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Good ways to learn about British culture?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Kodo, Jul 23, 2016.

  1. Kodo

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    Might seem an odd question. I am (obviously) not British, but I find the culture and history very interesting and I'd like to learn more about it.

    How, aside from visiting the UK, would be a good way to do that?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Canterpiece

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    Well, I'm not saying I'm an expert in history because, I'm certainly not- but, I've lived in England my whole life and I visit Wales quite often. I've been to Scotland and Ireland before, but not as much as Wales.

    I may be not of much use, but I do know quite a bit about the culture from experience. Plus, I did help someone with their project about the UK who no longer lives in England, and they got quite a high mark (we stay in touch via social media). So, if you have any questions- I'd be willing to do my best to answer them. There's also the internet (although, it's not always known for being reliable to say the least) or perhaps a library if there is one nearby.

    Is there anything that interests you about the UK? I've lived in Brighton (very briefly), the North West, and now the East Midlands- so perhaps I could help. I can't sleep anyway, so feel free to message my wall if you want. :slight_smile:
     
    #2 Canterpiece, Jul 23, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  3. Shadstack

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    Hey! I'm from the UK (specifically, England), so I guess you could ask me a few things? I'd suggest reading some history books or YouTube videos on the topic too. I find British history kind of boring to be honest, I prefer the modern history of America.
     
  4. Canterpiece

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    Plus, looking into different accents may interest you, I know it certainly interests me as the accent that I speak and the phrases I use are quite different from the ones that they use where I live now. They treat vowel sounds very differently here.
     
  5. Harve

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    The obvious way would be to watch quintessentially British films and TV series like Trainspotting, Kes, Pride, Fish Tank, The Thick of It (TV series), This is England (both), just as a few examples.

    It depends on what exactly you're interested in?
     
    #5 Harve, Jul 23, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  6. Canterpiece

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    Oh, and you could watch Billy Elliot (the movie version) and look into the history about the Miners and Margaret Thatcher. The film would probably make more sense if you looked into that, but I guess you don't have to. I loved that film anyway, it's good as long as you don't mind strong language and homophobic language at times. (The story is set in the eighties, that's why).
     
    #6 Canterpiece, Jul 23, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  7. edy

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    Read a book about their history.
     
  8. Joelouis

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    I travel all over the UK quite often and meet lots of people.
    The history of the Union of Britain is very interesting, but remember that the history of England before the Union is even more interesting I think.

    There are good and bad parts to our history.

    The first rule to our culture is to remember to queue!
     
  9. eMei

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    Talk to us!

    I proudly represent the East Anglian region :lol:
     
  10. rudysteiner

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    Depends what 'era' of British history you want to learn more about. If you want to learn about how British culture has been since 2000-now, then watch Ali G or Skins. If you want anything more refined/upper-class, watch Harrow: A Very British School, or The Riot Club. If you want to learn about 19th century/Victorian Britain, then watch/read Dickens/Austen respectively. Wilde is good for upper-class Victorian Britain, too. Any British fly on the wall series is good to get an idea of what Britain is really like, and not how it's presented to Americans, etc.

    If you want something more LGBT, watch Pride.

    ---------- Post added 24th Jul 2016 at 01:59 AM ----------

    And always, always ask someone if they want a cuppa. Always.
     
  11. Andrew99

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    Study abroad for a year in England! :slight_smile:
     
  12. AlamoCity

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    You could also buy a British cookbook and make traditional and ethnic British foods. You can learn a lot about a country based on their cuisine.
     
  13. Sartoris

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    Aside from fictional shows and films, try looking for travelogue programs or individual episodes about the UK. Unfortunately I can't think of many offhand, other than Rick Steves' Europe, since most focus on non-Anglophone countries.
     
  14. Fighter694

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    Oh how could people forget Downton Abbey, pretty representative of the culture of the upper class in the Edwardian Era, it also touches upon social issues of being gay, feminism, social aspect of world war 1 and medical facilities of that time.
    If you want to watch a representation of the house of commons then you should watch the coronation street.
    Apart from that, there is a lot of literature online.
    Oh and there are some great documentaries that you could find on YouTube. They touch upon various aspects of British culture and are really well made.
     
  15. Aussie792

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    It entirely depends on what you want to learn. Do you want to know what City stockbrokers live like or how society in the Home Counties developed or the social and political culture of Scotland?

    I think history and literature are the best ways to acquaint oneself with a culture. And to understand a culture, it's probably best to chronologically go through its history and note the changes which give context to modern culture.

