34 things you don’t know about English culture!


Hi, everyone.

In this lesson I've got many, many things about English culture that you may have seen

but you don't understand, so I'm going to break them down and summarise these things

that, if you're not from here, from an outsider's perspective might be: "Oh, that's different"

- something you don't understand yet.

All of these topics could in themselves be English lessons on their own, so if you're

particularly interested in a topic, what you could do is go and research it for yourself

after this lesson.

So let's start with...

This lesson is broken down into topics, the groups, the different things about English


We'll start with charity.

In England you may see people walking around wearing red poppies.

"Poppy" is like a red flower - it's made from paper, and you see this around the time of

November because on November the 11th there is a special day to commemorate-which means,

like, remember-the people that died fighting in World War I, and all the wars after that.

So this is a charity event to raise money for the survivors of those wars, and to remember

the horrors of war.

So people walk around with the poppies on, and on television if you're watching around

that time of year, in particularly...

In particular on the BBC, people will be wearing their red poppies.

So, if you didn't know what the red poppy was about, that's what it's for.

Next we have charity fun runs.

A lot of people are very into running and saving money for charity at the same time.

So, sometimes they wear a fancy dress costume; sometimes they run in a costume which is really,

really hard to wear or heavy or difficult in some way.

So, the people that go in these races, before they all race, they'll go around asking everyone

you know: "Can you sponsor me?

Can you give me some money for my run?"

Next we've got Red Nose Day.

Red Nose Day is a charity television event where on the BBC they raise money for the

charities they support.

Some of there...

Some of them are in the UK, and some of them are global charities.

And their theme... the thing they mainly are famous for is getting people to wear red noses

on that day when it happens.

And now you'll more likely see in particular chain shops, big shops that have a partnership

with Red Nose Day, you'll see you can buy t-shirts of Red Nose Day.

So, when you buy something in that shop, money goes to Red Nose Day.

They get all famous people involved doing silly things, and it's just one day on television

where they try to have fun and raise money for their charities.

It's quite similar to Children in Need in terms of...

This is another charity event.

In terms of how they do it - get the celebrities in, make some comedy with the celebrities.

But Children in Need is raising money for children's charities; and instead of the Red

Nose Day thing, they have Pudsey Bear and that's their mascot; their...

The thing that represents them is their bear, and they...

People also watching at home can raise money themselves with their friends and families,

and people at school perhaps by baking cakes, having a clothes...

An old clothing sale, something like that.

People will get involved with these events and give their money to charity.

The next topic I want to look at is advertising.

When you go to a different country and you watch the television and you see the adverts,

some of the adverts stick in your mind and you think: "That's weird" or "What's that


So, here are a few of those kinds of adverts.

We have number five, which is: "Compare the Meerkat".

"Compare the Meerkat" has been...

They've been doing it...

I don't...

I'm just going to guess, here, maybe 10 years.

It's an insurance company, and at some point they decided to use meerkat animals to sell

their insurance, and it was really popular and everybody loved it, and thought it was

cute and funny.

And now it's kind of confusing that they are still an insurance company, because in my

opinion, they encourage people to buy insurance because they give you a free, cute, little

meerkat toy.

So it's like: "Oh, join our insurance and get this toy", and people do it because they

like the meerkats a lot.

A next...

The next one is: "You're so money supermarket", and this one has very strange adverts of,

like, fat people jumping around and dancing, and things like that.

Not always fat people, but that's the one that sticks in my mind.

And this is like a price comparison website.

And a tradition, you could say, of adverts every year - at Christmas time...

Obviously Christmas is such a big thing in England and there's a long time of the shops

trying to sell you things at Christmas.

Something that's become a tradition is the John Lewis Christmas advert, and they spend

a lot of money on it.

It's like a short film, and one that they did...

One that sticks in my mind the most was one about a Boxer dog, and it was jumping on a

trampoline in a garden with lots of other cute, little animals, like maybe a fox, and

all looking cute together jumping on the trampoline while the music is very emotional and it makes


It makes you feel a bit sad and a bit nostalgic.

So, the John Lewis adverts always bring up emotion in some way, and it's maybe a bit

of wonder and a bit of something unexpected as well.

So, yeah, they...

