What is traditional British culture, and does it exist?

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Queen Victoria
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I constantly see people spewing the same mantra which aims to devalue and dismiss any essence of what could be perceived as 'traditional British culture', whilst claiming that you cannot be nostalgic over a something which apparently doesn't exist. I appreciate this view; however, it is rarely reinforced with a substantial, comprehensive argument.

I would deem 'traditional culture' as quite a subjective, broad concept. I doubt anyone can truly define what 'traditional culture' really is; however, I repudiate the claim that it simply doesn't exist. 'Tradition' is generally recognised as a long-established custom or belief which has remained constant within a society, or something which has been passed on from generation to generation. Can you really claim that these do not and have not existed within British society?

Using this logic, do countries such as Russia, India, Greece, Turkey and China lack any sense of traditional culture? How is Britain so different that it lacks traditional culture, yet other countries (such as the ones listed) do not?

I am sure an argument would be that Britain has borrowed a sizeable proportion of its culture from other countries, thus the core of such cultural factors do not exist. Can a country only retain or claim ownership over an aspect of their culture which they invented and is unique within the boundaries of their society? Can all countries truly claim that their cultural distinctiveness is unequivocally unique to their own nationality? Would this render that aspect of their culture obsolete if it originated from foreign inspiration? Even if we utilise this logic, there are still plenty of cultural factors which did fully originate in Britain and are still recognised today.

In conclusion, I believe that there are numerous customs, symbols, cuisines, architecture, religious beliefs, events, institutions, technology, sports, uniforms, music, literature, theatre and attitudes/values which can be deemed as 'tradtional' and have crafted British culture over time. A few individual aspects of this 'traditional culture' may have evolved in recent times, but I feel it is false to purport that it is simply non-existent.
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robbo3045
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In London, only 57% of the population speaks English as a first language.

Now that's pretty bad. Considering I was brought up in Britain, surely I should be around a majority of people who speak the same language as me. But no, I phone up more telephone lines only to go through to someone who I can't understand, and can't understand me.

OK, I understand it's nice to have a culture that is rich and diverse. But surely we can't keep letting people immigrate to this country.
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Delta Usafa
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I decided to live in England for a year because of its traditional culture, so it better damn still be there when I arrive!
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Delta Usafa
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Edit: double post on accident.
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Hanoi
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(Original post by robbo3045)
In London, only 57% of the population speaks English as a first language.
Source?

Now that's pretty bad. Considering I was brought up in Britain, surely I should be around a majority of people who speak the same language as me. But no, I phone up more telephone lines only to go through to someone who I can't understand, and can't understand me.
57% (if that is even correct) is considered a majority.
I don't know what numbers you are dialing but you are probably speaking to someone in a call centre in India...
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EskimoJo
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(Original post by robbo3045)
In London, only 57% of the population speaks English as a first language.

Now that's pretty bad. Considering I was brought up in Britain, surely I should be around a majority of people who speak the same language as me. But no, I phone up more telephone lines only to go through to someone who I can't understand, and can't understand me.

OK, I understand it's nice to have a culture that is rich and diverse. But surely we can't keep letting people immigrate to this country.
And how many speak English fullstop? That's infinitely more important. It doesn't matter if a child's first few years was surrounded by only Urdu speakers (for example), if they can now speak fluent English, does it?
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robbo3045
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(Original post by Hanoi)
Source?


57% (if that is even correct) is considered a majority.
I don't know what numbers you are dialing but you are probably speaking to someone in a call centre in India...
It was on BBC News two days ago, and on their web page. I just went to look for it, but couldn't find it. It is true though, do a google.
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robbo3045
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(Original post by EskimoJo)
And how many speak English fullstop? That's infinitely more important. It doesn't matter if a child's first few years was surrounded by only Urdu speakers (for example), if they can now speak fluent English, does it?
I understand what you're saying, and generally I'm fine with it. But I worry about the future. Surely these numbers will only continue to rise, unless they find a way to combat this.

