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Good things about the UK

Updated on January 7, 2010

Good things about the UK

This article has been inspired by an enjoyable hub I read recently called “Life in Modern Britain: 12 Pet Peeves”. In his article, Diogenes (the hubber, not the Greek philosopher) mentioned 12 instances of everyday life in Britain that inspire frustration, anger and the wanton urge to kill or maim. Part of the British psyche is to be self-deprecating and, as any Australian will tell you, “whinge”. There are some aspects about living in Britain that really are shit, and I agree with all 12 of Diogenes’ examples and could easily think of 12 of my own. However, in the spirit of balanced journalism, I thought it might be fair to present some positive aspects of everyday life in modern Britain. It has to be said, that the positives didn’t spring to mind quite as quickly as I would have hoped. So, finally, here in no particular order, are some good things about life in Britain.

 

Location

The UK lies in the North Atlantic Ocean, separated from Continental Europe by the English Channel. Budget airlines abound in the UK and healthy competition means reasonable fares and an increasing array of destinations, making Europe, Africa and Asia just a short flight away. Had a bad day at work on Friday? Forget all about it by getting a last minute deal and be in Marrakesh, Istanbul, or Cairo by midnight. Feel like treating the lady in your life? The Eurostar train will have you in the centre of Paris in just over two hours by way of the Channel Tunnel. Just feel like some sunshine? You can relax at most Mediterranean beach resorts within three hours. Skiing? The Alps. Culture? Eastern Europe. Natural beauty? Scandinavia. Pretty much everything you could want, right on your doorstep, accessible and cheap. And when you do decide to retreat home to our island fortress, you can be safe in the knowledge that, because of its location, there is no threat of extreme natural disasters, contagious diseases or dangerous animals to contend with. Nice.

 

 

Humour/’Banter’

To live in a country that gets such unpredictable and inclement weather, you need to have a sense of humour. The British, in general, don’t take themselves too seriously and some form of joke will normally manifest itself within the first two minutes of any conversation. “Banter” is something of an art form, and a glorious one at that. It can be described as a good natured war of words, using humour and sometimes frequent swearing to ridicule your opponent(s). The important part of banter is that it can only really be done well with people who are on your wavelength. Hence, banter is the predominant way likeminded British men show their affection for each other. Other Anglophone nations have their own forms of banter and wordplay, but British humour can be so surreal, sarcastic, vitriolic and completely non-linear, that the banter really is in a league of its own.

NHS (National Health Service)

The NHS is Britain's universal healthcare system. Funded from National Insurance and general taxation, it is free for all at the point of delivery and covers primary and secondary treatment, drugs, dentistry and optical health. There are plenty of things that are wrong with the NHS, and I have had the misfortune of seeing some of these things up close; long waiting lists, scruffy wards and frustrating bureaucracy are all familiar features. However, when I see the alternatives it makes me realise what a noble, if sometimes impractical institution the NHS is. Sure, you can get better healthcare in other nations, but normally, at a price. I know of cases in other countries where people have been literally left to die because they could not afford the required treatment. I sometimes equate the NHS to free speech; it is something that the British just take for granted, while others may die for the want of it.

Football

In the UK, more people go to watch football at the weekend than go to church. Football really is religion. Stadiums are cathedrals and star players are prophets. Although other sports such as rugby and cricket are popular, nothing grips the nation as much as football. Of course there are the hardcore fans who know everything there is to know about football, but also because football is so much part of the social fabric even people who hate football know more than they should. Everybody knows who David Beckham is. Once every two years there is a major football tournament; either the World Cup or the European Championships. As long as the constituent nations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) qualify for the tournaments then the UK will pretty much come to a standstill. Economic productivity can drop by 10 - 15%. Employee sickness can rise up by 40%. Workers will take their entire holiday entitlement to cover the month of the tournament. Many men will not agree outright to get married between June and July of even-numbered years. If England (or Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland) ever won the World Cup then UK Plc would shut down completely for at least a week. Football can bring nations together like nothing else. Amen.

Tea

Britain revels in being a tea drinking nation, being the second largest per capita tea consumers in the world, consuming on average 2.1 kg per person, per year. Churchill drank tea during the Battle of Britain. Wellington drank tea at Waterloo. Jesus drank tea at the Last Supper (probably). It has been suggested that tea played a vital role in the Industrial Revolution as having sugary tea in the afternoon became a way to increase the number of hours factory labourers could work and also increase energy levels to finish out the day. Tea also helped alleviate some of the consequences of the urbanisation that accompanied the industrial revolution as it required boiling water, thereby killing water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid. Tea is resilience and fortitude in one reassuring brew, and is to the British what spinach is to Popeye. There is only one way to deal with any kind of crisis, and that is by having a cup of tea. "Thermonuclear war, you say? Put the kettle on!”