They do this big advert every year and lots of people watch it.

Even people who don't watch television might watch it on YouTube to see what it's like.

Okay, now let's talk a bit about the geography in terms of culture.

There's a north/south divide.

It's not like there's a line on the map in England where...

You can't see this divide, this line on the map, but it's a divide in terms of culture,

and you could say it's a divide in terms of accents in a very...

To say it in a very reduced, simple way, in the South we make our...

Our vowels with "aw", like: "class" we would say, but in the north they would say: "class"

- they would make the same vowel with the "ah" pronunciation.

So, people in the north of England, they have their...

People say that they're warmer, for example, more friendly; and they say that Southerners

are more cold or reserved, or stuck up.

Or they might say people in... men in the north are like tougher and stronger, and men

in the south are like weak... weaklings and not very manly.

Things like that.

There's different foods between the north and the south.

Next one is: "Bloody Londoners!"

If you're...

You happen to be a Londoner like me, sometimes when you go around the country and people

ask where you're from, you just sort of go: "Should I...?

Should I say 'London'?" because...

Yeah, Londoners are not always so warmly received, and welcomed, and liked by people around the

country, especially in smaller villages and places like that.


It's not as bad as I've made it sound, but yeah.

Point being: Londoners are not the most popular people in the whole country.

Although if you think...

You know, if you think about London, it's so big and there's so many millions of people

there that in some people's thinking it is like a country itself, and they've got their

own culture and they've got their own ways there which are different to the rest of the

country; their own outlook in London which is different, or own fashions in London which

are different to the rest of the country.

Okay, holidays now.

We have fun fairs here on bank holiday weekends.

I'll get to that in a second - bank holiday weekends.

The fun fair is when the same kind of rides that...

Not the same kind of rides.

Rides that do something exciting, and lift you in the air and make you scream and go,

like: "Woo, I'm really excited", or scare you in the ghost train and things like that,

or spin you around really fast - you can do all of these kinds of rides, if you pay money

you can go on these rides at a fun fair.

But the fun fair isn't there all the time; the fun fair will be in a big park, for example,

in London you will see fun fairs there only on bank holiday weekends.

So they come for a few days, and they're open all the time, people come and spend their

money, and then after the fun fair leaves.

I don't know where actually they go after the bank holiday weekends.

I don't know if they go to other countries, or I don't know if they just don't work, but

I only see them at bank holiday weekends.

And it used to be when I was younger that you had to pay for every ride when you went

on the ride.

You'd get your however much it was, one pound 50 or something, and just pay to go on the


It's not like that anymore.

You have to pay in tokens, pieces of paper, and sometimes you have to pay even to go inside

the fun fair.

When I was younger, you could always go in for free.

If you didn't want to go on rides, you could go in for free.

And, yeah, fun fairs have particular kinds of food as well, like candy floss, which is

a pink, fluffy kind of food; or eating things like burgers and hotdogs.

Okay, bank holidays now.

Bank holidays are usually on a Monday, but not always, when people who have office jobs

or jobs to do with the government - they...

Their jobs are closed on that day, and many but not all jobs will be closed on that day.

If you work in a shop or clothes shop, if you work in a supermarket, you're...

The business you work in might be open, but in general, many places are going to be shut

on bank holidays.

Now, what's special about it is because so many people are off on the same day - they're

not at work.

And what's also special about it is that bank holidays usually on Monday, so people get

a three-day weekend - Saturday, Sunday, Monday.

So, people who perhaps don't get that much official holiday from their job...

I'm not sure what the average amount of holiday is, but maybe it could be about every year

they get three weeks of holiday from their job.

People love bank holidays because they're not counted in their holidays that they get

every year from work; they're like extra days that you don't go to work.

So, they love bank holidays because it feels like they've got more time off work.

So, these happen at different times, like at Easter - the Easter...

Easter holidays.

They also happen in August; we have an August bank holiday.

If we're lucky, it's sunny and people love to get the three days off in a row in the

summer when it's nice and everything like that.


But in terms of when they happen, that's something that you have to always check and find out,

and keep your eye on because they tend to change; change around year by year.

Okay, now holidays at the English seaside.

You know what kind of weather we have here; it's a bit chilly, it rains a lot.

