What the World Wants to Know About Britain
Here at The Original Tour, we are lucky to experience cultures and beliefs from around the world, all thanks to the thousands of international visitors we get every year.
Since June 2016 however, there’s one question that is frequently asked on our bus tours: ‘Why did Britain leave the EU?’
As this is a question that we don’t quite know how to answer, we’re going to do what most politicians do; answer lots of other questions instead.
We’ve analysed Google search terms to see what other questions the world has about Britain. Needless to say, it made for a mixed but interesting read. Germany wants to know why we’re all so ugly and Spain is wondering why we all have such bad teeth...hardly complimentary - see for yourself!
So, let’s steer away from Brexit, bad teeth and general ugliness and answer some different questions instead.
New Zealand asks: Why are the British called poms?
‘Poms.’ The term paints an image that’s for sure. Think middle-aged man in his cricket overalls smoking a pipe. It’s a phrase that was first coined by the Aussies and there are several explanations as to how it came to be. Some say the phrase dates back to around 1912, when the Australian rhyming phrase ‘Jimmy Grant,’ used to describe a British immigrant, changed to ‘pomegranate’ or ‘Pommy Grant.’ The reference to pomegranate is an obvious one to explain. All those pasty chaps with their top hats visiting Australia turned a lovely deep pink colour in the sun. The other well-known myth is that ‘poms’ is simply an acronym for ‘Prisoner of her Majesty.’
The USA enquires: Why are the British so good at waiting?
We assume that ‘waiting’ refers to our perfected queuing technique, which offers a comforting sense of order to Britain. Queuing can’t be traced back to a certain point in history. Unfortunately, nobody was around to witness the exact time when people miraculously stood in a line one after the other and hailed it a queue. However, there’s an explanation as to why the British are so well-known for their orderly queuing habits. During World War II, British people queued patiently every day in order to receive their rations. During this time, government propaganda was centred on ‘doing your duty and taking your turn.’ It was this, paired with imagery of orderly ration lines that secured Britons the title as the most patient queuers in the world.
Belgium asks the timeless question: Why does Britain drive on the left?
Belgium isn’t alone when it comes to asking this particular question. Maybe to the rest of the world Britain’s refusal to drive on the right is seen as a weak attempt at being different. Well, Britain isn’t trying to be annoying on purpose. The tradition of driving on the left-hand side actually dates back to a time when Britain was a feudal and violent society. Carrying a sword was a necessity when travelling as you were never quite sure who you were going to meet. Brits kept to the left of the road on horseback as most people wielded a sword in their right hand. If people passed one another from the right, it meant that it was easier to defend yourself. Some habits are never broken.
What Britain Wants to Know About the World
We’ve covered questions that the world wants to know about Britain- but what do we want to about other countries across the globe? We compiled the most interesting questions using Google autocomplete and answered some of the nation’s ponderings.
We want to know why Swedish people are so happy. Perhaps we’re jealous?
Sweden frequently appears in articles that list the world’s happiest countries. We’re not so sure why? Their taxes are eye wateringly high and during the winter months temperatures can drop to -30 degrees. What’s to be so happy about?
Well, as a country, Sweden is pretty much good at everything. They have a competitive economy, public services that actually work how they’re supposed to (thanks to the higher tax rate) and an effective education system. In fact, with a high life expectancy, you could even argue that they’re better at staying alive. One of the most noticeable differences between Sweden and Britain is attitude. Ingrained into the Swedish way of life is frugality; everything in moderation. This approach extends into every aspect, from work-life balance to monetary wealth. They also embrace the hygge concept of finding happiness in the small things. An example of ‘hygge’ filled day might look something like this: A healthy brunch whilst reading a book, a country walk with the dog, board games with the family, hot chocolate and a roaring fire. Cozy, content and calm. The hygge phenomenon did reach Britain. Unfortunately, we misconstrued the idea and raced to Ikea to buy sand coloured throws and a variety of candles.
It seems we’re taking an interest in the environment. So, why is China so polluted?
