The British Character (text with exercises)

Customs and traditions always reflect the character of the nation. It is a common knowledge that every nation has a reputation of this or that kind. Here are some views on the British character or the character of the people who live on the British Isles.

The British character text

The British people are said to be very polite and well-mannered. “Please, thank you and Excuse me” are used very often in Britain. They are rather conservative and reserved. They are considered to be the world’s tea drinkers.


  1. Some views on the English Character
  2. Some views on the Scottish, Welsh, Irish Character

Newspapers and TV form our opinion about different countries. So, what do you imagine when you think of Britain and its people?

What are the British like?

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The British Character (text for intermediate)

People who live in Britain are called British. Many people think that ‘English’ is the same as ‘British’. But England is only one of the four nations in the UK. The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish are British too. They sometimes get angry when they are called ‘English’.

There are also millions of British people whose par­ents first came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, Hong Kong and other places. Their homes are mainly in the big English cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Some views on the English Character

Foreigners have many ideas what the English are like. For example, many people say that they are cold and reserved, friendly and well-mannered. You hardly find a person in England who dislikes tea drinking, home cooking and gardening. Their sense of humour is known all over the world.

As for other characteristics which are associated with the English, they are egoism, self-confidence, intolerance of outsiders, independence, love of comfort and a strong belief in private property. Moderation, the avoidance of extremes, the choice of middle way is among the essential qualities of the English.

The English have a strong sense of individualism which can be explained by the uniqueness of the British which was isolated from the European continent for a long time.

One thing never fail to confuse foreigners when they come to Britain and it is British meals. The English are used to certain food and seem never get tired of it. The legendary English breakfast is a hearty meal and a perfect start to a hard working day. This favourite meal consists of bacon, eggs, tomato, fried bread and a variety of sausages. It is usually finished off with slices of toast spread with orange marmalade and a cup of tea with milk (which is traditionally called English tea) or lemon.

The English are very fond of tea. They drink tea four or five times a day, but afternoon tea (which is usually taken at 4 or 5 p.m.) is a special treat.

Dinner is usually at 7 o’clock. It is the most substantial meal of the day and is a very formal one. Many people even wear special clothes for dinner.

The English are said to be a nation of stay-at-homes. Their famous saying “There is no place like home” is known all over the world.  When the Englishman is free, he likes to be at home with the company of his wife and children. There is another saying which is typical for the English —  “The Englishman’s house is his castle.”

Undoubtedly, the English are rather conservative. They are proud of their customs and are reluctant to change them in a way. Examples of the English conservatism, such as eating traditional English food or reading a newspaper in the morning are well-known worldwide. On a large scale their conservatism is expressed through the attitude to the monarchy, for an example. The local conservatism can be easily noticed in private traditions observed at schools and societies.  So, Britain is the country of traditions and they make a nation special.

Such are the English as we see them.

Englishmen are also known for their devotion to animals and pets. The English firmly believe themselves to be the only nation on the Earth that is really kind to its animals.

Some views on the Scottish, Welsh, Irish Character

Contrary to the English, the Scotts, the Welsh and the Irish are somewhat different.

The Scotts are rather kind, but at first glance not as friendly as the English perhaps. They like extremes. Sometimes, they seem to be gloomy and grey, whereas quite often they are highly coloured and extravagant. The Scotts are probably best known to the world for their traditional costume, the kilt, the short skirt worn by men. It has been the dress of Highlanders since old-times and has been very suitable for going through the wet, moorland country.

Wales is the place where national spirit and national pride are more intense than in any other part of the UK. The Welsh eagerly wear their national dress on festival occasions. The Welsh language is still preserved and taught in schools side by side with English. The Welsh are known for their highly developed artistic sense, as well as a distinguished record in the realm of poetry, singing and drama.

In the Northern Ireland the pace of life is slightly different from the whole of the country. Everything moves slowly, and people are usually not much in a hurry. Most of the Irish are considered to be hard-headed, business-like, self-conscious and very superstitious. Another national feature is that they are desperately afraid of being laughed at.

It is may seem difficult to tell an Englishman from an Irishman or a Scottish person and in this case a surname may help. If their surnames start with  ‘Mac’ or ‘Mc’ (for example, McDonald), this person is sure to come from Scotland or Ireland. The surnames that start with ‘O’ (for example, O’Brien) are always Irish.

The British Character. Questions and Exercises

Exercise 1.  Sometimes GB is called a strange island because some customs and manners differ from those accepted in other countries.

Choose what is usual for Britain.

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Choose what is usual for Russia.

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Exercise 2. There are some stereotypes about national characters.  Translate the sentences into Russian. Use Complex Subject.

  • The Irish are said to be great talkers.
  • The Scots are thought to be careful with money.
  • The English are considered to be great tea-drinkers.
  • The Russians are beleived to be lazy.

Which of the statements are stereotypes?

Exercise 3.  Make up sentences about the manners in your country. Use the sentences and the example.

  • Take off your shoes entering someone’s home.
  • Make way for a girl or older people.
  • Give up your seat in favour of older people or other people who need it.
  • Say “Good appetite” to people that are having a meal.
  • Greet your friends each time you meet them during the day.
  • Jump the queue waiting for a service.

EXAMPLE. Russians are (not) expected to

Изучите Complex Subject, если вы не понимаете, как составлять предложения.

Exercise 4. Some older people think that today young people are bad-mannered. What makes them think so? What rules do the young people sometimes break? What manners do you consider to be good or bad? Do you always follow these “rules of good behavior”?

Exercise 5. Can you explain the proverb “When in Rome do as Romans do”?

Give the equivalent of the proverb in your language.

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