British Studies Web Pages

Views of Britain


Let's Talk About - Views of Britain

If you are a teacher of English, this is an activity you can use in class to encourage discussion about national stereotypes and where they come from.

Part 1

Write down the first three things which come into your mind when you hear the words 'Britain' or 'British.' Share these ideas with a partner. Are they the same? Are any of them very different?

Part 2

Now read through the extracts below. They come from the essays of Polish students who took part in the British Council's Views of Britain competition in 1997. Which ideas are the same as yours? Which are different?
    • England is a land of beer, football and bad weather (Grzegorz Nycz)

    • When an ordinary Pole listens to a conversation in which the word 'Britain' is used, tea and the queen come to his mind. (Tomek Kuninski)

    • Britain is associated with punks and football fans who are just horrible hooligans. But nobody is perfect.......... (Alicja Podrzycka)

    • .... one personality stereotype concerns the English who, as they hardly ever show their feelings, are said to be hypocritical. I believe the truth is that they are quite introverted and - as long as this feature is not exaggerated - there is nothing wrong with that. (Anna Musialik)

    • If we find ourselves in a carriage (on the London underground), we are likely to see a scene like this: a dark-skinned man has just sat himself comfortably in the corner of the carriage. From under his multi coloured beret hang thick, curled dreds (dred locks). From his walkman we can hear music which could wake the dead. An Indian woman wearing a traditional sari is trying to silence her three naughty children. A Chinese couple with a lot of shopping are blocking the carriage door ........... (Grzegorz Szafran)

    • I think that English people are quite reserved. I had to laugh when I went by tube and saw everyone sitting and reading their newspapers. (Magdalena Wasylkowska)

    • A long time before I met English, Scottish and Irish people, I got to know and I truly fell in love with British music. I remember myself singing the songs of the Beatles when I was a child and could not understand any word from the song. Later I started to listen to the music of Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton and Jon Anderson. (Malgorzata Adamska)

    • For many years England was one of the major sources of revolutionary movements....... It was England where the Industrial Revolution started. This led to new, strong political movements which aimed at social equality. (Karol Palion)

    • When I think of Britain the first thing that comes to my mind is the moors reaching the horizon, birds flying over them ......... (Marta Kolasinska)
    • The British have a high regard for their old customs and traditions. They are also very conservative. Foreigners often call all British people "English" but the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh do not consider themselves to be English. (Magdalena Wasylkanska)

    • The Young Generation in Britain is a mosaic of different races and culture. ......... Great Britain is an exceptionally friendly country for eccentric, strange people who don't fit the standard. (Anna Dygudaj)

    • ..... when I think of Britain I always see Doc Martens shoes. (Anna Misiun)

    Part 3

    Work with a partner to answer these questions:
    • Do you share any of the views above?
    • Where do people get their ideas about Britain from?
    • What images do you think foreigners have about Poland? Where do they get them from?

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