One of the most popular European countries for American tourists, Great Britain is an island of wondrous history, legends, influence and culture. .
The English language was greatly influenced by Germanic and Anglo-Saxon languages meshing together with some other influential European languages. Because of the vast influence of the former British Empire, English is the most widely spoken language in the world and the influence of British social structure and culture on other countries is also impressive.
Great Britain’s heritage can be seen in its castles, cathedrals, abbeys, towers, bridges, parks and architecture as well as in the pubs, shops and small towns. This small country offers a surprising variety of different regions each with its own characteristics, customs, and landscapes. The English countryside is a quilt of farmlands, rolling green hills and tiny villages.
The politics and social structure of England is the result of many years of struggle between the people, parliament and the monarchy. While the monarchy has no role in the system of government, many people still oppose it and wish to have it abolished. Others see the monarchy as a symbol of Britain’s unity, strength culture, and history. Over the years, power has gradually passed from royalty to elected representatives of the people, who usually belong to either the Conservative or Labour parties. These different representatives have established a system of public and private ownership for industry, and funding for the state health and welfare systems.
Britain’s tradition in theatrical prowess dates back to the 16th century with William Shakespeare. His plays are still performed today in his home of Stratford-upon-Avon and throughout the world. English actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Alec Guinness, and Emma Thompson and the many members of the Redgrave family stand out among other stars of the stage and screen. Most of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s world-famous musicals were born here in the heart of London years before touring to other countries.
The biggest, most popular sport in England is soccer, although rugby, cricket and golf are also widely played. The English are avid sports fans and strongly support their local teams. Many of the games are televised on the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC controls 5 of the national radio networks and 2 television networks, which have outstanding programming.
The English culture was shaped by its geographical position as an island. It had a degree of isolation from the rest of Europe, so it formed its own traditions, customs and the quirky independence that Americans have grown to love and appreciate.