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11 British Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction?

As a Brit living in America for a month, I’ve been confronted with many stereotypes of what the “typical” British person is like. I have to say that I’ve been surprised by quite a few of them and just how wrong they are! I’m sure you can all picture what you think of as a stereotypical British person, and here’s what I think you’re picturing: a middle aged man in a queue (a line) being polite and wearing a top hat and tails. Oh, and he lives in a huge mansion in the middle of the country. Right? Wrong! Not all of the stereotypical attributes of British people are fair or correct, so here’s your guide to navigating the fact and fiction of British myths and stereotypes.

1.      We Love Tea, Especially Afternoon Tea: Fact

So this one might be true… many of us do love a cup of tea (or 20) a day. We also prefer to take tea breaks instead of coffee breaks. Afternoon tea is such a huge treat; who doesn’t love scones, clotted cream (thick, yummy cream made from cow’s milk), and jam? If you don’t embrace this one, then you’re really missing out. 

2.      We Love to Queue: Fact

Brit-to-American translation: to queue means to wait in line. This is a bit of an odd one, but British people do enjoy queuing. Seriously, there’s something I just can’t explain about this one, but you daren’t push in a queue; you should really just offer sandwiches. In fact, when it comes to Wimbledon, people will camp in a queue line to make sure that they get tickets. Now that’s dedication to queuing.

3.      We Have “Stiff Upper Lips”: Fiction

Whilst this might have been true in the past, it’s no longer true that the British don’t show their emotions. Okay, so we don’t show them too much, and it’s still sometimes a guessing game if you’re trying to figure out how someone feels, but we have become better at this one. We might not gush about anything, but we do have emotions. But only when appropriate; we couldn’t be rude!

4.      We Love Talking About the Weather: Fact

If there is a lull in conversation with a British person, watch them go for their get-out-of-jail-free card: the weather. It can be raining, snowing, or just averagely gray and we will talk about the weather. Though if you experienced the hourly changes in weather we had, then you would probably talk about it a lot, too!

5.      It Rains Every Day: Fiction (Mostly)

It really doesn’t rain every day in the U.K., though it is possible to experience four seasons in one day. The real difference is that our “summer” lasts for about five days, and when it’s hot, we mean it’s about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s hotter than that, then we just can’t deal with it – we start wondering where the breeze is. 

6.      We’re All Posh and Live in Large Manors: Fiction

So you think it sounds like we’re all speaking with plums in our mouths? Only some of us! Most of us, whilst we speak with a British accent, don’t have overly posh accents. And I wish we all lived in large manors, but sadly, that isn’t true. Whilst we might once have been obsessed with our class system, modern day Britain isn’t quite the same; we’ve managed to move on just a little. 

7.      We Wear Top Hats and Tails (or Kilts): Fiction

Scottish people don’t wear kilts every time they leave the house, and English people don’t walk around in a top hat and tails every day – only on special occasions. You might be surprised, but we do wear jeans, too, and we know how to dress down.

8.      We All Play Cricket: Fiction

This one depends on where in Britain you mean: in England, cricket is a big deal and there are many people that play it. But when you remember what the weather’s like in Britain, can we really have a summer sport when we don’t even have a summer?

9.      We Have Bad Teeth: Fiction

I have no idea where this one came from, but our teeth are just as nice as yours! We brush them, floss them, and straighten them if they’re squint (translation: crooked). What’s wrong with our teeth? I can assure you we take just as good care of ours as you do of yours!

10.  We All Had Nannies and Au Pairs: Fiction

While Prince George will have at least one wonderful nanny who dotes on his every little need, this isn’t the typical British experience. You might think that we all grew up with our own Mary Poppins, but I’m afraid this is one that’s best left in Disney films. We don’t all have nannies, and I’m sure more of us are au pairs than have had au pairs.

11.  We All Have Pale Skin: Fact

I wish this wasn’t true, because tanning is a nightmare. For some reason, we Brits are all destined to be so pale that if we didn’t wear clothes you could see straight through us. For us, pale is the new tan; we have no option other than to make it fashionable.

Lauren is the President/Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Exeter, as well as the Manager of UK Expansion and a National Writer for HerCampus.com. While she has worked with Her Campus Exeter it has achieved Pink Chapter Level status and has grown to its current status as one of the most successful chapters internationally. She's determined to grow Her Campus in the UK this year and so is looking foward to working on increasing the number of HC UK chapters and to helping the established chapters improve and develop. This summer she was lucky enough to intern in the Her Campus Head Office in Boston, and had the most amazing time -- any time she can go back, she will! In her spare time Lauren loves to play tennis, catch up with her friends, go for long walks in the Scottish countryside or to watch chick-flicks under her duvet. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @laurenhudson25.
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