Well, our English seaside isn't known for...

For us going there and getting very deep tans.

And it's not guaranteed sunshine at the English seaside compared to the Mediterranean, for


But what we do have is fish and chips for you to eat, and arcades.

Arcades are places where you can go in and play game machines or you can...

You can try and win small amounts of money on different machines, and it's very noisy

in there, like: "Bing, bing, bing, bing".

But the arcades are there I think because the weather is so unreliable.

So, if it's a rainy day or something like that, people will go into the arcades.

And you need somewhere to go inside at the British seaside in case it's raining on that


So that's what...

That's where you can go if it's really cold or there's a storm or something - go and spend

some money in the arcades.

13, here, is...

Perhaps this is something that would happen on a sunny bank holiday weekend - you might

see people having barbeques and alcoholic drinks in the park.

Over here in England, as far as I know, you're able to drink in all the parks - as far as

I know.

People do drink in the park.

They eat in the park, they have picnics, and sometimes they'll have barbeques.

It depends if it's allowed, the barbeque part, because you're not...

You're not allowed to burn the grass, but if you have a special kind of barbeque that

won't do that, you'll see it.

So sometimes in London in the summer on a sunny day, the parks are absolutely full of

people all having picnics or barbeques, and there's not really many spaces to sit; there's

so many people who go out there.

The next is Pimm's O'Clock, and this is talking about an alcoholic drink which is specific

to drinking in the summer, early summer when the tennis is on at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is a famous tennis courts where the competition...

Where the big competition happens, and the drink associated with that is this one called

Pimm's; it has strawberries and other kinds of fresh fruits in it.

It's very fresh.

And, yeah, that's...

That's when we tend to drink it, and then you don't really see Pimm's around a lot after

that, but it happens then.

Life events.

Okay, here in England, birthdays I would say are quite important.

From what I've experienced, in some other places where people don't care so much - birthdays

are important, and in particular some birthdays are considered more special or times to do

something big rather than others.

So, 18, 21, 40 years old, 50 year old, and it would continue upwards every...

Every extra decade.

These are considered important birthdays.

Perhaps people have a party or do a big celebration on those ones.

Next one: Marriages.

Now, if people do get married, because here... here it's... first of all, it's really expensive

to get married these days, and many couples do opt not to get married, or some couples

do get married but then get divorced, so maybe the next marriage they don't take as seriously.

All that kind of stuff happens here.

So, bearing... putting that aside, if people do get married here, one of the main traditions

of the marriage is the party before the day itself, and this is a stag party for men and

the hen party for women when they all get together before the wedding and have a party.

Usually they'll wear fancy dress, do something silly and fun together before the wedding.

Next we have funerals.

When an English person dies, the funeral is normally one to...

One to two weeks after the death of the person, so it doesn't happen straight away here.

You can be buried or you can be cremated - your body could be burnt; you could be cremated.

Most people these days are cremated.

If you want to be buried it's still possible, but if you think about it, this is a relatively

small island with a very dense population, so there isn't necessarily the space in your

area where you live to be buried, so more and more... depending...

I think it depends on your religious beliefs as well, but if you don't have particularly

strong religious beliefs, many people opt to be cremated.

At the funeral typically you'll have a buffet.

A buffet is when there's different food already there and you can just go up and take this,

or take this, take this.

And refreshments.

Refreshments can be any drink, basically; sometimes alcohol or sometimes not alcohol

at the funeral.

Now, a very... when... horse... horse-drawn carriage.

I'm just wondering myself, here, whether it's carriage or hearse.


A hearse is the car that when somebody dies, the coffin is inside that and the hearse drives

it to the place where the funeral is.

Some funerals which I see in London from time to time, but normally in the east end or in

the southeast of London, and I see these occasionally, you get horses taking...

Taking the body to the cemetery or where it's going, and this is very old-fashioned, traditional

kind of funeral; but very, very expensive as well.

So when you see somebody who's having this kind of funeral, you always, like, look, it's

like: "Oh, look what's happened.


Who's that person that died?"

And when you see this as well, I tend to think it's people that are still part of the old...

Very old Cockney culture that was in...

In those areas - east end and the southeast of London.

And in those kind of funerals as well you will see many wreaths.

