences, and their privately owned property. The former includes Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyrood Palace, whilst the latter includes Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House.

Official Royal Residences: Buckingham Palace (London) 

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Buckingham Palace is the main residence of the royal family and is used for official state occasions and visits. It is a huge, spectacular building right in the heart of London, in Westminster. It also backs onto the largest private garden in London, where the Queen holds yearly garden parties.

Each summer during August and September the state rooms are opened to the public. If you can, you should visit if you are based in London as they are quite spectacular.

Windsor Castle (Berkshire, England)

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Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world, as well as the oldest in continuous occupation. It was originally built almost 1000 years ago, by William the Conqueror, and every monarch since then has lived in it at some point.

These days, Queen Elizabeth II spends many weekends a year at Windsor, and uses it for both private and state entertaining.  

Holyrood Palace (Edinburgh, Scotland)

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Holyrood Palace is located opposite the famous Edinburgh Castle and is used for state ceremonies and official royal entertaining. The Queen spends one week there at the beginning of each summer, and whenever she is in Scotland for State occasions.

When no members of the royal family are staying there, it is open to the public throughout the year.  

Private Homes: Balmoral Castle (Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

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Balmoral is a massive estate that is privately owned by the Queen and is very popular with the royal family in the summer. The huge grounds measure 64,000 acres and it takes 50 full time staff and 100 part time staff to look after the whole estate.

Sandringham House (Norfolk, England)

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Set in 20,000 acres of land, Sandringham is also privately owned by the royal family. It was first built in 1870 by the Prince of Wales (who went on to become King Edward VII) and has been owned by the royal family ever since.

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

UK Weather Conditions

Although the UK doesn’t face too many extreme weather conditions, it does face a wide variety of conditions on a regular basis. The British weather can be quite erratic and conditions regularly change from day to day, whatever the season.

Below you can find which weather conditions the UK faces, and when and how often they happen.

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Temperatures in the UK

Temperatures in Britain usually stay within the range of between about -10°C at the very lowest night time winter temperatures, to 30°C at the height of summer. This relatively small range is due to Britain being surrounded by oceans, which hold heat much longer than land, and therefore warm the UK in the winter and cool it in the summer.  

Occasionally the temperatures do exceed these extremes. The lowest temperature in the UK on record is -27.2°C in Scotland in 1995, whilst the highest was 38.5 °C in Kent, England in 2003.

Temperature is not always roughly the same anywhere in Britain, as it is generally colder the further north you get. For example, even just in England, the average annual temperature for the south is 11°C, whilst for the north it is just 8.5°C. 

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Sunshine in the UK

In the UK sunshine can seem scarce at times. The average total annual sunshine is 1340 hours (just over 3 and a half hours a day on average) which is about 30% of the maximum possible. However, this obviously varies hugely depending on the time of year and location in Britain.

As you would expect, there is more sunshine in the summer than in the winter, when some mountainous areas get as few as 38 hours during the three winter months. However, location makes such a huge difference that this average winter total increases to about 217 hours in the south and east of England during winter.

This regional difference is true throughout the year, and indeed, it is Eastbourne on the south coast of England that holds the record for most hours of sunshine in a month, with a massive 384 hours in July 1911 (that is almost 12 and a half hours each day!).  

If you are planning on a trip during the British summer that requires the sun to be out, we recommend that you check the weather forecast, head to the south of England and keep your fingers crossed.

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Rain in Britain

There is a stereotypical view of Britain that it rains all the time. Whilst this can seem true when it begins to rain in the middle of June just as you have packed your bags to spend a day on the beach, for many parts of the UK it is actually a complete myth. This is due to the huge difference in amount of rainfall different parts of the country receive.  

As a general rule, the further west and the higher the land the more rain will fall. For example, the mountains of Wales and Scotland and the moors of South West England can see as much as 4,577 millimetres (180.2 in.) of rainfall each year, making them some of the wettest locations in Europe.

In contrast, London, for example, gets just 650 mm (25.6 in.) on average per year, which is less than Rome, Sydney and New York. This erratic rainfall has meant that in recent years the UK has suffered from a number of both floods and droughts in certain areas.