Music

Britain’s contribution to popular music has been immense. From the early influence of black American music in the 1930’s and 40’s, British artists fused, innovated, and invented musical genres that have spread across the planet. Consistently edgy and controversial, British music has reflected the social conditions of the time, from hopeful, psychedelic 60’s ‘flower power’ to angry, disillusioned 70’s ‘punk’; from confident, flippant 80’s ‘new romantic’ to introspective, moody 90’s ‘trip hop’. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Indie, Brit-hop, garage, heavy metal, bhangra, drum & bass, new wave, acid house, grindcore, UK garage, ska, prog rock, skiffle, and glam rock are just some of the avenues that British artists have innovated and developed over the past sixty years.Despite the current ‘X-Factor’ shit being pedalled at gullible teenagers, the British have a huge appetite for edgy, innovative music, and it will always be something that Britain does very, very well.

So that’s it, the glass isn't always half-empty. I think the British are just a bit cynical by nature, and we probably don't appreciate just how lucky we are in some respects.

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    • Bo Heamyan profile imageAUTHOR

      Bo Heamyan 

      8 years ago from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

      Thanks for dropping by, lads.

      Now is a very difficult time for graduates as unemployemnt is high and student debt is debilitating. Nearly everyone in Britain is worse off now than generations before them, financially, and in terms of quality of life. In terms of tax paid in proportion to income, the UK doesn't compare badly internationally, with some European nations paying considerably more (on average).I couldn't agree more about property and mortgages. You can buy a two-building farm property with land in France for the equivalent shoe box offering in the UK.

      The purpose of this article was not to defend life in modern Britain. I travel quite a bit and am always very keen to get away from the UK and never in a rush to get back. However, after any prolonged time away, I find myself missing the most innocuous things ; tea with tea bags, TV with no adverts, rain, diversity etc, and it is this kind of 'positivity from a distance' that I was trying to relay in this article. The oxymoron is that the UK becomes easier to appreciate, the further away from it you are.

      Appreciate your comments.

    • warchild75 profile image

      lee 

      8 years ago from Lancing, West Sussex, England

      Ryankett currently employed but probably less qaulified than yourself i feel for you and couldn't agree more with what you wrote,my mortgage is immense and will probably see my kids paying the last of it off as it doesn't seems to be getting any smaller and im on a fair wage too.Still fingers crossed i can earn £2000 a week from adsense then i can escape to oz ha ha :)

    • profile image

      ryankett 

      8 years ago

      I try hard to see positives but struggle to be honest, I am 24 and finished university last July with a first class degree. I am currently unemployed, have worked for only 2 of the last 6 months (for minimum wage), and when I finally find employment will find myself paying some of the worlds highest tax rates. The money which is left (remember that we are now poorer in terms of per capita terms than the inhabitants of over 40 other countries) then has to somehow, over the course of a lifetime, pay for a house in some of the worlds most expensive housing markets (often on mortgages which exceed 25 years in length!). Pensions are another thing entirely, apparently we all need 400k in a pension to live comfortably during retirement. The one good thing about the UK, in comparison with some other countries, is the NHS.

    • Bo Heamyan profile imageAUTHOR

      Bo Heamyan 

      8 years ago from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

      I've read some of your hubs Brian, and you are more than qualified. I adore France and the French attitude to living and would seriously consider moving there permanently if I didn't have family to consider.

      Thanks for your comments.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      8 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Not sure I am qualified to comment on this hub, having moved to France and close to the Mediterranean beaches you mentioned. But I think you found and illustrated some good features and redressed the balance as you intended. Nice work.

    • Bo Heamyan profile imageAUTHOR

      Bo Heamyan 

      8 years ago from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

      Thanks Bob

      I have been to Oz, Canada and the US and found that the people were much more optimistic and upbeat than in Britain. I don't think that the UK is the most conducive place to be happy, and truth be told, I probably spend more days wishing I was out of it than appreciating the positives.

      Appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      diogenes 

      8 years ago

      Yes, there is a lot we take for granted here. I think the truth is, Britain is worse to live in than Oz, the US, Canada and NZ, but is a lot better than many that also have bad weather without the advantages you have pointed out. Good on yer, Bo

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