What if in twenty years time there was 70 to 80% non english speakers as a first language. Surely that changes the face of Britain or London slightly?
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Nora-FNE
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(Original post by EskimoJo)
And how many speak English fullstop? That's infinitely more important. It doesn't matter if a child's first few years was surrounded by only Urdu speakers (for example), if they can now speak fluent English, does it?
^^^Precisely.
I dont have a problem with our multi-cultral society. In fact I think its more of a good thing than a bad thing. I think Britain has a traditional culture in the untouched places like sucluded villages (like where I live). Here most people attend church and village fairs etc etc (none of which I do) and the predominant skin colour is white.

I know about 30 people who have moved out of the UK to live in places such as Australia, USA, Spain, Germany. Maybe if we stopped people coming in, we should stop people going out.

What people dont understand is we need migrants to maintain our economy. For example, if there were no, for example, Polish migrants, there would be no Scottish Salmon industry.
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BillyMarsh
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Family values (which do exist in some reaches of the country), the history of the nation... Hence Great Britain and the amazing agglutination of hundreds of years of contact and expansion.

Though I moved from England, (will be moving back this September for Uni), I still feel greatly patriotic and do believe there is a rich British culture that is very much still alive, the problem is you are less likely to find it in the cities where the family emphasis is far less apparent.
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MichaelG
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(Original post by Queen Victoria)
I constantly see people spewing the same mantra which aims to devalue and dismiss any essence of what could be perceived as 'traditional British culture', whilst claiming that you cannot be nostalgic over a something which apparently doesn't exist. I appreciate this view; however, it is rarely reinforced with a substantial, comprehensive argument.

I would deem 'traditional culture' as quite a subjective, broad concept. I doubt anyone can truly define what 'traditional culture' really is; however, I repudiate the claim that it simply doesn't exist. 'Tradition' is generally recognised as a long-established custom or belief which has remained constant within a society, or something which has been passed on from generation to generation. Can you really claim that these do not and have not existed within British society?

Using this logic, do countries such as Russia, India, Greece, Turkey and China lack any sense of traditional culture? How is Britain so different that it lacks traditional culture, yet other countries (such as the ones listed) do not?

I am sure an argument would be that Britain has borrowed a sizeable proportion of its culture from other countries, thus the core of such cultural factors do not exist. Can a country only retain or claim ownership over an aspect of their culture which they invented and is unique within the boundaries of their society? Can all countries truly claim that their cultural distinctiveness is unequivocally unique to their own nationality? Would this render that aspect of their culture obsolete if it originated from foreign inspiration? Even if we utilise this logic, there are still plenty of cultural factors which did fully originate in Britain and are still recognised today.

In conclusion, I believe that there are numerous customs, symbols, cuisines, architecture, religious beliefs, events, institutions, technology, sports, uniforms, music, literature, theatre and attitudes/values which can be deemed as 'tradtional' and have crafted British culture over time. A few individual aspects of this 'traditional culture' may have evolved in recent times, but I feel it is false to purport that it is simply non-existent.
interesting; a running theme throughout British tradition is the notion that Britain is in fact a tolerant society, built around values of fair play. Another interesting feature is that Britain always seems to assimilate parts of other countries customs or features, through a system of pick and mix. On its most basic level, things such as the Indian Curry -chicken tikka massala- is an example of British assimilation.

What my overall point is that, in this increasingly globalised world, that British values of assimilation and tolerance are still running through our society. What i think is that, since there being so many cultures all under one roof in this country, we're finding it hard to draw the line on tolerance and/or diversity, because 'drawing the line' (ie, immigration) contradicts that value of tolerance. I mean take the BNP for example, a minority group hell bent on British preservation - but the majority of British people actually disagree and dislike the BNPs values and or policies. to me that shows that the British system of values is in fact intricate, complex, contradictory, unashamedly conservative (with a small c) but more importantly, to disagree with part of your point OP - existent.
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Martyn*
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How far back is traditional?
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Porscha!
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You can't get much more British than -
Image Bentley Drivers Club
Image Afternoon tea

Most activities inner city dwellers would call "snobbish" or "posh" are also often examples of traditional British culture.
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Pocket Calculator
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country pubs, tea
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Martyn*
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So is British culture snobbery then?

