A little while ago, we talked about 10 things Americans do that the rest of the world finds weird. It’s only fair, then, that we turn the spotlight on another nation‘s very fine citizens: England. So get your tea and biscuits ready, because we’re going to go over some of the weirdest things you will probably only find in the United Kingdom.
10. The Royal Family
Most of the countries in Europe have gone through their revolutions where they overthrew their royal families. But in the United Kingdom, they have both a Prime Minister and the Queen. Now, they’re not the only nation to still maintain royal bloodlines, but it’s certainly a unique situation given the political structure. So, why has the royal family stuck around for so long? And how did they become beloved celebrities?
Well, there are a few reasons for that. Some people say it’s because people in the UK love to keep up traditions, but there is more to it than that. The Queen has far more political power than you may think, but she chooses to keep herself in check. Over the years, the British royal family has done a very good job of keeping their political opinions to themselves. They work to endear themselves to the public whenever possible, to ensure that they can continue to carry on the legacy for generations to come.
When she was only 21-years-old, Queen Elizabeth II said during a speech, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” British people don’t feel threatened by the Queen’s power, so there has never been a reason to de-throne her.
9. The Queen’s Guard
One of the most quintessentially British things are the members of the Queen’s Guard. With their bright red uniforms and fuzzy bear-fur hats, they are immediately recognizable. Unfortunately for these men, they have to wear that same heavy uniform at all times of the year, even on the hottest days of summer. In fact, on a sweltering day in June 2017, several guards began to faint during a ceremony.
There is a stereotype that no matter what you say or do to one of these guards, they will remain stoic and never react to anything. For this reason, they have become a target of heckling, especially from tourists who are looking to cause some trouble. However, if this happens, they will most likely begin to march and patrol their post in order to avoid conflict. In fact, if the guard is seen reacting in an inappropriate way, they could even have their wages docked. So if you ever go to visit London, it’s best to leave them alone.
8. Tea Culture
It’s no secret to anyone that British people love their tea. The vast majority of the population truly does drink tea multiple times per day. They also offer to put the kettle on as soon as a guests enter their homes.
But some people have actually taken it to a whole other level, because they begin giving tea to their children when they are still babies. According to the Daily Mail, there is a large segment of the population that give their children tea under age five, and some mothers begin the habit at just six months old. Of course, not every British parent is so eager to begin indoctrinating their children with tea addiction. That’s like if someone watched Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and assumed that all Americans give their toddler “Go Go Juice”.
7. Two Taps in the Bathroom
In the United States, there is typically only one tap on a sink, which makes it possible to blend hot and cold water together until you get the perfect temperature. But it’s such an oddity in England, that they refer to them as “mixer taps.”
Traditionally, bathroom sinks in the UK have two separate taps: one for hot water, and one for cold water. So when you’re in the middle of washing your hands, you have the choice of either using freezing cold water or nearly boiling hot. The reason behind this is that in many older English houses, the hot water was stored in a heating tank that might not necessarily be safe to drink. Cold water, on the other hand, comes straight from the mains, and it’s guaranteed to be clean. This is why they never wanted the two to mix, because the hot water could potentially contaminate the cold water. Even today, you really should only drink from the cold tap, just to be safe.
6. The Pudding is a Lie
When Americans think of the word “pudding,” they imagine a creamy custard dessert that became a cultural staple in the 1980s. Packages of chocolate pudding mix filled the cabinets of households across the US, because of Bill Cosby (…yikes) and his Jell-O pudding commercials. Most kids in the ’90s also grew up taking pudding packs to school with them in their lunch box.
In the UK, “pudding” is a word used to describe a few different kinds of dessert. It could be a type of cake, but it can also be used to describe ice cream, or pretty much anything loaded with sugar. To make things even more confusing, there is a type of sausage called “black pudding” that is sometimes served with breakfast. So, if you ever hear a British person say they’re about to eat some pudding, you can’t really be sure what they are referring to unless you see it for yourself.
