Is there something special about being British? We often talk about being British, English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish but is there something about coming from a certain country that is different from other countries?
What makes us British? What’s different about British society compared to other societies? What makes someone a good British citizen?
The problem with defining what is special about British society, what our core values are, is that very few people agree. Some people say that British values include tolerance, politeness, belief in freedom and the rule of law. However it could be argued that those values aren’t unique to Britain at all and that there are many cultures around the world who share the same values. In addition to this British society has been changing very quickly over the past 100 years and so with every new generation born, what being British means changes. This means that we all have a part to play in shaping the values of the society we live in.
What has changed since your parents were growing up? Are the values that you live by the same or different to the ones held by your parents and grandparents?
One of the problems of defining “Britishness” is that many people don’t feel British. Lots of people identify more with their local area, region or city. Someone from Yorkshire might feel that they are a Yorkshire man first and British second. This is because there can be a very big difference between different parts of the country. Historically there has been a ‘North-South divide’ in terms of wealth and power and this has lead to different cultures, lifestyles and attitudes at the top and at the bottom of England. To some extent this is changing now as the internet lets us share our thoughts with a wide range of people around the globe instantly and people also move around a lot more for work and to study.
How would you describe yourself? What do you feel closer to, your local area or your country?
Britishness is also a big deal when it comes to immigration. There are many people who think that immigrants don’t do enough to integrate themselves into British society and that they should be prepared to change the way they live to fit in with our society. Partly because of this the government introduced a British Citizenship Test in 2002 which people must pass to be able to be allowed to stay in the country and become a citizen. However, as highlighted in a recent Channel 4 documentary, most British people fail the test, so if even British people don’t know the answers why should we expect immigrants to?
Should there be a test for immigrants? What would an immigrant need to know to be able to integrate into British society?
Why not try the test yourself: