The United Kingdom is a very interesting place to live and study. I’ve compiled a list of some of the more interesting facts about the UK you may not already know. While none of these will overly affect your studies, they do show the interesting flavor of British culture that you will grow to love while studying in the UK!
1. The word “pub” is short for “public house,” and the tradition has only officially been around since the 19th century. However, places selling beer have been around for much longer, and the “oldest pub in Britain” is a hotly contested title. One of Britain’s oldest pubs, with the papers to prove it, is Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, which was serving ale to departing crusaders in the 12th century. The Royalist Hotel in Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire claims to have been selling beer since around A.D. 947, while another pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St. Albans in Hertfordshire, claims to date back to the 8th century, although 13th seems more likely.
2. At the end of the 19th century, an eager hill walker named Sir Hugh Munro published a list of 545 Scottish mountains measuring over 3,000 feet (914 m) high. New surveys have revised this to 283. Today, any Scottish mountain over the magical 3,000-ft mark is called a “Munro,” and many hill walkers now set themselves the target of “bagging,” or summiting all 283.
3. The Scottish national animal is the Unicorn. Why a creature that doesn’t even exist? The unicorn was chosen because it was seen as a proud and haughty beast which would rather die than be captured, just as Scots would fight to remain sovereign and unconquered. Two unicorns supported the royal arms of the King of Scots, and since the 1707 union of England and Scotland, the royal arms of the United Kingdom have been supported by a unicorn along with an English lion.
4. There are a number of traditional British foods with very odd and unappetizing names. For example, ‘toad in the hole’ looks and tastes much better than it sounds. It is simply sausages in Yorkshire pudding, named so because apparently (to some) it looks like toads popping up from a hole. You can also eat ‘spotted dick’ in England, and snigger while doing so. This is a dried fruit and suet pudding popularly served with custard in Britain. The word ‘dick’ doesn’t mean what you think it means; it’s likely just a corruption of the word ‘dough’. ‘Cullen skink’ is nothing odder than a thick haddock, onion and potato soup originally from the Scottish town of Cullen, and ‘Welsh Rabbit’ or ‘Rarebit’ is nothing but melted cheese on toast – the original name is really a silly and patronizing dig at the Welsh.
5. Cheese Rolling is one of the oldest customs to have survived in Great Britain. It’s been going on for hundreds of years and some say it has roots in pre-Roman times. Every year, a 7 lbs. round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled from the top of Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England, with competitors racing downhill after it. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. Roller beware: participants often end up full of scrapes and bruises, and occasionally even broken bones!
I hope these interesting facts about the UK have given you a taste for how very unique and delightful British culture is. Studying and living in the UK is quite an adventure, and you’ll find that you’re constantly learning new things about your adoptive country, and hopefully you fall in love with it as much as I have!
You can find out more about studying in the UK by contacting one of our Advisors.