I can't say it right.

Wreaths, which is the...

When the flowers are all together when somebody dies, and sometimes it says the word: "Mum"

or "Dad" or "Sister" - whoever died.

You'll see all the flowers, and you'll watch as the...

As they're making their way to the cemetery to bury the body.

Okay, now I want to talk about Big Brother and the Nanny State.

"Big Brother" is a way of saying the government is watching you or controlling you, and the

"Nanny State" is a way of saying the government wants to protect you and keep you safe, so

it's always trying to teach you something or talk to you about something.

So, they mean different things, but they overlap.

Here in England we have quite a lot of this compared to many other countries.

First of all, we have a lot of CCTV.

We have so many cameras, cameras watching you on the street all the time, in the shops;

wherever you go, you're on camera.

We also here do official...

Anything official that you have to get in touch with the government for or fill out

forms, all of that stuff you do far, far, far in advance; you have to do it a lot before.

Now, let's say for example you needed a new passport - you do it a long time before you

need it.

Things like this, in most cases, they will be on time.

You apply...

You apply so much before, in most cases, you will get it at the date where they promised


Things don't come late in most cases; although some years there might be something going

wrong at the passport office where they're all late at the same time.

But, in general, they like to do everything before so that it's always on time, and this

is very different to some countries where I experienced...

Let's say you needed a passport, you go there...

You go there the day before and you wait there for 14 hours and you go home with a passport.

This kind of stuff doesn't happen here; we do everything before in advance.

The next is driving here, and the first thing I need to say about that is supposedly compared

to other countries, which I believe is true, it's harder to learn.

Many people fail their driving test the first time, second time even - they keep failing

because the...

It's hard to pass, and you can fail your test easily and not get your driving license.

So, in the first place it's hard to get your driving license, but once you have your driving

license you can lose it quite easily as well.

If you drive your car too fast, if you drank alcohol over a certain amount and you drove

your car.

There are ways where if you break the law with driving they can do things to take your

driving license away from you or ban you from driving, so you might have to wait a long

time before you can again do your driving test.

Then the other thing is the parking rules here, you...

In most places, and definitely in London, you can't just, like, drive into London, park

your car there, and come back for an hour later because it will be...

It will be gone already.


The local government will have taken your car, and said: "Oh, that's great, we can make

some money from this now."

So wherever you go, you always have to pay for your parking, and you have to be really,

really careful that you park it in the right place at the right time - otherwise it will

cost you so much money in England.

And the next point here is...

This one relates to the Nanny State, which is about...

This is a way of seeing what it means when there are so many rules for protecting you,

or from the government, or from your school to try and keep you safe all the time.

You might see, for example, young children when they're going anywhere with their school

outside of the school-they're going to the park or they're going on a school trip-you

might see them walking around in high-visibility jackets; vests.

Now, those brightly-coloured vests, they used to be things that people do in dangerous jobs

wore, like you're working on the motorway and you want people to see you there so they

don't run into you.

They used to be for dangerous jobs, but now we see children walking down the road wearing

these jackets with their schools because...

I suppose they're trying to keep the children safe with these big, bright jackets, but it


From my perspective, I think it's, like, making it for the children: "Everything is scary,

everything is dangerous, so we must be always thinking about safety", and: "Oh.

Oh no, all these things."

So, more things coming up.

Staying on the same topic of the Nanny State and Big Brother, we've got internet filters.

When you search for things on the internet over in England, there are a lot of restrictions;

and depending on...

There seem to be differences between your internet provider, who you buy the internet

from, so there are differences between house to house.

But it can happen when you're searching for things, they say: "Restricted.

You can't look at that", and this might...

You know, you might not realise you're looking for something that, you know, you're not allowed

to look at or something, so you get that kind of thing here.

We also have bin wars, and this is to do with arguments that happen between neighbours to

do with their garbage and... and... okay, I have to go back... back a step.

There are many rules about the garbage and the rubbish, and the local...

The local government, the local council come and take it away from your house, but they

have many rules; like, it's only every two weeks they come, and you must put it out on

Tuesday morning before 8am, and things like that; many, many rules.

And if you...