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Snow in Britain

The British have a strange relationship with snow. Most areas rarely get much of it, but when they do people seem to go mad. It is on every news channel, in every newspaper and is all that anyone seems to talk about. Transport links close down, roads shut, children can’t get to school and workers can’t get to their offices. This causes half the population (mainly the younger half) to love the snow as they go sledging, have snow ball fights and build snowmen, whilst the other half are simply frustrated by it.

Snow is far more likely to fall the further north or east you get in the UK. For example, many areas of Scotland get heavy snow every year (there are even five ski resorts in the Scottish mountains!), whilst the south coast of England almost never gets a considerable amount. However, there are exceptions to this rule, when some winters bring heavy snow to the whole of Britain (as happened in the winter of 2009-10).

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Wind in Britain

The fact that the UK is so close to a large ocean to its west (the North Atlantic) means that it regularly experiences quite strong winds, whilst rarely faces extreme hurricanes or tornadoes.   

Gales (winds with speeds of 51-101 km/h) are common in some areas of Britain. The Hebrides (a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland) for example, experience on average 35 days of gale a year, whilst many inland areas of England experience less than 5 on average.

The highest wind ever recorded in Britain was 191 km/h (119 mph) in Cornwall on the south west coast of England in 1979.  

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

uksport

Sport is a huge part of life in the UK. The best thing to do is to embrace it! It is so easy to get involved, whether through watching and supporting a sport, or playing it. Every week thousands of people across Britain participate in a wide variety of sports, playing at all levels or supporting their local team.

Football

Football is by far the most popular sport in the UK and every weekend hundreds of thousands of people go to watch their team play, or else pull on some boots of their own to play for their local team.

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Technical term: Offside - a rule in football that is far too complicated to explain here. Best just to shout “’He’s offside!” when you hear others doing the same;)

Best known British team: Manchester United, Manchester - probably the most famous football team in the world. 

Most famous location: Wembley Stadium, London - the England national stadium and one of the most famous football grounds in the world.  

England’s biggest rivals: Germany - built after a number of famous World Cup meetings between the two teams. 

Cricket

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Cricket is a sport that still confuses many of the British, let alone people from abroad.  The basic idea is simple.  One player ‘bowls’ a ball at some wooden ‘stumps’, whilst another player has to try and hit the ball with a bat  without being caught by the bowler’s team mates. However, there are so many rules within this, and so much technical language that the sport remains a mystery to many. That shouldn’t put you off giving it a go though, as once you start to understand it, cricket is a great sport to watch and play.   

Technical term: LBW (Leg Before Wicket) - a term for when a batsman blocks the ball from hitting the stumps with his leg. 

Best known British player: Kevin Pietersen- England’s star batsman who is never afraid to be outspoken.

Most famous location: Lords, London - one of the oldest and most well known cricket grounds in the world and known as ‘the home of cricket’. 

England’s biggest rivals: Australia - every 2 years England and Australia play a series of games against each other called ‘The Ashes’. The result is one of the oldest and most famous friendly (usually) rivalries in cricket.

Tennis

Tennis is a hugely popular sport in the UK and almost every town and village has its own tennis courts you can play on.

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Technical term: Ace - when a player serves and the other player can’t even touch the ball.  

Best known British player: Andy Murray - pretty much the only decent British player there is at the moment.

Most famous location: All England Club, Wimbledon - where the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world is held each summer.  

Britain’s biggest rivals: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic - Murray’s biggest rivals for the world number 1 spot.

Rugby

Rugby is played between teams of players who each have to try and run the ball over their ‘try’ line on a grass pitch. It’s a hugely physical game, so maybe try watching it before you decide to start playing it with no experience. There are two variations of it - Rugby League and Rugby Union. They have a number of different rules to each other, but both are very popular in the UK.

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Technical term: Scrum - when a match has to be stopped for certain reasons, the two teams line up against each other and try and push each other backwards whilst the ball is in between them. This is called a scrum.

Best known British team: Leicester Tigers, Leicester - they have won the record number of Premiership championships.

Most famous location: Twickenham Stadium, London - the England national stadium and the fourth biggest in Europe.

England’s biggest rivals: Scotland, Ireland and Wales - there is a strong rivalry between the four ‘Home Nations’ who all play against each other every year.   

Athletics/Olympics

General athletics and Olympic sports are practiced by thousands of people in the UK.  Every day up and down the country people go swimming, cycling and running to keep fit and enjoy themselves. However, Britain is also very proud of its competitive achievements, and it is of course hosting the 2012 Olympics. This has led to a huge surge in the popularity of Olympic sports and the funding has increased. Why not give one of the sports a go? They are easy, fun and great for keeping fit. 

