B is for British
What exactly is a Brit?
While living in Portugal, we had a few stereotypes of the Brits. One is the “gentleman”, wearing suit, umbrella, mac and hat. Very polite, with a posh accent and some sort of royalty connection. We never see this character in real life, as he does not really leave Britain to come to Portugal (unless, of course, for the Port wine).
Another character is the “hooligan”. This is a big bulky lad, body, tattoos all over his arms, shaved head and beer in his hand. Rude, walking around without a shirt, assuming that the rest of the world speaks and understands English and asking for Fish & Chips wherever he goes. Unfortunately this is very much the British type of person that we have been exposed for several years, as holidaying in Portugal is (or at least was ) cheaper that the south of Spain.
Then there is the Scot. This one is a very sexy guy in his kilt, playing golf and riding a horse bareback, courtesy of the William Lawson’s advertisement. Unfortunately, I have never seen such character and I’m starting to question his existence…
Then there are the historical characters. We have Merlyn, King Arthur and the knights of the round table and Robin Hood. All of these are brave men with good fighting skills. Lastly, there is the one character brought to us mainly from American TV, which is the Irish leprechaun. This is a funny character, dressed in green with red hair who keeps gold coins in a pot at the end of the rainbow. It is true that some Irish people I know have red hair (by the way, for any southern European such person would be considered exotic and quite beautiful) but in general they don’t dress in green and, as far as I know, don’t really have pots of gold coins. Pitty though!
Having moved to the UK, I found that these characters are great caricatures that exacerbate the personality traits of people. However, the reality is a bit different and, as elsewhere in the world, we can find all sorts of people in the UK. I have been particularly taken by surprise by the warmth I found in the Scots and the trust of the Welsh, but once again these may just have been the people I was lucky enough to meet.
What exactly is Britain?
So first there are the countries: England, Scotland and Wales. Each of these has its own flag, patron saint, sports teams, and folklore. They even have their own parliament. These countries form what is known as the island of Great Britain, which basically is defined by the geographic nature of it.
Then, there are the Irelands (and this one takes some Wikipedia as I tend to always mix them).
Northern Ireland, which along with the countries of Great Britain and a few smaller islands form the United Kingdom. This is what is ruled by the Queen and is therefore a political division.
The Republic of Ireland is an independent country which as the name implies, is a republic, not a monarchy. The Irelands and the small islands of the UK are the next places on my list to visit around here. Maybe once I’ve gone I can post a few more facts on these places.
Then there are Gibraltar and the Falklands, which are overseas territories along with some other less known islands. I think this is where the United Kingdom ends.
Following this, we find out that there is something called the Commonwealth. This is a group of 50 odd countries, most of them former British colonies. Most of these countries have now become independent and have their own head of state. People from a Commonwealth state have further voting rights in the UK than a EU citizen for example. However, they require visas to be here while EU citizens don’t. So I really don’t know what the Commonwealth is for.
What I thought the Commonwealth was is something akin to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a few other Commonwealth members. Although they are separate (and we could even say independent) countries, their head of state is the Queen. The same Queen of the UK.
Funny story: someone I know who lived in one of these countries for over 10 years and is married to a citizen of that country moved to the UK just as she was about to get her husband’s nationality. She had to fly half way around the world to swear an oath to the Queen!
This is somewhat of a brain twister, but I guess I finally got it. Maybe I’m ready to become a Brit myself 😉