What comes to your mind when you heard the United Kingdom (UK)? The state of Queen, the loyal family, knights and ladies, gentlemen with black umbrella….Those are the things that naturally pop up to my mind. But the “real UK” was far more diverse than what I had been thought. During two weeks of visiting, the UK revealed its charming points every day. Do you want to know what they are? Come and check what the UK got in this article.
The UK with Royal Tradition
The UK has a long history. The official establishment of the UK was happened in 1701, but the land had its people over 30,000 years. And during their long history, the monarchy system has been a significant part among the UK people. The royal family of Britain has the highest support rate among the European country which is under the monarchy system. The British royal family has been a symbol of its country and over half of the British still support its existence. According to UK’s market research company Ipsos MORI, the rate of anti-monarchy has never been over 20 percent during the reign of Elizabeth II, and in 2013, when the new royal baby was born, the rate even decreased to 17 percent. As the society becoming modernized, the idea for republic is growing among the young British, but the UK royal family still exists as the pride of the country.
Walking along the street of London, the affection of UK people toward their royal family can easily be found. You can find it in the ornaments of the buildings, in the name of the Tube station, and in the signboard of shops. And if that is the place where tourists gathered, there must be souvenir shops full of the goods related to Queen Elizabeth. With its symbolic red buses and Big Ben, the portrait of the Queen and her family is widely used as icon showing “Britishness.”
However, the British’s love toward the tradition does not always be considered attractive. Often, it is seen as closed attitude around the foreigners. The British’s manners and their loyalty to the royal family are admired, but it is also thought to be linked to their, may I say, “ethnical” pride. This kind of perception might offend the British, but it does exist as a fear among the foreigners who have never experienced the UK yet. To be honest, I was one of them. And I could see that fear is common around me. Some even said to me that I “might be ignored,” since I am an “Asian.” Because of their pride for the tradition, we often prejudice that the British only respect “royal” and “white.”
Places that you can feel the UK tradition
One of the most famous landmarks of the UK. Since 1837, the palace has been an official residence for King and Queen of Britain. Grand and Beautiful, the palace is always full of tourist wishing for taking picture. Public access to inside of palace is normally restricted except for July to September. Try visiting the palace both day and night time. Buckingham under the moonlight will present you another impressive scene.
Victoria and Albert Museum (VA)
VA holds various relics from old British padlock to Queen’s dress. It is rather not famous than British Museum, but this would be the museum that is showing UK’s own history. Also, VA has various activity gadgets which help tourists’ understanding toward the collections. It is a big museum, so make sure to have enough time when you visit VA.
Probably the most famous religious building in the UK. It is notable for coronation and burial place of British monarchs. The bells of the church ring out beautifully that make everyone devout. It is located in walking distance with the Westminster Palace and Big Ben.
Places that you can feel the diversity of UK
Modern art gallery. You can see thousands of people enjoying millions of art pieces from billions of different countries. (Yes I am exaggerating here, but believe me it is such a good place to be.) It is a good place to make new friends while having conversation about the art. The other good point, or the best point, of this place is that its admission is free.
Brick Lane A street located in east London. It is widely known for its beautiful graffiti. You can find various thoughts indwelled in arts on the wall. Banksy, the political activist-artist, is especially famous. While walking along the street, you might forget that you are in earth – it is totally different area. The street is also famous for hot vintage shops.
It may sounds strange to recommend someone to visit post office, but try visiting one. It would be a worth enough experience. Check what I am meaning while sending postcards to your loved ones.
The Real Diverse UK
But to my surprise, the UK is a diverse country in both cultural and ethnical aspect. According to the analysis, prepared by Professor David Coleman of Oxford University for the Migration Observatory think-tank, Britain now has 20 percent of ethnic diversity and that is a higher score than that of Germany and Denmark. Also, the diversity of UK is predicted to outgrow that of the United States by 2050. Twenty percent of diversity may not impress you when it is just written in the paper, but in reality, it would be a whole different thing. And you can feel it right after you get off the plane in London.
When you step on the Tube to get to the center of the city, you may surprise that various ethnic groups gathered in one area. In country like Korea which claims to be one ethnicity nation, it is easy to distinguish who is foreigner or not. But in the UK, no one can do that, and it is such a useless thing to do. In the city area, you will be amazed with tremendous kind of world food restaurants. From Asian food to African cuisine, there is almost every meal from different countries that one might joke that it is more difficult to find “British food.”
If you have chance to visit the UK in 1st of January, do not miss the New Year’s Day Parade because it would be the most fascinating experience where the tradition of UK and diversity that they have harmonized. In the New Year’s day, various UK people make parade with special dresses that signify the UK and themselves. Kids from the elementary schools, cheer leader teams of universities, and the elderly – literally every age group can be found in the parade. In addition, the minors – the disabled and minor ethnic group – also join the parade which showing that they are also one of the parts of Britain. Enjoying the parade while mingled into each other, I could see that the parade itself being a symbol of UK’s effort to be better-opened society. In the moment, everyone around me seems to be so happy no matter who they are.
Let the Diversity Go with the Tradition
Two weeks might be too short to judge how the society is. When living as the minor, there would be tons of difficulties and problems that cannot be experienced as a traveler. But still, the UK I experienced had the social grounds for various ethnics. I do not know whether the UK is politically welcoming the incomers of their society, but their people are truly wide open. You can definitely feel it in their smile. The British cherish their tradition, and they let it shine by sharing it. Moreover, the British are making new and fresh tradition while building unique features in their society. We often think that too much diversity harm the tradition. But, the better way to care it would be to make it alive.