    But there are limits to how much you can absorb. Say, you study a general history of England in the early 19th century and read Austen. You'll probably be limited to a few accounts of war, politics and the broad strokes of economic development in the former and have an understanding of how the upper-middle and upper classes lived and viewed the world in the same period. But to read as much literature about/from the time as possible is incredibly time-consuming.

    I'd definitely recommend George Eliot (especially Middlemarch) and the 1971 Upstairs Downstairs (absolutely not Downton Abbey, which I find shallow and inadequate in exploring the servants' lives and even less able to demonstrate feminism and radicalism than Upstairs Downstairs) for a fairly good social overview of pre-Victorian to post-Victorian society. Rudysteiner's recommendations for modern culture less reliant on upper-class points of view are pretty good. Pride is also fantastic for caricaturing various elements of '80s culture in the UK (leftist inner-city gay Londoners, conservative suburban families, coal miners). If you want an idea of Britain's legal culture, Silk is a good show. A thoroughly middle-class, distinctly non-political show which indirectly demonstrates some aspects of British culture is As Time Goes By, which is also a good example of British humour with the benefit of Judi Dench being starred.

    To understand political culture - and by extension the cultural pressures which give rise to political problems, it's always good to follow British news. Yes Minister is a good characterisation of how many cynical Britons view politics and the civil service (in the most ridiculous extremes of caricature, of course). Watch parliamentary debates (particularly Prime Minister's Questions, which is most Britons' primary view of how the Commons works, as well as being cracking fun with a witheringly insulting prime minister at the despatch box), read British papers and read political biographies (which also helps you understand British history as well as the minutiae of political custom).

    Even then, you'll probably not have a very good knowledge of regional practices and will probably be unaware for some time of certain assumptions that British literature and TV make.

    Learning a foreign culture is, to be very frank, a fucking exhausting task. To learn it piece by piece is nice and interesting but it really does take a lot of effort to have a thorough familiarity with another country's culture. And you still won't be nearly as familiar as a native.
     
  16. Canterpiece

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    Also, If you want to learn about the class system- you could always check out "An Inspector calls" by J.B. Priestley. It's often thought to be one of the classics- and we had to do it at school when we were learning about the different classes, societal views/values, and the author's views (If I remember correctly, the author was a socialist and he uses the character of "the inspector" as a way of teaching the other characters a lesson-so the book itself has somewhat of the Author's personal biases in terms of political beliefs). The story is set around an Upper class family, and the author somewhat mocks them- Mr Birling makes some incorrect statements at one point, saying that the Titanic is "unsinkable" (it sank) and that we wouldn't go to war with Germany (and of course, we did) and when the play was being performed- those events has already took place, but when the story is set they hadn't.

    Wow, you seem to be bombarded with suggestions here. Sorry for adding another, but the point is- there's a lot of ways you could learn about the culture, and it depends what you're interested in. But like I said, you are always welcome to post on my wall. :slight_smile:
     
    #16 Canterpiece, Jul 24, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  17. happydavid

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    Make friends with us Brits. I don't know how but I can try. Just wall message me
     
  18. PatrickUK

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    Just ask. :slight_smile: For an amusing, yet accurate take on the British psyche and our customs and values, look up So Very British online. I am infected with very many of the 'British problems' myself actually. For example... "I could do with some help" probably means "Can you get the fuck here right now because I really am in trouble with this."

    Check out the websites of Debretts and Burke's peerage and just ask if you want to know anything, especially about the middle classes. :lol:
     
  19. Invidia

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    Guys, don't forget about Monty Python. :confused: Ni! Ni!
     
  20. Reciprocal

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    Have a look into our politics. I'd say, watch a session of Prime Ministers Questions, or the State Opening of Parliament. From the searching of the cellar to prevent another gunpowder plot, to Dennis Skinner's witty remarks, I'm sure you'll find the traditions really interesting, I certainly do. If you're into history, you'll see that Westminster and the government has an amazing history in its own right.

    Other parts of UK history that I find fascinating are the British Empire; the monarchy; certain Prime Ministers like Churchill, Attlee and Thatcher; The Troubles in Northern Ireland; the fishing industry and, of course, the two World Wars. The NHS and the BBC are big parts of our culture because they set us apart from some other nations like the USA.

    I'd point out that British culture varies a lot. A working-class family in Great Yarmouth is going to see British culture very differently to a London banker who spends his summers in Southwold. Our culture also massively takes influence from other nations especially Commonwealth countries.

    Feel free to wall message me if you want to! I love talking about my country, it's not perfect but I'm very proud of it :slight_smile: