The British culture is attributed to diverse cultural backgrounds in the United Kingdom. It is important to understand various nations that form UK and it includes Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales. The citizens of these four nations can be referred to as British thus representing huge set of customs and traditions. According to 2017 census, the population was about 65 million people comprising of 87% whites (Office for National Statistics, 2017). Other ethnic make-up in UK include Black, Asian and Pakistani among others. English is the main language for British and is spoken by about 98% of the total population in UK. Historically, British have been in the forefront in developing the world through literature, politics, science and industry. Even though they have significance influence politically, socially and economically, the recent development due to vote to leave European Union following 23rd June 2016 national referendum might change.
In order to gain understanding of people living in a given country it is important to look at their customs and traditions. Britain is rich in culture and traditions that has evolved over years. Some of the famous customs and traditions that has given British its identity includes drinking tea, playing soccer and eating fish and chips. This paper aims at evaluating British daily life and social customs revolving around family, leisure, food and drinks, arts, music and sports. This is because the British outstanding traditions have greater impact in Europe and other parts of the world.
The main state-sanction religion for the British is the Christian protestant faith attributed to the Church of England. The religion played significant social role for the UK since 17th century where the majority of UK population affiliates themselves to official Church of England (Henson, p. 13). The dominant religion for British is Christian while the rest identify themselves with Roman Catholic religion and other minority religion such as Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism.
The trend in religion is changing for the British, according to British Social Survey conducted in 2017, more than half population of United Kingdom population has no religion (Sherwood, 2017). According to the survey, 53% say they are not religious, a figure that has risen by 19% by since 1983. This decline in religious affiliation is causing catastrophic fall in the number describing themselves as Anglicans thus hitting the Church of England. More than 70% of the young population aged between 18 and 24 say they had no religion. The Church of England is losing its popularity having lost over 100, 000 worshippers in a decade and the attendance continue to fall by 1% every year (Bulman, 2017). Since Church of England is legally established church, the schools admit children based on religious criteria thus forcing some parents to attend church just to get their children into state schools. The falling in religious affiliation is driven by the young population. Due to rise in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population and the Church’s resistance to same-sex marriage, the majority of younger generation has been alienated thus forcing them to drop religious affiliation.
However, it is important to note that UK respect different religious organization. People are allowed to practice plenty of practices causing rise in multiculturalism. This is also seen in public places such as airports, hotels, colleges, universities and schools where prayer rooms have been set aside to gather for civilian’s ad student’s religious needs. There are also many organizations in Britain that represent particular faith in order to provide information and support to its followers. British culture is therefore characterized by tolerant society resulting in establishment of various faiths. The law prevents any form of discrimination, because of religion, nationality or race. Churches of all denominations can be found in throughout United Kingdom including Protestant, Methodist, Catholic and Baptist though the official UK’s religion is Christianity. In large cities there are a number of places for practicing faith such as mosque, temple, church, gurdwara and synagogue. Furthermore, people in UK are free to wear religious items such as hijabs, yarmulkes and turbans. British is a tolerant society that observe various religious faiths such as Eid, Hanukkah, Christmas and Diwali.
The marriage has been the cornerstone for British families that comprised of father, mother and children. However, in the past few decades, there has been change in views of family, relationship and marriage causing rise in single parent families, couples cohabiting rather than marrying and increase in cases of divorce (Seltzer, p. 922). The has been recent developments where people of the same sex are allowed to marry. The nuclear family has been the major social unit for British where father, mother and children met certain social expectations. However, that is no longer the case as about a third of population are being raised as step-parent, step-sibling or step-child. Furthermore, recent statistics indicate that more children are being raised by single parents in households owned mostly by mothers. The families have incorporated LGBT relationships thus children raised by same-sex couple are becoming common among British (Allan, Hawker and Crow, p. 822).
Even though the traditional typical British nuclear family is no longer an expected cultural standard, people still view family as an important component in their lives. This is because the family members have unique interpersonal relationship that result in supporting each other. Most British prefer smaller families to relief economic pressure since majority of population don’t want to be financially stretched. The parents are investing in their children to help them secure good economic future. However, is important to note that many British are preferring to get married and have children at a bit older age. The middle class is characterized by individualistic orientation where men and women prefer to establish their careers first before starting family thus they tend to wait until later in life in order to have children. The recent statistics indicate that women tend to be much older when having their first child compared to previous generations, the average age for British being 30 (Gangl and Ziefle, p. 349). Due to rising technology, in vitro fertilization is also becoming more common due to older age of conception.
The dating practices for British is similar to those of other European nations. Most couples meet in social places such as sporting events, workplaces and social hobbies though the online dating services are on rise. British believe that dating allows them to know each other as a result it is common for British person to date several people over long period of time without having any exclusive relationship with any of them. An individual stops dating other after developing interest for a particular person and my start a committed relationship that lead to marriage. Even though divorce and cohabitation are on rise, the British are still committed to their partnerships. British couple tend to live together and stay in a relationship for several years before they get married. Similarly, more children are born by cohabiting/unmarried couples. Same-sex couples are legally allowed to marry in in Wales, Scotland and England (Barlow, p. 59). Though institution of marriage is still dominant, almost half of British marriages end in divorce.
The most culturally recognized British tradition is monarchy headed by the Queen of England. Though government is controlled by parliament, monarchy system still plays significant role since many royalty ceremonies including birthdays and weddings are highly publicized drawing world attention.
The British arts is displayed in the UK’s most famous Tate Modern and National Gallery having permanent collection of British art culture. The Nationally Gallery has collection of most iconic paintings dating back to 13th century (Whitehead, p. 12). The London city is also well known for hosting exhibition events for renowned artist from all over the world. The Northern Ireland has Lowry Gallery that specializes in modern and contemporary arts and media including designs, print and photography.
