From crows in the Tower of London and sheep on London Bridge, to swimming on Christmas Day and mother-of-pearl encrusted suits, London is a city full of unique customs and traditions. One of the most unusual British traditions is the Gloucester cheese rolling, which takes place every spring holiday Monday of the year. Participants and visitors from all over the world gather at 12 o'clock in the afternoon to take part in or witness this sport that dates back to the 15th century. It is believed that people used to perform activities similar to harvest rituals during this time.
The birth of afternoon tea is another interesting custom that originated in 1840 when Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, requested snacks between lunch and dinner. She began inviting her friends to join her for tea and snacks, and this became a regular occurrence. The competition between Oxford and Cambridge dates back to 1829 when two friends, Charles Wordsworth (Oxford) and Charles Merrivale (Cambridge), challenged each other. Glastonbury is a contemporary art festival held at Worthy Farm in the south west of England.
It was founded by Michael Eavis in the 1970s and has become one of the most popular festivals in the world. Another iconic British symbol is the red telephone booth, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924 and released by the post office as K2 two years later. Horse racing is another popular tradition in England that dates back to the 12th century when English gentlemen brought Arabian horses back from the Crusades. These horses were crossed with English horses, giving birth to the thoroughbred horse which is used for racing in the United Kingdom today.
Cheese rolling is another fun event that involves chasing a Double Gloucester cheese ball down a hill. Steak is also a very popular dish among English people. When you think of Great Britain, you imagine people drinking tea, wearing bowler hats and stuffing themselves with fish and chips. Sports, food and music are deep-seated traditions in Britain, as well as some regional languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Welsh.
To understand British customs, it's important to understand the differences between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. England is a section of the island that is part of Great Britain along with Scotland and Wales. The United Kingdom contains all of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Most people in Britain are white, speak English and are Christian although many people who are not religious still follow British customs in relation to traditions, events and social customs.
Royal traditions have been respected in England for over 1000 years and are still recognized as part of the UK's cultural norms today. English people are usually quite private but since London has such a diverse population you'll see many different habits and customs in your daily life.