There are a number of things which make Britain quintessentially unique. After helping British expatriates for over 120 years our team has enjoyed hundreds of conversations with clients about what they miss most when away from ‘home’. So in the spirit of national pride, some of our staff have chosen a handful of nuances which reflect who we are as a nation.
Afternoon tea originated in the early 1840s as a private social event for ladies, stemming the gap between breakfast and dinner. The Duchess of Bedford is credited for introducing the very first afternoon tea which originally took the form of a light meal of sandwiches and cakes – scones weren’t introduced until the 20th century. It grew in popularity in the upper classes around the world, and is now an event in itself with many hotels and establishments, both in Britain and around the world, offering it.
As an island nation the British coast has always proved something of a draw. Taking the sea air was recommended for ill health and the Victorians encouraged the practice of spending time at the coast, even building piers in order to take a stroll and for entertainment. The trend for holidays at the sea grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s, following the Holiday Pay Act, and because air travel was not widely available many families spent their breaks at the coast. In recent years, with concerns about carbon neutral travel, the British seaside has seen something of a resurgence as the focus has shifted to ‘staycations’.
Something of an endless obsession for many, the British weather has been a talking point for generations. Several unique features of Britain’s geography determine why the weather is the way it is: notably mild, changeable and unpredictable. This leads to seemingly an endless fascination with the weather and speculation about what might be to come; a white Christmas, a hot summer and so on. The weather has also evolved into a way of negotiating any social landscape, acting literally as an icebreaker for many conversations.
The British are the best in the world when it comes to queuing! Its origins are deemed to be one of the by-products of the Industrial Revolution which saw masses of people coming together in towns and cities. As markets became shops some form of order had to be established. The advent of World War 2 firmly embedded queuing into British culture, when the day-to-day impacts of rationing, doing your duty and taking your turn were firmly engrained in the national identity.
As one of the most popular sports, cricket has been in Britain since the 16th century. Importantly the game was played across all social classes, becoming England’s national sport in the 18th century. The development of the British Empire ensured that cricket evolved into an international game, mainly as a result of expatriates playing in a number of the territories.
Roses are Britain’s favourite flower, and the emblem of many British organisations. The adoption of the rose as a national, unifying flower originated with the War of the Roses in the 15th century although Christian links with the Virgin Mary ensured that its presence has been engrained here since the religion first came to Britain.
Great British food
Fish & chips, a good Sunday roast and hot puddings with custard – nothing is quite like it. Although ridiculed for many years, British food has recently enjoyed something of a resurgence. There is now a sense of pride for these traditional, national dishes, which ultimately provide a range of comfort food and hearty meals.
Pomp and ceremony
Although most countries have their own form of celebration, British pomp and ceremony is renowned around the world. Much of this has to do with our history, together with a long-standing royal family and stable parliament, both of which have retained a variety of highly traditional practices over many years. The whole approach also fits well with our national character of being proud, dignified and respectful.
Ale and beer have been a staple part of the British diet for hundreds of years harking back to the times when the brewing process itself made for a drink much safer than the water of the times. Pubs were a place to gather, socialise and share stories, acting as a focal point of the community. Samuel Pepys even referred to them as the ‘heart of England’ in his diaries. For many expatriates it’s clear that a good pint in a British pub can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.
There are 15 million lawns in the UK – one for every 4 people. The lawn first came into being in medieval monasteries which introduced them as a place for contemplation. Francis Bacon noted in the 17th Century that they offered a ‘soothing’ quality. As stately homes grew in prominence across the country, lawns acted as a show of wealth. This has translated in modern times with lawns demonstrating a sense of pride, particularly as home ownership took hold in the 1950s and 60s.
Another British nuance is to avoid discussing the subject of money. Yet such an important topic is one which definitely shouldn’t be ignored, particularly if you are spending time overseas. No matter where you are in the world, our teams can help provide the full breadth of financial advice. In the first instance please contact your nearest office.
David Pugh, Chief Commercial Officer