If you miss the rubbish and you don't put it out on the right time, and therefore you've

got too much rubbish, or your rubbish wasn't put in the right bag and then a fox came up

and made a hole in the bag, and put the rubbish all over the street - this is when you might

get bin wars because your neighbours might be angry with you for not being organised

with your rubbish, and it can start very bad arguments.

And bin wars can also happen around recycling issues, because the recycling is complicated

as well.

The recycling is complicated because in all the different areas they have a different

way of doing it.

So, in that area you might put everything in the blue bag, but in that area you don't


You don't put newspapers or glass in that bag.

So, wherever you go, you always have to say: "Is it okay if I put this in your bin?"

So I think because it's so complicated and not every part of the country is using the

same system, there's all these things that make it hard just to put your rubbish outside

and in an easy way.

So, if you're new to an area or you're a student, or you're just not that organised, you can

miss your rubbish collection all the time, and then the problems come.

Okay, hobbies.

Here are a couple of hobbies that I thought are particularly English.

We like to ramble.

We like rambling - it means going into the countryside for long walks.

Here in England we've got the right to roam - that means that we are allowed to walk across

land in the countryside; it's not...

It's not closed, it's not forbidden.

We can't just go and walk across somebody's garden, and say: "Oh, I've got the right to

roam here", but it's the law about the bigger fields, and there are places to walk through

the countryside and to enjoy it.

Another walking hobby is dog walking.


There are some areas where you go where you almost never see a person just taking a country

walk, or a walk for health or pleasure just by themselves, but you will see many people

walking on their own with a dog.

So, I think in some areas people don't feel comfortable, in a way, walking if they don't

have a dog because everybody else has got a dog.

When the dog walkers are together, then they meet somewhere and they talk about the dogs,

and that's the...

They don't talk about: "How are you?


You know, I haven't seen you in two weeks.

What's going on in your life?"

They talk about the dogs.

"What's the dog doing?

And is he enjoying his run?

And what's he eating?" and things like that.

So it's a...

It's a hobby that people do.

It keeps...

Older people especially, it gives them company with other people.

So they might not have a lot of friends in their area, but when they go and walk the

dog, they speak to other people, so it's a way that even if English people are more reserved

than in other countries or some other countries, when they go walking their dogs, it gives

them a reason to talk to each other.

It doesn't mean they're going to be best friends with the people they meet when they're dog

walking, but at least it's slowly getting to know someone or talking to someone new.

Okay, the next one is model making.

Some people are interested in making models of ships, or trains, and things like that

where they very carefully put the model together over a long time.

Now we've got food and drink.

Eating on the go means where you just...

You walk down the street and you...

You just eat then and it's fine to eat on the street.

You might...

Even our food is designed this way.

A sausage roll is a pastry with a sausage inside, and you can easily eat your sausage

roll when you're walking down the street, or a packet of crisps, you know.

That happens a lot here in England.

And I used to think...

Before you leave your culture and you see how people live in other places, you think

what you do in your culture is often the same as everywhere else.

So, I used to think that eating on the go was, like, not...

It's normal.

It was not a big deal.

But when I lived in Amsterdam I remember I was at university there and I was just eating

my lunch on the go, I'd just come walking out, and I remember like just some people

looking at me strangely, and I was like: "That was weird."

And somebody said: "Mmm, lekker", which means: "Nice", but almost in a sexual way.

And then I realised that eating on... eating on the street there is a bit... a bit... a

bit like... a bit like a tarty girl would do or someone who had no manners, or something

like that.

So that's when I realised about the eating on the street thing - that although it's totally

normal here and English people do it, perhaps in other countries of the world it's considered

impolite or not refined.

And perhaps in other countries of the world it's just another sign or symbol that the

English people have bad food, like they always say, because we don't care as much.

Next point is the death of the pub, and this means that many pubs are closing down.

Why are pubs closing down is because alcohol and drinking in the pub is quite expensive

- that's one reason.

If you want to go and buy a pint of beer, you... it's not something you could afford...

Most people could afford to do all the time, I guess, so it's expensive.

Also you can't smoke in the pubs, so people perhaps more choose to drink at home than

they used to.

Well, it depends if you're a smoker or you're not... or you're not a smoker.

