Planning on travelling to the United Kingdom in the near future? Then it’s best you learnt now that our country is an odd one. Here are 6 strange and useful facts to have in mind before you travel.
1. In the UK, accents change noticeably about every 40km.
One of the reasons that English can be so difficult to learn is that there are simply so many accents. If you ever take a trip from London to Birmingham, for example, you will be amazed at the difference in the way the two peoples speak. Among these accents are Received Pronunciation, Cockney, Estuary, West Country, Geordie, Midlands and Northern England English. Received Pronunciation is considered the “gold standard” in English accents, and is as close as we come to having a shared English accent in the country.
2. The terms “UK” and “Great Britain” are not interchangeable.
The United Kingdom includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while Great Britain is simply name of the larger island, and therefore does not include Northern Ireland. Confused? Don’t worry, even most British people aren’t so sure of the differences, but this video should help clear things up.
3. In the U.K., it is legal for children over 5 years old to drink alcohol at home.
In England we like a drink, and we get started early. The idea with this law is to allow children to get a taste for alcohol from a young age, becoming less of a taboo and fascination when they get older. However, each year approximately 1,000,000 visits are made to hospitals in the UK by people suffering from an alcohol related issue.
4. In the UK, if you reach your 100th birthday, you get a personalized card from the Queen.
Additionally, after the age of 110 a citizen of the U.K will receive a printed card every year complete with a signature from her majesty. The tradition was started by King George V in 1917 and has continued to this day. The oldest person to ever receive a card from the Queen was 115 years old.
5. The British Empire at its height was larger than Africa and similar in size to the Moon.
If you ever wondered why so many people on the planet speak our language, this goes some way to giving an answer. In years gone by, the British would say that “the sun never sets on the British Empire”, such was it’s reach. In this way, English became the language of trade and the dominant language in 75 countries worldwide, with roughly 1.8 billion speakers.
6. London was the first city in the world to have an underground subway system.
Travelling to the UK is a big enough task, so fortunately journeys in the city of London are generally comfortable and fast on the underground system known locally as ‘The Tube’. The Tube has been improving steadily since its opening in the 19th century. In fact, the first installation of the underground network was the Metropolitan Line way back in 1863. That’s over 150 years! Negotiating the lines can be tricky at first, but with a quick check on London Citymapper, you’ll be ready to go.
To continue preparing before you travel to the UK, and to practice your English before going, contact Ben@BensEnglish.com or fill out a contact form to start your online classes via Skype!