Culture and Landmarks in London
London has a diverse range of peoples and cultures, with more than 300 languages spoken within its boundaries. In 2015, the Greater London Authority reported that London's population topped 8.6 million. London covers a total area of 1,572 sq km (607 sq m) with a population density of 5,197 Londoners per sq km, making it the largest city in Europe.
The last time London reached this type of population growth was 76 years ago. London had the largest population of any city in the world from around 1831 to 1925, and the population has increased by nearly two million in the past 25 years. London Underground set new historic records for passenger numbers at the end of last year - a record 4.725m in one day during November. London's buses are now dealing with 6.25m passenger journeys every day, the highest demand since the late 1950s according to Transport for London.
London contains four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich (in which the Royal Observatory marks the Prime Meridian (0° longitude) and GMT).
Other famous landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Wembley Stadium, and the Shard London Bridge tower. London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, Tate Modern, British Library, Wimbledon and the West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world.
London has over 200 museums and institutions, with 11 national museums. Around 250 festivals take place in London every year including London’s largest free festival - The Mayor’s Thames Festival and Europe's biggest street festival- The Notting Hill Carnival which attracts near one million people.
Many museums are free of admission charges and are major tourist attractions as well as playing a research role. In the latter half of the nineteenth century the locale of South Kensington was developed into a cultural and scientific quarter. Three major national museums are located there: the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The national gallery of British art is at Tate Britain, originally established as an annexe of the National Gallery in 1897. The Tate Gallery, as it was formerly known, also became a major centre for modern art; in 2000 this collection moved to Tate Modern, a new gallery housed in the former Bankside Power Station. London's museums of military and maritime history also opened in the twentieth century: the Imperial War Museum in 1917, and the National Maritime Museum in 1934.
The creative industries contribute £19 billion a year to the London economy, attracting businesses, investment and tourists. London dominates the UK visual arts sector, which accounts for 30% of the global art market, and is now the world’s third busiest film production centre. London has more than 800 bookshops and over 380 public libraries, with a third of all the UK’s archives housed in the National Archives, which dates back to the 11th century.
British Culture and Customs
The name of the country and the term "English" derive from the Old English word for one of the three Germanic peoples that invaded the British Isles in the fifth century C . E ., the Angles. "Britain" and "British" derive from a Roman term for the inhabitants' language of the British Isles, called "Brythonic" or p-Celtic. English cultural roots lie in a merging of Anglo-Saxon, Danish, and Norman French culture that has existed as a synthesis since the late Middle Ages.
Englishness is highly regionalized. The south, chiefly represented by the regions of the southeast, southwest, East Anglia, and the Midlands, includes the City (the chief financial center of the United Kingdom) and the seat of the national government, both in London. The north, the cradle of industrialization, includes Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham, Merseyside, and Cheshire. England is also a culture of many smaller regionalisms, still centered on the old governmental unit of the county and the local villages and towns.
The Bristish favor individualism rather than group orientation. They like privacy. An Englishman’s home is his castle. This old saying sums up a fairly widespread tendency. Most Britons tend to be reserved until they get to know someone. They do not quickly share their deeper feelings. Many would disassociate themselves from loud extrovert types, especially in public.
British people do not like boasting in any form. They prefer people who keep quiet about their praise points and laugh about their faults. However take note: they will still feel offended if you join in with the joking about themselves or their country. If you must praise a Briton, make it heartfelt, true and short.
The UK is very multi-cultural so you will hear very many different languages, especially in the cities. In London, you can probably find every language in the world spoken at some point. Given its relatively small size, accents vary a lot across the UK, with different accents spoken by the locals in different areas. If you are travelling on the London Underground, it isn't usually customary to talk loudly or hold large conversations. On other public transportation, quiet conversation usually takes place.
Punctuality is virtue for most British people. People are expected to arrive on time, or early, for meetings. For parties however, it is quite acceptable to be thirty minutes late. Britons do not like to be asked to do something at the last minute unless it is a real emergency. They like to be organized in both personal matters and administration of their work.
The queue is typically British. One is expected to queue in shops and for transport. Someone who jumps a queue is engaging in uncivilized behavior.
Useful Internet Links:
'Understanding the British' slides are availabe in the Library
Slides from the presentataion by Nancy Dickinson. (Log-in required)
Last Updated: 9 December 2015