On this land before the Romans came the people were villagers, farming the land. Is farming a British tradition? Of course, farming is a tradition in other countries and cultures too, Sumeria, Egypt, India, China, etc.
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Hot Chimp
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Raping other countries, pretending it never happened and if it accidentally did it must have been good for the frigid ***** anyway, then getting all outraged and feeling abused when a bit later said rapee tries to kiss Britain on the cheek.

Maybe.
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Oswy
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Traditions come and go and while they're around they form part of cultural life. It's better to say there are traditions in British culture than to say there is 'a' (singular) traditional British culture.

One of the big failings of these debates is that there's regular slippage from description to prescription (i.e. from what culture is to what it should be). There's also a tendency at forums like this, with a predominantly middle-class presence, to normatively think of traditions, heritage etc, in class-bound terms (i.e. it is middle- or upper- class cultural life or traditions which are presented as the exemplars). The cultural life of so-called 'chavs' is as much an expression of British cultural life as, say, afternoon tea on the lawns of posh people, indeed it's possibly more prevalent.

Most of what people think of as 'traditional' British cultural practices have their origins in the nineteenth century, occasionally a century or two earlier.
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Andy the Anarchist
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(Original post by Oswy)
Traditions come and go and while they're around they form part of cultural life. It's better to say there are traditions in British culture than to say there is 'a' (singular) traditional British culture.

One of the big failings of these debates is that there's regular slippage from description to prescription (i.e. from what culture is to what it should be). There's also a tendency at forums like this, with a predominantly middle-class presence, to normatively think of traditions, heritage etc, in class-bound terms (i.e. it is middle- or upper- class cultural life or traditions which are presented as the exemplars). The cultural life of so-called 'chavs' is as much an expression of British cultural life as, say, afternoon tea on the lawns of posh people, indeed it's possibly more prevalent.

Most of what people think of as 'traditional' British cultural practices have their origins in the nineteenth century, occasionally a century or two earlier.
This

There is no "British culture" that everyone from the Queen down shares. There are merely groups of subcultures defined by wealth, geography, class, religion and leisure preferences.

Obviously some of these will be more common than others, but they are perpetually in a state of flux. 30 years ago, a Friday night curry wasn't part of British culture for the type of person who would now engage in it. Also, superficially at least, the presence of the mass media and greater disposable income has led to more fluidity within culture and between subcultures, making defining "British culture" pretty pointless, since any truly representative "British culture" would be geographically specific depending on the region of Britain, and would almost certainly contain contradictory elements.
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Oswy
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(Original post by Andy the Anarchist)
This

There is no "British culture" that everyone from the Queen down shares. There are merely groups of subcultures defined by wealth, geography, class, religion and leisure preferences.

Obviously some of these will be more common than others, but they are perpetually in a state of flux. 30 years ago, a Friday night curry wasn't part of British culture for the type of person who would now engage in it. Also, superficially at least, the presence of the mass media and greater disposable income has led to more fluidity within culture and between subcultures, making defining "British culture" pretty pointless, since any truly representative "British culture" would be geographically specific depending on the region of Britain, and would almost certainly contain contradictory elements.
And globalisation is also problematising nationally bound conceptions of cultural life. The food we eat, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, the TV and films we like, the religions and philosophies we may adopt or dabble in, etc, can come from pretty much anywhere. For the culturally conservative this may be both confusing and worrying but it's really just the acceleration of a process which has always existed and which has simply gained pace as industrial capitalism took off, generating ever greater connections and creating much widened opportunities to experience new and novel things (and which in time will, of course, become British traditions - just as the Indian or Chinese takeaway has already become).
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MindTheGaps
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The problem is that a lot of people see British culture as a sort of default culture. They then measure a unique culture by how different it is to what they find normal, so British culture seems non-existent to them. This is, of course, a ridiculous way of doing things.

A the most basic level, culture is the way we live our lives. It is reflected in our language, behaviour, customs and festivals. I had a German exchange student over recently, and he was infuriated by how needlessly polite everyone was over here, for instance. Also our food, drink, sport and even how we payed for things in the pub was often different. These are all examples of how the way we live each day is different to even another northern European country, so of course our culture exists. Our traditional culture are just aspects which haven't changed much in the last hundred/thousand years or so.
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