Travel Alicia Kennedy By Alicia Kennedy

15 Things that Make the UK Unique

There are plenty of things that make the UK special.

Whether you live within the UK yourself, or you’re considering visiting for the first time, you might be wondering about some of the things that make the UK so unique. Here, we’re going to take a look at the world-renowned features that make this country just a little bit difference, from our educated cab drivers, to arguably the best breakfast in the world.

1. London Cabbies know About as Much as Google Maps

First of all, though we’re not the only country to have cab drivers, few drivers around the world can claim to be anywhere near as intelligent as our London cabbies. London comes with the most well-informed drivers across the globe, and they actually have the diplomas to prove their skill. In order to become a certified taxi driver in London, you need to pass the “Knowledge” test, which is an incredibly difficult exam asking entrants to recall around 25,000 streets within a six-mile radius.

For most drivers, it takes around three years in total to master the “Knowledge”, and many get their practice by checking out the routes on a bicycle, so you’re not
likely to see a lot of unfit new drivers around.

2. The Swans are Committed to the Census

The royal family – something we’ll talk about a bit more later in this list – provides far more to the UK than just extravagant weddings. For instance, don’t forget the annual swan census when it comes to figuring out why the UK is so unique. The queen officially owns half of all the mute swans in the Thames River, but figuring out how many swans are in that flock takes a lot of work. In every July, the family uses a “wan upping” to get people along the Thames looking for baby swans. When swans are found, they’re measured, branded, and weighed by the Queen’s swan warden.

This strange tradition dates back to the 12th century, when the Crown claimed ownership of all the swans on open water. Today, the tradition is clearly just there for fun.

3. Poetry in the Doctor’s Office

One of the features that makes the UK unique, for better or worse, is the NHS, or the National Healthcare System, which first opened its doors in the 5th of July, 1948. The organisation provides free healthcare to all, regardless of status or wealth, and it currently employees around 1.7 million people.

However, just because there’s a lot of people working for the NHS doesn’t mean that patients get very speedy service. In fact, delays to see an NHS doctor can get pretty insane, which is why a charity was founded by Michael Lee in 1998, called “Poems in the waiting Room”. The organisation came together to distribute cards containing eight poems in the waiting rooms of around 1400 different practices.

4. Nannies Get Paid a Lot

The UK loves their nannies, and they show it with incredible wages. In the UK, nannies can earn higher starting salaries than many teachers, nurses, and policemen, provided that they come equipped with the right credentials. Usually, this means taking some training at the most prestigious finishing school in England, Norland College. Graduates can look forward to starting salaries around $40,000 USD, along with expenses-paid holidays with employers to places like Val d’lsere and Dubai.

For over a century, the famous and rich of England have been relying on highly-trained nannies to look after their children. In fact, Mick Jagger’s children grew up with Northland Nannies, and so where Princess Anne’s.

5. The Most Incredible Castles

England is covered with around 1000 castles. Today, the majority of them work as tourist attractions and hotels, but back in their glory days, the castles of England had a very different purpose – they were there to keep people out. Built on hilltops, castles often posted guards around battlements, where they could see invaders from miles away. As foreign entities advanced, archers would shoot at them through tiny slits in the castle walls.

Even if trespassers could get past the arrows, getting beyond the castles gates was practically impossible. Guards posted around the roofs would pour hot oil onto invader’s heads, through sections in the ceiling known as murder holes.

6. The Wildest Festivals

Britain loves its Summer festivals. There are science fairs, hog roasts, concerts, and the famed Hay festival for arts and literature in Wales. The prize for the strongest and oldest festival has to go to the Abbots Bromley Horn dance, which was first performed in 1226 in Staffordshire. During that year, some men put on reindeer horns and paraded around the town.

Thanks to carbon dating, we’ve since discovered that one set of reindeer horns found for that first dance is more than 950 years old, which means that it’s far older than the festival itself. Since there aren’t any natural reindeer in the UK, this means that Vikings probably brought the horns over from Scandinavia. Depending on your opinion, the horn dance can either be seen as pure silliness, or a mystery of traditions.

7. Pub Food is Becoming more Appealing than Drink

In England, the pub is pretty much a central part of daily life. Pubs serve as communal living spaces where people come together to chat, sing, and drink. However, in recent years, pubs have been closing pretty quickly around the country. Today, however, many pubs are fighting back by changing the way that they appeal to their audience.

With the right pub experience, owners are appealing to people throughout the country with gastropubs that sell incredible food alongside a pint of beer. Today, you can go to almost any pub and you should be able to get a great taste of some really unique food.