And also it seems that as the pubs close more coffee shops open, and that wasn't something

traditionally in English culture at all - going to a coffee shop.

But now, for many people, that's a normal way of socialising - going to have a coffee.

So, as the pubs close, the coffee shops come.

Okay, now some things about our cultural life here.

Are you a remoaner?

If you're a remoaner, you're somebody who is angry and upset that England decided...

United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union.

So, if we break down the word: "moan"...

A moan is...

When you moan, you're like: "Oh, I don't like this because...

I don't like this.

This is not good."

So, the word means someone...

And the "re" reminds us of the word "remain", which were the people who wanted to remain

in the European Union.

When you put it together, they...

They don't want to accept the fact that the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, so they're

still upset about it, they still talk about it, and they are still a group...

Because the referendum result was quite close between: "Are we going to stay or leave the


many people haven't changed their minds what they thought before; if they wanted to stay

in the EU then, they still want to stay in the EU now.

So this is like a split in our politics, here, whether you wanted...

Whether you wanted that or you didn't.

We also have political correctness.

This is something that you can either see or not see.

A lot of people would say...

Would not realise that something is politically correct, but it has to do with the things

that you can say, and the things that are acceptable to say, things that you're not

allowed to say, the kind of opinions that are acceptable, and the kind of opinions that

you're told you're wrong for thinking.

So there's a lot of this that goes on in the United Kingdom, England.

Next one is: Are you posh?

If you're posh, this means born into a family, typically but not always, that has money and

is wealthy; but more than the money, it's about their...

It's about the name of that family.

"Where did that family come from?

Have they always been an important family?

Do they have good connections?

Have they been to a boarding school where you have to pay money to go to?"

So, if...

If the answer to those things is yes, then perhaps you are a posh person.

And the thing about being posh as well is you don't really...

Let me know if you agree in the comments.

You don't become posh one day in your life; you don't make money and become posh.

You... you're born posh or not.

Not but... well, your family background creates you to be posh.

Next, something we have here are council houses or housing association houses.

The property prices in England are really, really expensive if people want to buy their

own houses, but that's not the only way that people live here.

If you see...

If you see houses around sometimes or you see blocks of flats, but it can also be houses,

some of the people living in those houses may be council tenants, and this is when the


The local government owns your house and you pay your rent to the local government.

You don't own that house yourself and you're not renting it from a private landlord; you

are paying the government every time your rent.

So if there's a problem in your house, you don't have to pay yourself to fix it.

You don't have to pay from your money to fix the roof, you don't have to pay for your...

You don't have to pay to fix your house if there was a flood or water came in - you don't

do that stuff; the council will pay for it.

So the council houses are much cheaper to live in, but not everybody can have them.

There's not enough council houses for everybody to live in, and there's much, much fewer council

houses for people of the younger generation now than there were in the past times as well.

So, yeah, this is a...

One of the main things about your living arrangements here.

Because if you...

If you rent from a private landlord because you don't have enough money to buy your own

house, that can cost you so, so much money.

So this is a cheaper option, but only...

Only some people have that.

Next is public outpourings of grief.

An "outpouring" means, like, oh so much...

So much being expressed or so much being said about something now, and "grief" is when you

feel sad about someone dying.

So, what has been happening, and I think it started back when Princess Diana died, was

that if someone who people liked or loved very much, or a famous person dies, then there

can be so much...

Everybody saying: "Oh, isn't it terrible?" or talking about it, or wanting to give flowers,

or making a concert for it, or lots of articles and being on the news and on TV about this

person dying, and how wonderful they are and things like that, and it can last a few...

A few weeks after the person dies.

And the last one is the idea of somebody who's considered to be a national treasure.

So, "treasure"...

We think of "treasure" and we think of money, or gold, or things like that; expensive things.

But a "national treasure" means a person who is so special and so loved, and who represents

the character of the English, for example, or represents them so...

In such a special or individual way - that person becomes a national treasure, so they'll

be some popular personalities on TV, some famous people who are considered to be national


One that comes to mind is the actress called Judi Dench - she's considered to be a national


So you're usually of more of an advanced age by the time you get considered to be the national...

National treasure status.

So, thank you all for watching, and what I'd like to do now is invite you to do the quiz.

I'll see you again soon.