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Technical term: Butterfly - a type of swimming stroke, where you move both arms round at the same time.   

Best known British athletes: There are so many to choose from, but a few that stand out are Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy, double gold winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, and 16 year old diver Tom Daley.

Most famous location: The Olympic Park, London.

Britain’s biggest rivals: Australia - recently a friendly rivalry has developed as Great Britain and Australia are usually very close in the Olympic medals tables.

Golf

There are golf courses all over the UK, and the sport is massively popular with the British people. You can give it a go whatever your age, sex or sporting ability, as it isn’t as physically demanding as some sports. It is however very technically difficult and is certainly a sport where practice makes perfect (or at least a bit better). 

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Technical term: Birdie - when you putt the ball in one shot less than the expected ‘par’ score for the hole.

Best known British player: Colin Montgomerie - a legendary Scottish golfer who has had one of the best careers of any European player in history.

Most famous location: St. Andrews, Scotland - known as ‘the home of golf’ (Britain has a lot of sporting homes), St. Andrews is the oldest golf course in the world.  

Britain’s biggest rivals: USA - in the Ryder Cup held every two years, Britain joins forces with the rest of Europe and plays against the USA in a team match.    

Boxing

Boxing is participated in throughout Britain right the way from amateur level, all the way up to professional. Though it may seem brutal, it is actually a very technically difficult sport, and if practiced with the right precautions shouldn’t be dangerous. Britain has a rich history of successful Olympic and professional boxers (Olympic entrants cannot be professionals). 

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Technical term: Knock Out - when a boxer knocks his opponent down and he doesn’t stand up after the count of 10.  

Best known British boxer: David Haye - current World Heavyweight Champion and never shy in front of the media. 

Most famous location: The locations vary depending on where the big fights can get the most spectators. Boxing rings have been placed in the O2 Arena and MEN Arena recently. 

Haye’s biggest rivals: The Klitschko Brothers - Haye has never actually fought either of these brothers form Ukraine but they are the only two others in the world who are also Heavyweight Champions.  

Darts

Darts is played in Britain far more than anywhere else in the world. In almost every pub you go to there will be a dart board that you can play on with your friends. It is a very simple game where you throw a sharp metal dart at a board where different areas are worth different scores. To play it is incredibly easy, to master it is incredibly hard.  

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Technical term: Bullseye - the small circle in the middle of the dart board that is worth 50 points.

Best known player: Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor - the most successful darts player of all time, he has won 15 world championships.

Most famous location: Lakeside, Surrey - where the world championships are held each year.  

Taylor’s biggest rival: James Wade - Taylor is loved by crowds across the country, whilst Wade is generally hated.

Snooker

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Another traditional ‘pub game’, snooker tables can still be found in clubs all over the UK. Like darts, British players  dominate world snooker and all the world championships are held in the UK. However, players in pubs and clubs up and down the country are at the heart of snooker. If you have played pool before then it is similar to snooker, except snooker tables and balls are much bigger. The rules are easy to pick up, so why not give it a go?     

Technical term: Snookered - when the white ‘cue’ ball is in such a position that a player cannot hit the right coloured ball directly.

Best known player: Ronnie O’Sullivan - ‘The rocket’ as he is known, is one of the most charismatic and gifted snooker players to have ever played. His fast play, stunning shots and rebellious attitude all separate him from other players

Most famous location: The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield - where the world championships are held every year.

Biggest rivalries: Stephen Hendry and O’Sullivan - two of the best players ever to have played snooker and two very contrasting personalities. They have had many great matches over the years.

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

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The UK Seasons

Although the seasonal differences in Britain are not as extreme as in some countries, there is still a large difference between winter and summer. The year is split into four seasons roughly each 3 months long, though the weather in Britain can be very erratic and so the seasons often overlap or don’t follow the standard pattern. 

Below you can find the general weather conditions of each season in England.  All the stats are based on Met Office (the UK’s main source of information about weather) averages from 1971-2000. All the statistics are only rough ideas as conditions can vary hugely even within England.

