Posts Tagged ‘UK’

There was a time when the sun was said to never go down on the British Empire; today, it is due to set at approximately 5:10 PM.  A shadow of its former imperial glory, London however remains a world financial capital with a population more than that of Scotland and Wales combined–excluding sheep. The economic and cultural juggernaut of Great Britain, England is home to 84% of the citizens of the entire United Kingdom.  Infamous for its unpredicatable weather, King Charles II argued that the English summer is actually very consistent, marked by “three fine days and a thunderstorm.”   

An island nation with no point more than 120km from the coast, England was reliant on its powerful navy throughout much of its history.  In 1994, England was linked to Continental Europe via the 50.4km underwater Channel Tunnel yet remains distinctly independent of the European Union.  As England and the United Kingdom evolved from a naval power to an imperial power to a financial powerhouse, chivalrous English tenacity has evolved as well, from the timeless literary contributions of Chaucer and Shakespeare, to the scientific theories of Darwin and Newton, to the strategic alcoholic combativeness of Winston Churchill and Oliver Reed.


Early English tenacity.


Modern English tenacity.


Local Name:  England (United Kingdom)

Language: English

Capital: London; most of the country’s population centers in this southwestern region

Population: 67,446,000 (remarkably, 16,000,000 are sheep)

Area: 129,720 km2

Government: Constitutional monarchy; England has had no government specifically of its own since 1707, as the Parliament in London administrates for the entire U.K.

Currency: British Pound; symbol GBP. 1 GBP = US$1.60 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: Post-industrial; exports music bands; services; tourism; finance; pharmaceuticals; luxury cars

Notable International Enemies:  Roughly the entire world at one point or another has either been subjugated by, adverse to, or actively at war with England; recently, the Falkland Islands dispute has ruffled Argentina


St. George’s red cross on a white background, an emblem first used during the Middle Ages.


Famous For: Shakespeare; the Royal Family; consuming moe tea per capita than anyone else in the world (2.5 times as much as the Japanese); fish and chips; unwieldy British Imperial units of measurement; natives Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, the Beatles, and the Spice Girls 

Not Famous For: Being the home of the mousetrap and rubber band; speaking French from 1066 to 1362; having the highest obesity rate in the European Union (~23%); building the Lincoln Cathedral in 1280, the first building larger than the Pyramid of Giza; losing a war; high cuisine

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Monuments near Stonehenge; Big Ben; Buckingham Palace; a pub

What US$20 Can Get You: A few pints in a pub; ~3 meals of fish and chips; ~8 subway rides on the London Underground if using the Oyster Card

Quick History Recap: England initiated a drawn-out process of colonial catch-up in 1587, having granted a hundred-year headstart to the rest of Europe in a display of typical English chivalry.  As England evolved into a unified United Kingdom, the Industrial Revolution took root here and its colonies began throwing off yokes, but being proper fair-playing Englishmen themselves, calmly explained themselves to everyone first.  The British army, ever keen on leveling the playing field, adopted bright red uniforms for use in the wintry, woodland skirmishes that characterized much of the Revolutionary War in the eastern United States.  A century and a half later, fair Britain would provide Adolf Hitler ample time to establish a Fortress Europe prior to military engagement.  Despite Winston Churchill’s best efforts to single-handedly buttress the British wartime economy by buying and consuming more alcohol than any other Englishman living before him or since, by 1945, with its economy raved by World War II, Great Britain would begin a slow decline in international prominence, its own imperial sun eclipsed by the rising stars of the USA and USSR.



Grazed by double (!) the number of sheep as Scotland in only one-fourth of the area, Wales was herded into England in 1282 upon the conquest of King Edward I.  Always shoved in the precarious position of being on the outside looking out, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Wales has always just kind of been there, though the large number of castles dotting the landscape betrays a more badass streak of struggling against outward influences.  Today, only 21% of the population speaks the native Welsh language, and even the country’s name originates in the Anglo-Saxon word for “foreigner,” Waelisc.

When you’re a stranger in your own homeland, you might expect the Welsh to produce a large body of existentialist writing or nostalgic poetry.  Wrong again; they took an entirely different route when choosing how to invest their stock of national pride: sheep!  Boasting 12,000,000 sheep, there are nearly as many jokes about Welsh shagging their sheep as there are actual sheep to be shagged in Wales.  Seriously, click that link and explore.  Not even the Scots can compare in terms of sheep fanatacism, with their paltry 1.2:1 sheep-to-human ratio; Wales weighs in at a slightly unsettling 4:1.  In other words, if there were ever a competitive sporting event organized around two rival teams of sheep from Scotland and Wales, you can bet that the Welsh fans would be the ones to show up drunk wearing body paint and sheep costumes, kidnap the Scottish team mascot, and shave it with shears.


“Your team is so BAAAAAAAAAAAAD, you should just go BAAAAAAAAAAAACK home.”


A traditional Welsh living room.


Local Name: Cymru (United Kingdom)

Language:English,” Welsh

Capital: Cardiff; also written Caerdydd

Population: 15,006,430 (12,000,000 are sheep)

Area: 20,779 km2

Government: Constitutional monarchy; local devolved government headed by a First Minister

Currency: British Pound; symbol GBP. 1 GBP = US$1.60 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP; post-industrialial; services; tourism; some heavy industry

Notable International Enemies:  Romans (who were actually beaten back by the impregnable Welsh); England (who have impregnated Wales since 1282); any sheep-related atrocities would also surely rile up passions


Holy damn, a dragon.  White and Green were colors of the Welsh Tudor dynasty.  You might remember them from everything you learned about English history.


