‘Tea Makes Everything Better’ - is almost a mantra for the British way of life. "If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed it will cheer you. If you are excited it will calm you" .- British Prime Minister William Gladstone, in 1865
In a recent survey a cup of tea
retained its vote as the 2nd
most popular British icon (edging Queen Elizabeth into third place), yet we have been turned into a nation of caffeine addicts. How did this happen? On behalf of right-minded tea drinkers, I decided to find out.
Background of Tea
The production of tea is similar to the production of wine: Like wine, tea comes from one bush (an evergreen plant, known as Camellia Sinensis
). The sheer variety of tea is astounding – the unique character stems from location (the climate, soil, how far up the mountain) and the ancient rituals handed down to the farmer. For thousands of years tea was a luxury product that few could afford. Quality was high and consumers around the world were revered as connoisseurs.
Mobile/ Cell Phone Usage and Roaming Charges in the UK
When coming to the UK, most travellers see no need for arranging local SIM cards for themselves as they think it is best, and easiest, to just use their usual phone contracts, from their own countries, and paying “roaming rates”. Travellers, beware! If you are coming to the UK from anywhere outside the EU, you need to be very cautious when using your mobile phone. Because you will be using your phone outside your operator’s network, you will be charged “roaming rates” and these usually work out to be prohibitively expensive. The average roaming rate in the UK is £1.66pm (per minute) to make a call home (as compared to the local rate starting from about £0.04pm to call home if you buy a local SIM card!) If you roam, you will also be heavily charged for receiving calls, sending texts (SMS’s), using data (e.g. 3G services), and even when people leave messages on your answer phone! (You will also be charged heavily to receive your voicemail.)
Option 1 – Pay as You Go local SIM :
One way of ensuring that you don’t get a fright when you open your next phone bill is to purchase a pay-as-you-go UK SIM card to use whilst in the UK. This can save you a lot of money, even if you do not plan to make a lot of calls. By buying a SIM card, with a new number, you will not receive annoying- and expensive- calls from people who do not know that you are away and you will not be charged heavily for receiving calls from home that you do not answer and that are, therefore, routed to your answer phone.
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The British like a bit of satire and general 'fun poking' - especially aimed at themselves or their own. Having travelled and lived abroad often, this is not the norm. In fact laughing at yourself is a curious phenomenon, but an excellent antidote to creeping delusions of grandeur. In Germany, it's well known as the ("zee" sounds better) 'curious British sense of humour'. TV programmes such as Mock the Week, Have I got [Old] News for You and back in the eighties Spitting Image are/were hugely popular with the public. In fact many MPs were disappointed if they didn't warrant a puppet. With some even trying to acquire them after the show retired. Though, less enthusiastically when they discovered they'd have to pay for them at auction. I feel an expense claim coming on (yep. satire).
I think it's probably the key defining trait of the British. Laughing at yourself and pricking the bubble of self-pride, has always been in the national interest. It might not feel comfortable, though like Yoga - that's probably why it's so good for you. In the Georgian period, 'Punch' was the popular satirical magazine of the day and after 50 years, 'Private Eye' is still reliably, casting its beady eye over those in positions of authority.
Always highlight with an example. Here's some light, satirical relief - from the Inside Guide to London. Carry on.
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive... (or similarly, attempt to explain the 'class' system in Britain). If everyone belongs to it, you would naturally favour the views of your own class. Not always, say I, not always.
Very roughly - there are three classes - the upper, middle and working classes. In reality these days - the upper class is small, wields enormous financial clout, but has no relevance or popular influence over the masses. They're seen as anachronistic curiosities, by the majority of Brits. I'm sure in their own universe, they're rather significant and pretty, bloody, seriously, important, yah? - 'idle' rich is the popular street argot. You probably won't meet any if you visit London, they'll be at the country seat during peak tourist season.
To call any number in the UK, from anywhere in the world, then take the '0' from the front and add the international dialling code '44' in its place. So the number - (020 7654 3210) would become (44 20 7654 3210).
Brits love to moan, grumble and whinge. It's not so much that they want the problem fixed, as it's an excellent opportunity to point out how things could be handled much better (if they were running the show). If a bus is late, several silent Londoners will pitch up and engage in some mutual, grumbling banter. They may even start to enjoy themselves. Perhaps this makes little sense, but it's absolutely inbuilt at the genetic level - tutting, sighing, rolling the eyes, muttering and more sighing are all useful tools for running a system down.
Is fun. Everyone does it, and although in most countries the purpose is to arrive at some kind of settlement or consensus, the British ideal is to all: 'agree to disagree'. They don't want it to end in a fight, so tolerating other peoples' views is an important character trait.
Despite the reputation for frosty embarrassment and sexual incompetence, London and the British Isles are amongst the most densely populated places on Earth. Let's just say: they get by. In the UK it's about being 'up for it' - and you'll find a surprising number of people who are.
Kissing and displays of affection. Hmm. Best not to French-kiss excessively in public, or grind bodies in a Royal Park - kissing, holding hands and all the rest are fine. It's not that the British are especially squeamish, or coy about kissing. It all comes back to the fact that they can't abide showing off. Get a room.
40 years ago the sight of people air-kissing-hello, well... people didn't do it (generally two is the requisite number in the UK - for balance - like). What am I saying? They didn't know how to do it. Sometime during the 1980s it entered the national psyche and stuck. Along with ready-meals, foreign holidays and 100 channel satellite TV.
Places where kissing passionately will be greeted as warmly as a turd in a swimming pool: public transport (it's difficult enough already), in the theatre (cinema generally ok) or in museums and art galleries.
Everyone loves double-deckers and hates bendy buses. It's fun sitting on an upper deck, looking down on people (physically and figuratively) and the other type take up twice the road space and are too difficult to overtake. One thing though, buy your bus ticket from the bus stop vending machine, although the driver will sell you one, they will only do so under extreme duress, with much whingeing. It's not worth the trouble.