Geographical notes

The United Kingdom (UK) is a very small country, compared to others, but only 9 other countries have more inhabitants (55,9mio). In the whole country the Greenwich Mean time (MET- 1 hour) is used.

England and the different races

England is probably a country with one of the largest mixtures of cultures and races in the world. In the 1950s, people from the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong were encouraged to come and work in Britain. Today, 2 million British people are of West Indian or Asian origin and you recognize that if you walk through London. Most of the small shops, like newsagents or food shops, are operated by Indians. Nowadays the policy is to encourage these communities to continue speaking their own languages as well as English. The children of immigrants are often taught their own languages in school, and there are special newspapers, magazines, and radio and television programmes for the Asian community. This latest wave of migration has of course caused problems. There is certainly racial tension and racial prejudice in Britain today. Foreigners are unemployed or just get low-paid jobs, however slowly, both sides are learning to accept their new neighbours and are starting to take over customs of other cultures. For example, the British are becoming more adventurous in their cooking and eating habits, and Chinese, Indian and Pakistani restaurants are very popular. Another example can be found on the music scene, where reggae music has become very influential.


England was a Roman Catholic country until 1534, when King Henry VIII decided to divorce his queen, Catherine of Aragon. The pope refused to allow this. Henry was so angry with the pope that he ended all contact between England and Rome, divorced Catherine of Aragon without the pope´s permission and married Anne Boleyn. After that, the Parliament named Henry head of the church of England. This was the beginning of the Anglican Church. Today there are not only Protestants, but different churches (denominations), such as the Roman Catholics (6 mio), Methodists (1,2 mio), Baptists and other smaller groups.

The educational system

Nursery school (under 5 years)

Children do not have to go to school until they reach the age of five, but there is some free nursery school education before that age. However places in the public nursery schools are not available for all who would like them, because the places are usually given to families under special circumstances, for example, families with only one parent. Because of the small number of nursery schools, parents in many areas have formed playgroups where children under 5 years can go for a morning or afternoon a couple times a week.

Primary education (5 to 11 years)

Primary education takes place in infant schools (pupils aged from 5 to 7 years) and junior schools (from 8 to 11 years).

Private education (5 to 18 years)

Some parents choose to pay for private education, in spite of the existence of free state education. These schools are very expensive and they are attended by about 5 per cent of the school population.

Secondary education (11 to 16/18 years)

Secondary education was introduced in 1944. Indeed, children must go to school until they are 16 years old, and pupils may stay on for one or two more years if they wish. Secondary schools are usually much larger than primary schools and most children (80 per cent) go to a comprehensive school at the age of 11. These schools are not selective, which means pupils don´t have to pass an entrance exam there.

Three types:

comprehensive school

secondary modern school (= Hauptschule)

grammar school (= Gymnasium)

In every school in England it is tradition to wear a school uniform, which is usually a suit and tie for the boys and a skirt and blouse for girls. By the way, boys and girls often go to separated schools, which means there are separate schools divided by sex.

The political system

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. That means it´s a monarchy which has very little power and can only reign with support of the Parliament. Parliament consists of two chambers, known as the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Parliament and the monarch have different roles in the government of the country, and they only meet together on symbolic occasions such as the coronation of a new monarch or the opening of Parliament.


The English play some different sports. For example, they like rugby. It´s one of the national sports. Then there is cricket, a game similar to baseball. Polo is a sport of the richer, where the player sits on a horse and has to hit a ball with a 'polo-stick' and score goals. We all know croquet, the nice game for the garden, but real fanatics are the English if the sport is soccer. The English soccer is one of the best and most exciting, and a lot of people go to the soccer grounds.


The English have festivals which are different than those we are used to For example, there is St. Valentine´s Day on the 14th of February. On this day people send cards to the ones they love or someone whom they have fallen in love with. People usually do not sign these cards and a lot of time is spent trying to guess who has sent them.

On the day before Ash Wednesday, called Pancake Day, the English traditionally eat a lot of pancakes.

On the 1st of May they have a maypole and they dance like we do.

On the 31st of October there is Halloween, which means 'holy evening'. Although it is a much more important festival in the United States than in Britain, it is celebrated by many people in the UK. It is particularly connected with witches and ghosts. At parties people dress up in strange costumes and cut horrible faces in potatoes and other vegetables and put a candle inside, which shines through the eyes. People may play difficult games, such as trying to eat an apple from a bucket of water without using their hands. In recent years children dressed in white sheets, knocked on doors and asked whether you would like a 'trick' or a 'treat'. If you give them something nice, a 'treat', they go away. However, if you don´t, they play a trick, such as spilling flour on your front doorstep.

The most important festival of the year is Christmas. The customs on this day are very similar to Christmas in Austria. The English have a Christmas tree and there are presents. Children leave a long sock or stocking at the end of their beds on Christmas Eve, hoping that Father Christmas will come through the chimney and bring some presents. Traditional food on this day is turkey, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake or a hot mince pie.

The mentality (character) of the English

England is far away, but not only in distance. The English are completely different compared to continental Europeans. That the cars drive on the 'wrong' side is just the begining and it is quite normal if you eat a pizza with chips on it and pour loads of vinegar all over this. Yes, it is true, the British have other, sometimes mysterious, customs.

In France you are impolite if you let a conversation drop, in England it is rash to keep it up. No one blames you for silence. Being modest is another huge difference between the English and the continental Europeans. An Englishman will say, 'I have a little house'; when he invites you to stay with him you´ll discover that the little house is a place with three hundred bedrooms. Their home is their castle.

Those in England do not work too hard. They work rather slowly, with over-long strides. In the army they say, 'Never refuse a job, never volunteer for one'.

The English punctuality is more than a habit; it´s a vice. If you are invited for eight-thirty, that means eight-thirty in England and not eight-twenty-nine or eight-thirty-one. In France you would have to come around nine-fifteen. The English people are also conservative and very polite. An English person will never talk back.





Karfiol (Blumenkohl)


Frühstücksflocken (z.B. cornflakes)
































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