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Winter (December to February)

    Average Minimum/Maximum Temperatures: 6.6oC- 7.4oC

    Average Min/Max Daylight Hours: 8-9 hours

    Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): 78 mm 

Winter is the coldest month in the UK, running roughly from December to February (although November can often suffer very wintry conditions too). Temperatures often get as low as freezing point (0oC), though usually not too much colder. This leads to frost in the mornings, ice on car windscreens and roads, and sometimes snow fall.  British winters are usually very wet and windy as well, so make sure you wrap up warm and waterproof. To add to the miserable weather, the hours of daylight are very short during the winter, with days in London getting as short as 8 hours at the end of December.   

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Spring (March to May)

     Average Min/Max Temperatures: 9.3oC- 15.4oC

     Average Min/Max Daylight Hours: 11-15 hours

     Average Min/Max Rainfall (mm): 60 mm

Spring in the UK is all about new life springing up after the harsh conditions of winter. From March (roughly), the temperatures start to get warmer, frosts get less frequent and the days start to get longer. This brings with it plants shooting up all over the country, trees regaining their leaves and animals giving birth. However, spring is often still quite wet and windy in Britain.

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Summer (June to August)

     Average Min/Max Temperatures: 18.1oC- 20.6oC

     Average Min/Max Daylight Hours: 16 hours - 16 hours 30 mins

     Average Min/Max Rainfall (mm): 61 mm

In theory summer in the UK should be hot and dry. In practice it is only hot in spells and it still rains quite a bit most summers. It is best to think of it as a way of making the hot days feel more special. On such days, temperatures can reach 30oC, though not much higher, and the British public make the most of it. People swarm to beaches, sit out in parks and generally revel in the hot temperatures. This is matched by the increased hours of daylight which reach almost 17 hours in London in mid June.

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Autumn (September to November)

     Average Min/Max Temperatures: 17.5oC- 9.5oC

     Average Min/Max Daylight Hours: 10-14 hours

     Average Min/Max Rainfall (mm): 81 mm

Autumn marks the gradual change from summer to winter and is probably the season with the biggest range in weather conditions. Septembers and even Octobers in Britain can often still be summery, recently even recording higher temperatures than August. Equally, Novembers can be very cold, and the UK sometimes even experiences widespread snow fall (like in 2010). In general, it is usually quite wet and windy in autumn though it is so variable that one year after another, autumns can seem like different seasons.

(www.foreignstudents.com)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

UK Bank Holidays and Festivals­

Burns Night (January 25th)

Burns Night is celebration of the life and poetry of poet Robert Burns. It is an important date on the calendar in Scotland and usually consists of a supper celebrating everything Scottish. This usually includes eating haggis, drinking lots of Scotch whisky and reciting Burns’ poetry.

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Best Tradition: Having a ‘toast’ to various things every 5 minutes, including Burns, haggis, Scotland, men, women, the host etc. By the end you may not be able to stand up but you will be blissfully happy.

Where to Go: Definitely somewhere in Scotland. Edinburgh is particularly famed for its celebrations.

How you can get Involved: Eat some haggis and drink some whisky (if you can stomach either)

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

Here you can find some information about the food eaten in Britain for main meals.

Sunday Roast:
The Sunday Roast, or Roast Dinner, is probably the meal England is most famous for. It is eaten in most restaurants and homes across the country every Sunday afternoon and is a meal of pure indulgence. It is basically roasted meat with all the trimmings, including roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing, and vegetables. You can choose whichever meat you want, depending on your fancy, and each comes with its own special sides:

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  • Chicken: with bread sauce or cranberry sauce;
  • Beef: with horseradish sauce or mustard;
  • Pork: with apple sauce;
  • Lamb: with mint sauce or redcurrant jelly.

The mother of all Roast Dinners for most people is usually served on Christmas Day when a huge turkey (often the size of a small child) is roasted and served with every vegetable, sauce and potato you can imagine.

Drukuj

British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

The British Royal Family

Although they have no real power, the British royal family are still very important to the British people. In many ways they represent everything that is traditionally British. However, their different roles and positions can appear complicated and confusing.

There are no exact rules for who is part of the royal family and who is not, but there are certain members who are better known in Britain than others.

It can however get confusing as to how they are all related and what their roles are. It doesn’t help matters the fact that most of them have titles that they are referred to as well as their names. For example, many of the most important members are given HRH before their name, which stands for His/Her Royal Highness. Similarly, the monarch has HM, meaning His/Her Majesty.