Annette is a language and drama teacher with a master's degree in education.
Thinking about British culture, most people will probably have visions of pubs, football, jacket potatoes and baked beans. It might not be an entirely wrong assumption. According to the book, 1 227 QI Facts, Britons eat 97% of the world's baked beans. There is however more to the British culture than baked beans and pubs.
Britain has a rich culture of architecture, literature, theatre, cinema and history. The British also love animals and it has been joked that the queen is only really happy when she is around her horses and corgis.
Until 1948 immigration was slow, but after World War Two Britain couldn't find enough people from European countries to assist them with rebuilding a war-torn Britain. The day marked as the beginning of mass immigration to the UK is believed to be 22 June 1948 when the Empire Windrush docked in London delivering hundreds of West Indian men.
Now, sixty-plus years later, Britain finds itself having to deal with a massive immigration dilemma and many angry Britons who are opposing the immigration policy and the constant influx of foreigners to the country.
Different Cultures in Britain
Immigrants to Britain come from all over the world. Some are from countries who have a lot in common with Britain and they find it easier to fit into the British culture. There are however many people from cultures that are very different from the British culture.
People who come from America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have language, many times religion and basic western culture in common with Britain, while people from Asian countries might find there are very little commonalities.
Until 2005 the biggest immigrant groups came from Ireland, India and Pakistan with South Africa, Italy and Kenya having the fewest. This picture changed rapidly in the last couple of years with more and more European countries joining the EU (European Union). The largest group of immigrants now comes from Poland. Once Brexit is complete this will change.
While there seems to be a belief that many immigrants can't speak English, percentage-wise it is a very small group.
The following is an extract from an article published by the Guardian on 30 January 2013
The language data was also taken as evidence that immigrants may have a greater sense of belonging than government ministers, keen to cut net migration, have suggested.
The census revealed that 13% of the population was born abroad, but only 138,000 people, less than 0.5% of the population, could speak no English at all and in total only 1.6% of residents could speak it not well or not at all.
This contradicts a statement by Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, who said in a recent speech that the UK was in an "incomprehensible situation where no one can speak English as their main language in 5% of our households" and this was "terrible for community relations".
Due to changes in the immigration law, it is now impossible for immigrants from outside the EU to get a visa without proving their English proficiency. Visa applicants need to take a proficiency test before they can apply for a visa.
Immigrants Working In Britain
Immigration topics in forums and online newspapers attract an array of comments from Britons and foreigners. There is definitely a feeling among some British people that the immigrants take all the jobs. The building industry employs many Polish people and one poster felt that is why the young British children can't find jobs.
According to a study done by the Immigration Policy Institute immigrants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the EU-countries have the highest rate of employment while those from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the rest of Africa find it more difficult to get employed.
Immigration Statics for the UK
- Statistics-net-migration-statistics | Migration Watch UK
Migration Watch UK is an independent and non-political body established in October 2001.
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What Is British Culture?
When this question was posed to a variety of British people the answers were as diverse as the group. Some believed being born in Britain made you British, while others felt embracing specific British traditions such as football, British food, the English language, the royal family, festive days and the religion of the country is what defines being British.
One person replied that the idea of a multi-cultural Britain is ludicrous and that immigrants and asylum seekers are more than welcome as long as they embrace the British culture. He, however, apart from mentioning fish and chips and afternoon tea, failed to explain what British culture is.
Freedom of speech, freedom of movement, democracy, tolerance, respect and politeness were also mentioned.
Another interesting comment was that when everybody in the country can speak the queen's English, stop living in separate ethnic communities and are proud to be British, there will be no more judging by skin colour and it will be the end of political correctness.
Research carried out for BBC News Online suggest that the majority of UK residents, of all ethnic backgrounds, support the idea of one national identity. Seventy-eight percent of people—including a majority along all ethnic groups—think that anyone living in the UK who is not familiar with the British way of life should have to attend citizenship classes.
Is There Evidence that Immigrants Embrace the British Culture?
It is, unfortunately, true that certain groups of people tend to segregate themselves from the wider British culture by holding onto ethnic communities. It is within these communities that you will also find those who cannot speak English. As mentioned previously, this is such a small group, that it is difficult to see that they can make a big difference to the British culture.
Christmas time is most probably the biggest evidence of an integrated Britain. You will see Christmas trees and gifts in most houses in Britain, regardless of the culture or religion of the people. Many Asian families who are not traditionally Christian enjoy the festive time with the rest of Britain. Gifts are bought, houses are decorated and large traditional meals are cooked on Christmas day.
Not too long ago, a prominent borough used the large Asian community as the reason they didn't display any Christmas lights during the festive period. It later surfaced that the Asian community had no objection to the Christmas lights, it was rather the council who saw a way out to not spend money on decorations.
When a well-known London university announced that they are planning to remove the bars from campus as it offends their Muslim students, it was Muslims from the community who spoke out against it. According to them, it is the responsibility of the Muslim students to stay away from the bar. A Muslim community leader further said that it is actions such as these that anger the British students (as pubs and bars are part of the British culture and tradition) and make them negative about the Muslim students.
Who Is to Blame?
From this evidence, it is quite clear that many immigrants are eager to embrace the British culture. The group who are reluctant to integrate seems to be too small to make a real significant difference, at the moment.
Is political correctness taken too far and are people in positions of power assuming too much? Are there groups who are demanding changes to the status quo of the country that will change the British culture?
When an ethnic minority becomes demanding to change certain aspects within a country to suit them, it will become dangerous.
At the moment there doesn't seem to be any evidence of this.
Is Britain's Culture in Danger?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2013 Annette Hendley