8. Cricket

It’s tough to know why the UK loves cricket so much, but the truth is that it’s become an ingrained part of the culture, just like pubs and the royal family. Part of the reason that cricket remains so popular in the UK is likely because it’s such a social experience. Watching the game on television, it’s clear to see that many spectators follow cricket for an excuse to meet up with friends and have a good time.

Over the years, the UK has proven itself to be pretty good at the sport too, earning top places over Australia, Pakistan, India, and the West Indies.

9. The British Countryside

The UK countryside holds a special place in the hearts of English people. Although many Britons are living in an urban culture now, the countryside still remains a British representation of the ideal place, where someone can live and relax in peace. In fact, during time away from work, on weekends and vacations, many Britons still head to the countryside to explore the diverse beauty of nature.

For many, the countryside represents Britain as it should be, an area that’s brimming with historical sites, monuments, memorials, protected areas, stunning villages, and more. It’s a part of the country that seems to have stopped almost in its tracks.

10. The British Garden

In much the same vein as the countryside, the British garden is another common part of the English experience. It might seem cliché, but we’re currently the only country in the world that really knows how to create the perfect garden. Gardening is ingrained into the people of Britain, and in the states, they only have yards – which generally consist of small pieces of grass and not much else.

The truth is that throughout other countries, gardens don’t get anywhere near the same amount of love and attention that they’re awarded in Britain.

11. Tea

Whether it’s served with milk, sugar, lemon, or just plain, people in the UK love their tea. There’s something about the flavor that causes 60 billion cups to be consumed each year, according to the Tea and infusions organisation. That number indicates that more than 900 cups a year are drank by every man, child, and woman in Great Britain, and the chances are that you know someone who seems to drink that much in a couple of months.

People in the UK believe that’s impossible to get a good cup of tea anywhere outside of Britain. They believe that it comes with too many strange flavors and tastes that are far removed from the original British brew.

12. You Can Keep your House if you Lose your Job

In England, if for any reason, you end up losing your job, or you’re simply unable to pay your rent because of a salary cut, the government will help you to pay what you need to stay in your house. Though the government has made some changes to this concept over the years, a policy known as the housing benefit means that any legal resident of the UK whose income has been cut down can file a claim for aid to make sure that they don’t end up homeless. Unfortunately, the program only applies to rented properties, and not mortgage payments.

The beginning of the housing benefit dates back to 1919, when the government began subsidizing housing policies for the unemployed and the poor. In the decades that have passed since, the concept has grown to cover everything from people who have lost out on work, and that’s lead to some controversy.

13. The Queen and the Royal Family

While there are royals in other parts of the world, few places have a deeper respect for their Queen and the entire royal family than the UK. Although some people across the world still believe that we’ve gotten to a stage in history now where the monarchy should be disbanded, the UK takes serious pride in the fact that they have a royal family, even though the queen pretty much just acts as a ceremonial head of state, rather than making any real decisions.

Despite the anti-monarchy groups that exist throughout the country, a poll in 2006 found that only 18% of all Brits favored a republic over the monarchy, and the vast percentage of those polls felt that the UK simply wouldn’t be the same it didn’t have the queen. Today, the Queen is seen as a politically neutral, dignified, and wise symbol for the entire country.

14. The Full English Breakfast

If you’ve never heard of the full English breakfast before, then you’re missing out. There’s really nothing like it on earth, and throughout Britain and Ireland, it’s considered to be a well-loved and natural part of everyday life. It’s not necessarily something that’s eaten on a daily basis, but it can be saved for weekends and vacations in some cases. If we ate it every day, then we’d probably have much worse cholesterol.

The term “full” comes from the fact that the dish is full of different food stuffs. Full breakfast is served at breakfast, but it can also be enjoyed throughout the day too. It might begin with orange juice, then continue on to bacon eggs, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages, tea, toast, marmalade, black pudding, and a host of other items. The complexity of your full English will depend on your preferences, and every country in the UK and Ireland have their own unique choice of accompaniments to choose from.

15. The Weather

Finally, we’re not the only country with rain, but we’re one of the few that has such an undeniably diverse range of seasons. In Britain, you can really tell the difference between winter and summer, and we get everything from thunderstorms to snow. The differences in the weather has been one of the things that has made our society so adaptable. Additionally, it’s helped to lead to a wonderful sense of humor that basically everyone in the country shares.

Sure, the UK doesn’t have the sunniest summers in the world, and we often spend our time complaining about the dreary weather or the cloudy sky, but the weather is still one of the things that makes the UK unique.

About Alicia Kennedy

I am a married mum of 2 in a house full of Internet-addicts. I spend my spare time reading and writing content for websites such as this one. My interests in the financial sector are limited to making and saving as much money as possible and I also enjoy living a lifestyle which is as stress free as possible! Although with 2 kids that is somewhat difficult!

View all posts by Alicia Kennedy

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