Famous For:  King Arthur legends; the red dragon flag (only Wales and Bhutan still believe in dragons); more castles per km2 than anywhere else; natives Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Roald Dahl; sheep

Not Famous For:  Robert Recorde, a Welshman, invented the “equal to” = symbol; Mt. Everest, named after Welsh surveyor Sir George Everest; radio technology was first demonstrated in Wales by Marconi in 1897; the world’s longest place name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch, meaning “the church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s of the red cave.”

Obligatory Tourist Detours:  Cardiff, the national capital; Swansea; assorted castles

What US$20 Can Get You:  Ten minutes with a sheep, no questions asked

Quick History Recap:  Beating back the Romans but falling to the English in 1282, Wales had a long-standing streak of being a badass before being ruled as an English principality.  To this day, the Prince of Wales is the title conferred upon the heir apparent of the British throne.  Evolving from its agricultural roots to an industrial and, now, post-industrial service-based economy, Wales relented on heavy mining but simply could not concede on the point of sheep, which continue to quietly graze in the mountainous Welsh countryside. 


While Scotland is nominally an English-speaking country, it will occasionally feel more appropriate to make mental quotefingers and think of this northern half of the British Isles as an “English-speaking” region.  Fresh–and drunk–upon my arrival in Glasgow from Reykjavik, I had an exchange with an employee in a traditional Irish pub that initially left me scrambling to reply in Icelandic.  When I realized she was simply speaking English with a strong regional accent, I knew that I’d need some help with the local lingo.   Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in Scotland, the second country on my trip around the world.

Don’t be this guy.  Keep reading.  

1.  Hello/ Hi.     “Hallo [incorrect: Lali-ho]/Awrite.”

Many Scots have a good sense of humor, so don’t fret a casual greeting.

2.  Yes/No.     “Aye/Nae.”

Alternatively, just nod your head. 

3.  Do you speak English?     “Dae ye speak Anglish?”

If you’re angling for a fight, the fish will nibble this hook.

4.  Where is…?     “Whaur is…?”

Example:  “Whaur is ma Pabst Blue Ribbon?”

5.  How much?     “Hau much?”

Example:  “Hau much is ma Pabst Blue Ribbon?”

6.  Delcious!     “A pure like it!”

I’ve never heard this personally, but “pure” looks to be a slang adverb of degree.

7.  Thank you.     “Thenk ye.”

You’ve just been helped and/or fed.  Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized.  If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

Notable customs:

  • Kilts, often associated with Scotland, originated in the wool designs worn by Highlanders in the 16th century.   This is in no way to be confused with the leather jacket of Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander, an Immortal possessing a healing factor and fluency in several extinct languages who, after being born in 1592, later starred in a popular 1990s television live-action drama.

He also had the ability to impregnate with his gaze.

Hono[u]rable mentions:

I need to practice my Scottish.   “A need tae practice ma Scottish.”

I don’t understand.   “A dinna kin.”

Home to nearly seven million sheep and one very elusive sea monster, Scotland officially combined with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 1707 to form the political Megazord of Western Europe, the United Kingdom.  An oft-stereotyped cultural island lying on the northern end of the actual British islands, it should go without saying that there is much more to Scotland than kilts, red hair, and bagpipes.  Regardless, this does not deter the millions of Americans who proudly trace their vestigial 1/128 Scotish ancestry through several generations.  Upon arriving for a vacation in Scotland, or rather, “the home country,” these overzealous armchair geneologists are keen on asking local waiters questions like, “Who is your clan leader?” and, “How many battleaxes do you have in your personal collection?”  Weary of being mistaken for dwarves larping outside a World of Warcraft server, the Scots have adapted their sense of dark humor into a suitable response for these American tourists:


Don’t get them started on Braveheart.

A Scotsman (Willie McDougal) teaching a traditional Scottish greeting to students in Springfield, USA.

Local Name: Scotland (United Kingdom)

Language:English,” Scots, Scottish Gaelic

Capital: Edinburgh; pronounced EH-DIN-BRAH

Population: 12,022,100 (6,800,000 are sheep)

Area: 78,782 km2

Government: Constitutional monarchy; local devolved government headed by a First Minister

Currency: British Pound; symbol GBP. 1 GBP = US$1.60 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: Highly diversified in manufacturing, fisheries, shipbuilding, oil and natural resources, services, and whisky

Notable International Enemies: Bart Simpson; the English rugby team


 The White cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scottish golf courses, surrounded by Blue: the lesser ideals of justice, truth, and the perseverance.

Famous For: Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster; kilts; bagpipes; haggis; Auld Lang Syne; Sean Connery

Not Famous For: The world’s shortest scheduled commerical flight (1 min 14 sec); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; ferrying the Enlightment on the shoulders of natives Adam Smith, James Watt, and logarithms

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Edinburgh, the national capital; Glasgow; the Highlands

What US$20 Can Get You: Around 3-4 pints of ale; ~15 cans of Irn-Bru; admission to a handful of castles

Quick History Recap: After King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England (and not the other way around) in 1603, the two countries were united under a single crown and innumerable walk-into-a-bar jokes.  In 1995, Groundskeeper Willie referred to the nation of France as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”  Even the English thought that was a pretty good one.