Britain’s interest in air pollution is probably founded through the decreasing quality of our own air. It’s no secret that air quality is declining, especially with the government planning to ban all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. China’s situation is caused by a variety of factors. There’s the usual pollution from industries and traffic but this is exasperated further by China’s dense population. During the winter months, smog can be particularly bad. During this time cold temperatures mean that people are cranking up the heating and most of the energy comes from coal-fired power plants. The sheer amount of burning coal sends small dust particles into the air, causing decreased visibility and an abundance of health risks.
As a country obsessed with appearance we ask why do Egyptians wear eyeliner?
Now, it’s unlikely that Britons visiting Egypt are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of eyeliner that’s worn there. Those living in Egypt do not resemble a British teenager going through a grumpy ‘grunge’ phase. However, Ancient Egyptian pharaohs shaped the beauty and cosmetics industry as we know it, believing that makeup and cosmetics gave them protection from gods Horus and Ra. Eyeliner, in particular, is thought to have been invented in Ancient Egypt by grinding together ores such as galena and malachite into a black substance called kohl. Aside from smouldering eyes, eyeliner was applied by both sexes because it was thought to warn off eye evil. While that may seem somewhat superstitious, experts say that that it actually did protect their eyes against infection.
We want to know why Cuba doesn't have internet. Would Britain even function without Wi-Fi?
Internet connectivity in Cuba is sparse. In 2015, only 6% of homes had Wi-Fi. Here in Britain, that figure stands at over 90%; the internet is a necessity. Think about it; you’re alone on a train so you get your phone out, check Facebook and upload part of your journey as an Instagram story. You get lost on a road trip, so you consult Google maps. Does anyone even use a paper map?
A state-owned telecom company is the main provider of internet in Cuba. The government has opened around 237 public Wi-Fi hotspots which can be easily spotted across the island. Just look out for crowds of people gathering in a zombie-like state holding a phone. However, Cubans pay $2 per hour for the privilege. The Cuban government says that the country is behind when it comes to the internet because the US trade embargo prevented them from introducing a new network- they simply don’t have the funds to buy the equipment. However, critics believe that the government has intentionally limited the already censored internet access to prevent Cubans from accessing outside information.
Why is Colombia overrun by hippos?
In the early 1980’s, infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar felt that he needed a new project. Instead of buying himself a new pet dog, he decided to build himself a zoo, smuggling lions, ostriches, giraffes and elephants. Four hippos were also among these exotic animals who came to live in Escobar's huge country estate near the Colombian town of Doradal.
After Escobar was killed in a gunfight in 1993, Colombian police seized his estate and sent the animals to legal zoos. However, as nobody fancied wrestling a 1,800kg hippo, all four of them remained. The decision to let the hippo harem roam the countryside of Doradal would have a big impact.
Colombia doesn’t have crocodiles and lions wandering around, which meant that the four hippos were free to breed without the threat of predators. Now, it’s estimated that there are approximately 50 to 60 hippos roaming freely. While it’s easy to believe that these vegetarian mammals pose no threat, adult hippos can be very territorial and often aggressive.
We want to know why Tonga is known as ‘the Friendly Islands.’ Are they really THAT nice?
Tonga comprises of 176 islands, 36 of which are inhibited. With its white sandy beaches, luscious palm trees and sapphire seas, one might presume that its glorious surroundings are the reason for the friendly nature of its inhabitants. I mean, compare Tonga’s seafronts to British seasides; depressed looking donkeys, dodgy slot machines and enough burger vans to give you coronary heart disease. It doesn’t do much to inspire an affable disposition. Tonga’s positive nickname actually derives from the warm, friendly reception they gave to Captain James Cook and his crew when they landed on the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua. The island’s inhabitants welcomed him with ‘not so much as a sick in their hands,’ which is always a nice thing to do. Cook and his men then enjoyed a lavish feast, packed full of the Tongan delicacies. Cook was so impressed with the hospitality he received, he named Tonga ‘the Friendly Islands.’ It’s since been suggested that there was actually a plot to kill Cook and his men before looting their ships, by luring them into an opportune area of the island. Perhaps their ‘friendly’ status is a little bit precarious? Fortunately, due to infighting between the island’s chiefs, Cook and his men set sail without so much as a whiff of their real intentions.
There’s so much that we don’t know about other countries and nationalities. What other questions and interesting facts do you have? Tweet us @Original_Tour and let us know!