Over the years, inaccurate stereotypes of London and the UK in the popular media have led to all kinds of stereotypes with which many Canadians may be familiar with and even believe.
While it’s true most stereotypes have some kind of factual basis, as insignificant or minute as these may be, it is also true that they, like rumours, tend to snowball and get blown out of proportion. Consider the following stereotypes that Canadians will likely know, as well as some of the likely origins for them.
Brits have bad teeth
This is usually the single, most well known stereotype that North Americans are likely to spew when showing off their “worldliness.” It’s also completely untrue. The basis for the bad teeth rumours may have developed during the Second World War, when many American soldiers were stationed in England and exposed to people who had been rationed and ravaged by war for years.
But there is certainly no reason that Americans’ impressions of Post-Blitz London should have prevailed for so long. A likely addition to this rumour would be the growing influence of Hollywood with all its glitz and glamour. Many believe that part of what has made the stereotype of bad teeth last is that the British don’t share the North American tendency towards cosmetic vanity.
While many Canadians and Americans equate having “good” teeth to having white, straight teeth, the same isn’t true for Brits. British culture is more inclined to value “healthy” teeth and are less concerned with the cosmetic procedures to whiten and straighten. Therefore, you may not be able to find whitening strips in the medicine cabinet of every British family, but you can also safely assume that you won’t be bunking with Austin Powers either.
All British are English
This one may not be a stereotype, so much as just uninformed over-generalization. The premise is simple: many believe that the entire island of Great Britain is England, and therefore everyone living there is English.
Newcomers will quickly learn that the United Kingdom actually encompasses four separate countries and four separate nationalities. It won’t be a stretch for many to appreciate that Scotland is a separate nation. After all, we all know it’s the Scots who wear kilts, drink whiskey and eat haggis. But it may take more of a history lesson to explain the divide between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain.
Finally, Wales is most certainly a nation unto itself. While perhaps the nation within the UK with which Canadians may be the least familiar, Wales is completely unique and has its own rich history. The take home message is that some individuals may take offense to being referred to by the wrong nationality, so, if in doubt, stick to the all-encompassing term “British.”
Everyone in London will have a Cockney accent
We can, again, thank Hollywood for the continuation of this stereotype -- although its roots dip even further back into classic works such as George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion or Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. But the bottom line is that Cockney is a regional dialect that developed in East London but became heavily popularized through media as the tongue of the working poor.
Canadians heading to the UK will quickly realize there are countless regional dialects, from Glaswegian (Glasgow, Scotland) to the Brummie accent of Birmingham, and that each dialect has its own unique sounds and slang.
The Italians have pasta, the French have cheese, the Brits have….?
The British aren’t exactly “known” world over for their fine dining but that doesn’t mean the United Kingdom isn’t a treasure trove of local cuisine waiting to be demolished. This stereotype is also likely steeped in history, and dates back to when it was fashionable for high society North American youth to do a “grand tour” of continental Europe.
The customs and cuisine of their exotic destinations became “à la mode” when they returned home. But, yet again, Canadians should dispel any stereotypes they hear that they’ll need to travel to the continent in order to have a good meal. Rather, a Canadian in London likely won’t go too long until they’ve been convinced to try a Full English Breakfast or a Cream Tea. But there’s a lot more to British cuisine than these essentials. Canadians should use their time abroad to travel across the UK sampling local county delicacies such as Cornish Pasties, Lancashire Hotpot or Yorkshire pudding.
You could even base your meal choices on the “unique” names such as Bubble n Squeak, Steak and Kidney Pudding, Blood Pudding or Spotted Dick.
If you find yourself concerned about studying in the UK based on stereotypes of London or other rumours you may have heard, why not contact an Across the Pond advisor to see if the stereotype pans out! All of our student advisors have lived and studied in the UK so we have a pretty good idea of what’s true and what isn’t.
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Photo Credit: Douglas Le Moine