Incessant rains, love for tea, obsession with royalty and undetectable sarcasm. Well, some cultural clichés aren’t far from reality but they sure are a dangerous territory. The quirks of the British way of life can be a little daunting for a first-timer.
Deeply invested in culture, traditions and customs, Great Britain has never failed to fascinate travellers. But a visit to the British countryside might not be a viable option with the continuous spike in COVID-19 cases. We’ve got you covered. The Brits are quite unique not only in their tongue-in-cheek humour but also when it comes to culture, history and life. We've curated a list of British podcasts, travelogues and movies which will give you a glimpse of all that, from the comfort of your couch.
The Art of Monarchy
Why are we so hung up on royals? BBC's Will Gompertz tries to answer that question through art explorations in The Art of Monarchy, which offers an insight into 1,000 years of British monarchy through their art collections. The BBC arts editor examines some of the objects that have adorned, defined and described British lineage through the years. Starting his travels from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, travelling on to Balmoral in Scotland and, of course, covering Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, Gompertz not only investigates the contract between the rulers and the ruled, but also speaks to a number of historians, academicians and curators throughout the series.
The British History Podcast
As the name suggests, the podcast is a unique and stimulating look at the history of Great Britain. It’s a chronological retelling of past events with a sharp focus on the lives of the people. Going beyond dates and battles, the podcast recounts the tales of those who were ruled, their desires, fears and flaws that shaped the past, present, and future of the region.
Coasting: A Private Voyage, Jonathan Raban
A British travel writer’s documentation of his sailing trip around the British Isles, Coasting: A Private Voyage authored by Jonathan Raban is a fascinating read. Touching upon a wide range of themes including life, politics, art and love, Raban states how the sea was an escape and a revelation. His recounting of his time at sea and his encounters with its dark terrors are gripping to say the least.
Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
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Before leaving North Yorkshire which he had begun to call home, author Bill Bryson embarks on one last voyage around Great Britain. The book on his journey, Notes from a Small Island, is one of Britain’s most loved publications. It made it to number one on several bestseller lists when it was first published. Dotted with detailed observations on life in different towns and villages, Bryson wanders through Bournemouth and its neighbouring areas, reinforcing his perception of the Brits. A funny, informative and light take on his encounters with the English, this travel memoir is not only packed with great descriptions of the landscape but also anecdotes about the idiosyncrasies of the locals.
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Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot is set in Northern England of the mid-1980s and offers an insight into British culture and society of the time. Touching upon themes like gender stereotypes, class differences, police violence and references about the miners’ strike, Daldry weaves a narrative depicting ordinary British life. On the face of it, Billy Elliot is a tear-jerking account of a young lad who moves from boxing to ballet, thereby shattering age-old stereotypes. But dip below the surface and you'll find some brilliant contrasts in the imagery of the grim realities of the miners’ strike and the joy that ballet sparks in little Billy. A must-see on the list of cinephiles, this one is an emotional ride.