The theatre and performing arts is common among British culture. The UK’s vibrant theatres feature traditional plays such as Shakespeare productions and the contemporary productions like music and modern dance. The theatre industry is fundamental for UK’s culture and is reported that London is the biggest market. More than 19 million theatre tickets were sold across UK in 2016 generating revenue of about 645 million British Pounds (Statista, 2017). The theatres are concentrated in cities and run a number of shows that started in the UK. Some of the largest theatres include The Globe, The Royal National Theatre and the Barbican. The London has the longest running play in the UK known as The Mousetrap that has been running for over 60 years. The Shakespeare’s performance has shaped the literature in Britain.
The British also has rich musical life where great performers stage concerts and dance. There are a number of venues to host musical events, the main ones being Barbican Centre, Cadogan Hall, South Bank Concert Halls and Wigmore Hall. As a result, there are large number of dance touring companies to meet demand for musical arts. The British have been premier for film and cinema (Statista, 2017). The theatres in UK offers great opportunity for filmgoers to experience launches of new movies and songs. British has rich history of film characterized by high number of venues to gather for huge market. Furthermore, theatre and performing arts is strengthened in institutions of learning since many colleges and universities offer degree programs for said arts. This has promoted individuals who have excelled in music, painting, poetry, plays and literature.
Sports is the popular leisure activity among the British. Some of the world’s famous sporting events believed to originate from Britain include football, golf, rugby, cricket and lawn tennis. Football is the most prominent sport among Britons and the England’s teams have attracted huge funs around the world especially for the famous teams such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Though England’s national sport is cricket, majority of population has gained interest in soccer. The development of modern sport is attributed to British cultural legacies and establishment of Football Association in 1863 (Taylor, p.6). The British nations have teams in national divisions and premiership that have appeared regularly in international competitions. England hosted and won world cup in 1966. The Great Britain also attends modern Olympic games and has won several trophies in field and indoor events. It has also hosted world Olympic games three times in London in 1908, 1948 and 2012. The British athletes have excelled in tennis, yachting and skating apart from showing memorable performances in track-and-field events.
British is also home to several international sport competitions such as Open Championship for golf, Wimbledon Tennis Championship, Henley royal Regatta championship and the horse racing events such as Derby, Royal Ascot and Grand National steeplechase. The British population prefers both indoors and outdoors activities making it one of the richest culture in sport globally. The sport has significant role in the formation of English identity. England operates high-profile professional leagues that are played during different times of the year. Soccer leagues usually runs from August to May while cricket is played in summer between April and September. The main cup competitions for England is FA, League cup and premiership (Buraimo, Simmons and Szymanski, p. 29). The successful clubs participate in the famous Europe competitions organized by UEFA including UEFA Europa League and the EUFA Champions League. The British population is therefore active in sports.
There is rapid change in British eating habits due to increased interaction with people from different cultural settings. Formerly, rationing was common in Britain to ensure fair share of diet to all. However, increased production has resulted in plenty of food with majority of population preferring fast foods and takeaways. The multicultural society has brought a variety of cooking style and recipes for the British. The economic transformation brought by industrialization has led to progressive food cooking, preparation and processing that takes place in factories thus significantly reducing cooking at homes. The increase in number of employed married women has changed eating habits since less time is spent for cooking. The burden of work has made manufactured food to be favorite as convenience food that can be frozen and stored. However, women still play significant role in organizing shopping and cooking.
The British food has traditionally been based on lamb, chicken, beef, pork and fish served vegetables (Mitchell, p. 872). Currently, the most common foods eaten in Britain include fish and chips, pies, roast dinners, and sandwich. The staple food for Britain are fish, flour, eggs, meat, potatoes and butter thus many of British dishes are based on these foods. Though traditional food is treasured, the modern English cuisine is becoming popular. The Sunday roast is the tradition meal for British where most families gather together on Sunday or any other day for a big roast lunch. Chicken, pork, turkey and lamb is usually roasted in the oven and served with vegetables such as carrots, roasted onions, peas, potatoes and cabbages. English are also known for eating fish and chips. The fish and chips are deep-fried separately, salted and served with pickled cucumber or egg and malt vinegar. Other traditional English food include bread and butter pudding, various pies, haggis, cheese, Lancashire hotpot and cream tea (Gilbert and Khokhar, p. 2016). The British cuisine comprises roast beef, steak and kidney pie, Yorkshire budding and trifle, however globalization has moved food and recipes to UK that has been incorporated into British local eating habits. Cuisines from all over the world including Indian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, American and Tai is now available in Britain representing great ethnic diversity.
The British cultured is rich in diversity ranging from religion, arts, food and sport. The religion is still treasured however, increase in number of families with same-sex couple is on rise. Though Christianity is the main religion, there are many other faiths representing different religion from other parts of the world. The sports dominate leisure activities among British with soccer being the favorite sport. Similarly, there are wide foods that has been influenced by rich ethnicities in the UK.
Allan, G., Hawker, S. and Crow, G., 2001. Family diversity and change in Britain and Western Europe. Journal of Family Issues, 22(7), pp.819-837.
Barlow, A., 2004. Regulation of cohabitation, changing family policies and social attitudes: A discussion of Britain within Europe. Law & Policy, 26(1), pp.57-86.
Bulman, M. (2017) Record number of British people say they have no religion. (online). Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-people-atheist-no-religion-uk-christianity-islam-sikism-judaism-jewish-muslims-a7928896.html (date accessed: 23/4/2017)