Министерство Образования Саратовской области
Учреждение Лицей № 37
Фрунзенского района г. Саратова
Great Britain: the Land of Traditions
Саратов, 2009 г.
1. Roots of stereotypes
2. Parliament and the Royal Family
4. Food and Eating Habits
List of Literature
Every nation has a stereotyped reputation of some kind or other, partly good, partly bad. The French are supposed to be cheerful, sophisticated, intelligent people, fond of good food and the opposite sex. At the same time it is often said that they are intolerant, excitable and somewhat unpredictable. The Americans are said to be energetic, hospitable, mobile and sociable, but rather boastful and showy. According to the results of the survey conducted among senior students of Lyceum 37 85 per cent find the British even-tempered, modest, tolerant, 60 per cent believe typical Brits to be cheerful and generous while 5 per cent call them calculating and prudent.
We dont mean that national reputations are simply a matter of prejudice and false generalization. There is no denying that national differences in manners and outlooks do exist. There is no denying either that since these differences arise out of the specific development of each country they tend to change over time while stereotyped images remain unchanged. As James ODriscoll puts it, “Societies change over time while their reputations lag behind”.
We decided to study some stereotyped images of the United Kingdom and try to understand whether they are true to life or have completely or partially changed. Since it is impossible to examine all aspects of public life in the country all cultural and socio cultural peculiarities, we have chosen only 3 areas: as the political system of the country, food and clothes. As political system of Great Britain seems to be rather complicated and deserves special studies we have only touched it upon focusing on a few changes. Besides the listed below our research is based on the studies by James ODriscoll and David MCDowal.
1. Roots of stereotypes
Before we start examining stereotyped attitudes to the British political system, food and clothing we find it only logical to touch upon the most typical assumptions and make an attempt to trace their origin. In the introduction we mentioned a survey of senior students of Lyceum 37. They were asked what Great Britain is associated with. There were also required to make a list of 5 outstanding Brits and name 3 London tourist attractions. The majority of respondents call the country the land of traditions and say that it is mostly associated with rainy weather, the Queen, traditional ceremonies, music and football. Among the numerous London sights Big Ben, the Tower and Trafalgar square occur most often. A couple of students mention the London Eye. All the sights which appeared in the British capital in the 20ieth century remain obscure. Such results do not seem astonishing (do not raise the eyebrow) because “societies change over time while their reputations lag behind”. For example, the image of Britain as the country where it rains all the time is simply not true. In fact London gets no more rain in a year than most other major European cities, and even less than some.
Another example is an open fire-place which is called the focus of a traditional British home even in some recently published school course books. It is worth mentioning that open fire places were forbidden in London in the previous century which helped London residents get rid of pea-soup fogs described by English classical authors.
Even the popular belief that Britain is the land of tradition should be considered with a grain of salt. It is based on what can be seen in public life and on centuries of political continuity. At the same time one should not forget that most of the formalized rituals , for example the State Opening of Parliament and Trooping the Colour, were invented during the reign of Queen Victoria (not earlier) to generate a feeling of timeless tradition as a counterweight to the social shock waves of the industrial Revolution.
Nevertheless at the level of public life it is true. However, in their private everyday lives the British as individuals, are probably less inclined to follow tradition than are the people of most other countries. There are very few ancient customs that are followed by the majority of families on special occasions. The country has fewer local parades and ceremonies with genuine folk roots than most other countries have. The English language has fewer sayings and proverbs that are in common everyday use than many other languages do. No wonder the most popular well-attend festival in the whole Britain is the annual Notting Hill Carnival in London at the end of August which is of Caribbean origin.
Even when a British habit conforms to the stereotype, the wrong conclusions can sometimes be drawn from it. Let us take queuing, for example. The authors of the “How to be British” collection Martyn Ford and Peter Legon write, “It is not true that queuing in Britain has died out. Only the bus queue seems to have dissolved more or less into continental free-for-all. For to a post office, or bank, or supermarket check-out and you will find the custom is thriving, with special rails and tapes to keep the line straight.
Queue jumping is a low and mean offence. Not fame nor wealth, not merit nor urgency will get you to the front of the queue” All this, however, does not mean that British people enjoy queuing. Many of them refer to it as a problem. Some banks promise to reduce the time they serve their customers from 2 minutes and 3 seconds to only 2 minutes. In fact the British hate having to wait and are less patient than people in many other countries,
Like many other stereotyped images and false assumptions (for example those of Russian people drinking vodka from samovars and eating caviar with wooden spoons) the British ones derive from books , songs or plays which were written a long time ago and which are no longer representative of modern life.
Many of them are preserved in order to draw more tourists to the country. The British themselves think that people from other countries should be cautious about generalizations as what is often regarded as typically British may in fact be only typically English or typically Welsh. Another reason for caution relates to the large-scale immigration to Britain from the countries-members of the Commonwealth. The new British have made their own contribution to British life and attitudes.
They have probably helped to make people more informal, they have changed the nature of the “corner shop”. The annual Notting Hill Carnival, mentioned above, is another convincing argument.
All the above mentioned does not mean the British are not what they have always been. They are. They may not behave in traditional ways, but still they appreciate symbols of tradition and stability. They value continuity over modernity and can be particularly and stubbornly conservative about anything which is perceived as a token of Britishness. In these matters their conservatism can combine with their individualism and result in great pride of being different.
Since the main objective of our research is to prove that many stereotyped images of Britain are not true to life any longer we are going to focus on a few out of date assumptions and generalization including the political system, food and clothing.
2. Parliament and the Royal Family
What most school students know about the political system of the United Kingdom is that the monarch is the official head of state and an integral part of Parliament in her constitutional role, who, in fact, has no real power but plays a ceremonial role and represents the country abroad. British Parliament, the lawmaking body, consists of two chambers-the House of Commons, the members of which are elected, and the House of Lords, the members of which are permanent. However British Parliament is no longer what it used to be even 30 years ago.
In 1988 a group of distinguished politicians, lawyers, academics, writers and journalists began to campaign under the title Charter 88 for wide ranging reforms. They called for Bill of Rights, to protect individual liberties, and for a written constitution to define and limit the powers of Parliament. This call could be explained by numerous facts of violations of human rights and personal liberties during the1980ies.As a result of this campaign in 1990 the European Court of Justice made a historic decision that British courts must suspend any act of Parliament which breaches the rights of citizens guaranteed by European Community Law. Parliamentary sovereignty is, therefore, already limited by European Union membership.
The House of Lords has also undergone dramatic changes. Although it consists of more than one thousand peers, average daily attendance is only about 300 and most of these are life peers who retain a strong interest in the affairs