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British Culture Cheat Sheet by

Britain for learners of English


Policemen were a unique symbol for britain = friendly bobby --> every police officer has it own beat. But in 1960 life became motorized. So did crime and so did the police.Police officers stopped being the good guy that they once were. They were dealing with alot of demons­tra­tions and with the activities of the 1960s counte­rcu­lture --> police officiers --> bobbies fuzz, cops, pigs.

There is no national police force for biritain. All police employees work for one of the 50 forces, each with respon­sib­ility for a certain geopgr­aphical area.
MET --> more direct control on the polices. Certains national functions such as the regist­ration of all crimes and criminals in England and Wales.
New Scotland Yard = the well known building which is the headqu­arters of its CID.

The police lost much of their positive image in the second half of the twenthieth centruy because trust in the honesty of the police declined

Aware of this problem, police invest much time and energy in public relations. --> Foot patrols , name-b­adges, not carrying guns.

Miscar­riages of justice:
- The bridge­water four
- Cardiff Three
- M25 Three

Miscar­riages of IRA:
- The Guildford Four
- The Birmingham Six
- Maguire Seven

The police cannot hold a person for more than 24 hours without formally charging this person with a crime (excep­tion: terrorist suspect: 28 days without charge)

The fear of crime has increased:
1) The ability to catch criminals
2) Neigbo­urhood Watch Schemes


The system of justice in England and Wales is an advers­­arial system. That means that in criminal cases, it is not the business of any court to find out the truth. Its job is simply to decide yes or no to a particular propos­­ition after is has heard arguments and evidence from both sides.

The civil justice has it own courts. All civil cases go trough country Courts & High Courts. Most of the cases are dealt in magist­­rates courts.

Magist­­rates are also known as : Justice of the Peace --> not trained lawyers! They are jut ordinary people with a good reputation who have been appointed to the job by a local committee and they do not get a salary or fee. When a JP says guilty, then they refer the case to a Crown Court, where a profes­­sional lawyer acts as the judge.

Jury = 12 selected people random fromt he list of voters. In order to reach a verdict, there must be agreement among at least ten of them. If this does not happen --> the judge has to declare a mistrial and the case must start all over again with a different jury.

It is also the judge's job to impose a punisment ( the pronou­­ncing sentence) on those found guilty.A convicted person may appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal in London to have the conviction quashed or to have the sentence reduced.

In Britain there a 2 types of lawyers:
1) Solicitors
2 ) Barristers

The highest court of all in Britain is the Supreme Court.


Beat = A particular neighb­­ou­rhood which it was the policemens duty to patrol.
MET = Metrop­­olitan Police
CID = Criminal Invest­­ig­ation Department
IRA = Irish Republican Army
NWS = Educating people in crime prevention to keep their eyes open for anything suspic­­ious.

British People

In the days when Britain ruled the waves, british people had a rather patron­izing attitude towards people in other countires and their ways. But this attitude has dissap­eared with the disman­tling of the empire. These days, many foreign ways of doing things are admired and there is a greater openess to foreign influe­nces.

Britain lost its empire in the second half of the 20th century BUT small remnants of it remain: e.g. Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Falkla­nds­/Ma­lvinas etc.
* They all wish to continue with the imperial arrang­ement
* British govern­ment: these wishes cause pride but also embarr­assment and irritation
o Pride: they suggest how beneficial the Br imperial admini­str­ation must have been
o Embarr­ass­ment: because the possession of colonial territ­ories doesn’t fit the image
of a modern democracy
o Irrita­tion: it costs money

In 1982 the Br government spent hundreds of millions of pounds recapt­uring the Falklands from the invading Argent­inians:
o Popular support at home
o Rare modern occasion of active patriotism (people felt here Britain was finally doing something right and doing it well)

Opinions about military interv­entions since then:
* 1990’s: Britain’s role in the Gulf War and in Balkan peacek­eeping efforts
o Majority acceptance
o Little enthou­siasm

* 2003: govern­ment’s decision to go to Iraq
o Provoked heated debate
o Provoked largest public demons­tration
o Decision has been generally regretted

* Britain’s presence in Afghan­istan
o Has also been unpopular

Britain's armed forces

Britain has a loyalty towards the government of the british armed forces.(p­­roud)
The british military is divided into 3 branches:
1) The Royal Navy
2) The Royal Air Force
3) The Army

( Navy = oldest, king alfred, senior service)

Britain's role in world affairs

There is no general agreement on what Britain’s ‘commi­tments in the world’ are and on whose behalf they should be undert­aken.
* Feeling in the country that Britain should be able to make signif­icant contri­butions to intern­ational ‘peace­kee­ping’.
* Question about nuclear weapons
o Since the 1950s the Campaign for Nuclear Disarm­ament (CND) has argued that Britain should cease to be a nuclear power, on economic and moral grounds
o But they don’t have consistent support
o Britain still has a nuclear force, although little in comparison to the USA