5. Regional Accents
In pretty much any country, you will find regional accents. In the United States, you can essentially break it down into four major accents: Southern, Midwestern, West Coast, and East Coast (specifically the variations in New England and New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia areas). Even though the country is so large, everyone can still understand one another, and slang doesn’t vary too drastically from state to state.
But in the United Kingdom, there are a ridiculous amount of dialects in a relatively small geographical space. You can drive just 50 miles in any direction and hear totally different slang and pronunciations. For a huge part of English history, people were living in isolation, and this caused certain groups to develop their own accents and cultures. Comparatively, the United States was developed at a time when transportation and communication was readily available. So it only makes sense that the accent stayed relatively consistent over large areas of land.
Today, the way people speak in the UK has become an indicator of wealth and social status. So it’s very common for people who came from lower class areas to alter their accents in order to fit in at a new job or social group.
4. Barrister Wigs
In the United States, lawyers have to constantly worry about keeping up with fashion if they want to be taken serious in their field. Men and women are expected to wear expensive suits, shoes, and accessories.
But in Great Britain, the clothes lawyers wear can be very different. Attorneys, or “barristers,” wear a black robe and a white wig when they go to court. This is considered to be traditional dress, and it’s the only appropriate attire worn during litigation. This tradition started hundreds of years ago, and for some reason, no one ever thought to try to abandon it. Even in African countries that were once colonized by England, like Zimbabwe, the tradition of wearing robes and wigs is still going strong today.
3. Bonfire Night
On the Fifth of November, British people celebrate Bonfire Night on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. A scarecrow in the likeness of Guy Fawkes is put in the center of a large pile of wood, before lighting it on fire. There is also a huge fireworks display, eating, drinking, and partying.
If you examine the history, though, the whole reason why the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot were trying to blow up Parliament in the first place was in an attempt to end the persecution of Recusant Catholics. The tradition of Bonfire Night has also been going on for a very long time. Before the scarecrow was made in the likeness of Guy Fawkes, they were already burning an effigy of the Pope. In the town of Lewes in Sussex, they will even go as far as to have a parade where they burn crosses on the Fifth of November.
2. The Straw Bear Festival
So this next one doesn’t happen all over England, but it truly is another example of how people continue celebrating tradition of the sake of tradition, even when it doesn’t make any sense in modern society.
In the town of Whittlesey, England, they have been celebrating their Straw Bear Festival for over 40 years. Right around Christmas and New Year’s, citizens of Whittlesey dress up in face paint and colorful costumes. The stars of the show are the men who dress up head-to-toe in costumes made out of straw, so that he looks like a walking, talking scarecrow. The “Straw Bear” stems from Germanic origins, but it made its way into the UK at some point, and the entire village of Whittlesey decided to roll with it.
The men inside of these straw suits really do need to stay away from anyone lighting a cigarette, if they don’t want to end up becoming the subject of an even darker version of Bonfire Night.
1. Mr. Blobby
We have saved the weirdest one for last. In the words of Karl Smallwood, “Nothing can prepare you for Mr. Blobby.”
In 1992, a TV series called Noel’s House Party played a prank showing a fictional children’s TV show character called Mr. Blobby. This creature can only be described as the demon spawn of a Teletubby and Pennywise the Clown. The goal of Mr. Blobby was to make him as obnoxious and frightening as humanly possible. Mr. Blobby can only communicate with other living creatures by saying his own name, essentially making him a Satanic version of a Pokemon. To the surprise of everyone, children actually enjoyed the character. They already had the hideous costume on set, so the decided to begin incorporating Mr. Blobby into sketches where he failed to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the character became so unbelievably popular that they began to sell toys, and even created an amusement park. The character is no longer on TV, but once the image of Mr. Blobby is burned into your brain, you’ll never forget him, no matter how hard you may try. We’re sorry to tell you, Mr. Blobby will haunt your dreams for eternity.