English, British, or both?

And what does the rest of the family have to say?

How are the English perceived across the globe? In some countries, particularly the numerous former colonial countries, the English are regarded by many as that toffee-nosed upper-class lot with outdated, “we’re better-than-you” attitudes. In other countries, especially those boasting sun-meets-the-sea holiday destinations, the English are often seen as heavy-drinking, loud-mouthed troublemakers. And that opinion doesn’t only apply to the younger, so-called “yob” element. Many middle-aged English abroad are tarred with the same can’t-hold-their-drink, and why would they want to drink that much anyway, brush. Sadly, evidence indicates that the label is frequently not undeserved.

These attitudes, though, apply almost entirely to white English people. But England isn’t an exclusively white country; it never has been. It’s a multicultural, multi-faith, as well as no-faith country.

There are Black English and Asian English, there are English whose family origins go back to almost every corner of the world. But around the world the English can only be considered and judged by what other people in other nations experience first-hand, see on their television screens and online, or read in their newspapers. And on that basis, the English currently do not come out well. Other countries see a right-wing, white-dominated country with closed attitudes and mainly closed borders. They see a country that has deliberately chosen to step back into the past at a cost hard to understand, by splitting from its friends and near neighbours. They see a country that, putting it simply, regards itself as better than the rest.

Not a pretty picture, but does it also apply to the other nations of the United Kingdom? After all, we are all British, our passports state we are citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Four countries – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – they almost always trip off everyone’s tongue, in England at least, in that order. Is that an indication in the English mindset of the importance, in descending order, of each? Overall, we are ruled by a government firmly entrenched at Westminster in the “mother of all Parliaments”. The three other family members, though, have left home and set up parliaments or assemblies of their own, and seem much happier that way. Many in those countries want to go further and continue to push for cutting the family ties completely by gaining independence.

At one time, all Brits were often considered around the world as the same, but different. But opinions change and national differences are growing. It was only the English vote that swung the Brexit decision – the rest of the UK voted to stay in the European Union. The nations of the UK no longer generally agree over major decisions, we rarely even agree to disagree. The United Kingdom has survived in one way or another since 1603, but can it last? We may all be Brits, but not all of us, at home or when abroad, want it to be seen that way.


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