Relati­onship USA & UK

Public feeling about the relati­onship = ambivalent
o On the one hand: reassuring to be so diplom­ati­cally close to the most powerful nation in the world and the shared language gives people some sense of belonging with America
o On the other hand: some mild bitterness about the power of the USA, little distrust but remarks are often made about Britain being only a fifty-­first state of the USA

* In any case: relati­onship declined since Britain joined the European Commun­ities. The opening of the channel tunnel emphasized that Britain’s links are now more to Europe
* Also: tourist statis­tics: before the 1990’s: mostly American tourists in Britain, now the majority of visitors are from Europe
Ambivalent = having mixed feelings about someone or something

European Relations

Attitude = ambivalent
o One hand: as an economic necessity and a political advantage
o The other hand: acceptance has never meant enthusiasm

Dominant attitude: profound lack of enthus­iasm, tends to be seen as a necessary evil
o Causes: The British sense of apartness

Results in the fact that EU laws and regula­tions are often viewed as interf­erence by a ‘foreign’ organi­sation (according to some politi­cians and the media: these rules are a threat to the autonomy and indepe­ndence of the UK) (according to the average person: threat to the British ‘way of life’)

News about EU regula­tions pertaining to everyday life and habits seems to irritate the British.
o Possible reason: the british tend to take laws and regula­tions seriously and to interpret them literally. Also they like to have as few laws and regula­tions as possible because they believe law should be applied consis­tently and precisely. But they see a lot of rules coming from Brussel.
o What is even worse is that many of the rules seem to be about standa­rdi­zation, what means restri­ction, boring uniformity and inconv­enience to them!

Relations inside Great Britan

 Before the 1980s: were happy to be part of the UK but there was always some resentment about the way they were treated by the central government in London

 From the mid 1980s onwards: majority of the Scottish population wanted either selfgo­ver­nment within the UK or compete indepe­ndence

 A referendum decided in 1999 that the Scottish Parliament was reborn (300 years after it abolished itself). It has consid­erable powers over internal Scottish affairs

 Future? The Scottish National Party, which wants complete indepe­ndence from the UK, is now the largest party in Scottish Parlia­ment, a majority of people see indepe­ndence inevitable in the long run. The present arrang­ement puts pressure on the relati­onship between Scotland and England


 Different situation
 Nation­alism is felt mostly in the central and western parts of the country but not politi­cally,
more culturally
 However: also a growing support of greater self-g­ove­rnment

Great Britain & Northern Ireland

 Catholic viewpoint = nation­alist or republ­ican: in support of the idea of a single Irish nation
and its republican government
 Protestant viewpoint = unionist or loyalist: loyal to the union with Britain


 Northern Ireland was given its own parliament and Prime Minister
 Protestant majority had always had the economic power in the six counties
 Internal self-g­ove­rnment allowed them to take all the political power as well.
 All the positions of power were always filled by Protes­tants

LATE 1960’S

Catholic civil rights movement began and there was a violent Protestant reaction.
 In 1969 British troops were sent in to keep order
o At first: welcomed by the Catholics
o But troops often act without regard to democratic rights and sencib­ilities
o Violence increased
o British government imposed certain measures which are not normally acceptable in
a modern democracy
o Welcome disapp­eared entirely after 30 January 1972 (Bloody Sunday, troops shot dead 14 unarmed Catholic marchers)
o Extremist organi­sations and acts of terrorism increased (IRA started a bombing campaign on the British mainland while Loyalist parami­lit­aries started committing terrorist attacks in the Republic of Ireland
o Result: British government imposed direct rule from London. There was a hardening of attitudes in both commun­ities and support for extremist parties increased

 First important step towards resolu­tion: Good Friday Agreement of 1998: gave the Republicof Ireland a small degree of power sharing and everybody born in Northern Ireland the right to be a citizen of the Republic. Also it said that the 6 counties will remain part of the UK as long as the majority of its people wanted to.

 But sporadic violence and political statements continued
 In 2007: start of internal self-g­ove­rnment, with an elected assembly and a cross-­party cabinet
 Changed climate: e.g. ‘First Minister’ (Prote­stant) and ‘Deputy First Minister’ (Catholic) came from the more extremist wings of their commun­ities but during the ceremony for their new positions they sat chatting and joking together over a cup of tea

 Three other factors that helped to end the violence and soften extremist views
o The gradual process of righting the economic and social wrongs (which led to the Civil Rights movement in the first place). Catholics now have the same rights as Protes­tants.
o The events of September 11th 2001 in the USA: helped to persuade terrorist groups to disarm
o The transf­orm­ation of the south or Ireland during the 1990s from a backward and (in Protestant eyes) priest­-ridden country to a modern economy in which the Catholic church has lost most of its former power. (Now, if Northern Ireland gets swallowed up by the Republic, the Protes­tants would find it less terrible)


Ulster = name used for the part of Ireland which belongs to the UK

Wales is not in the flag of the Union Jack because they dont like the idea of being fixed into a symbol of the union from which they would like to secede, according to the nation­alists. But the Welsh MP asked for a change in the Union flag, they want the Welsh dragon to appear on it somewhere.

Jerry = a nickname which was used to denote the German people collec­­ti­vely.


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