Useful Notes: With Europe But Not Of It
"FOG IN CHANNEL; CONTINENT CUT OFF"The UK's rather odd relationship with the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. Not to be confused to the similar, though fiercely independent approach of Switzerland. Until about 10,000 years ago, Britain was actually joined with the rest of Europe by land — the sea levels were lower as a result of the Ice Age.
Point o' Guinness — the Irish
"We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English."The only country to fully share a border with it, Britain has a very good relationship with Ireland (usually). One of the UK's most popular airlines is the no-frills Ryanair, and Guinness is a popular alcoholic drink. The large number of ex-pats helps. British television can be picked up in Ireland.
Perfide France — the French
"The best thing I can think of between England and France is the sea."The English have fought at least 20 wars against the French since the Norman Conquest, one of which lasted for 116 years, 79 of which were an actual state of war. Before the Germans started seriously arming in the lead-up to World War I, the enemy in "invasion fiction" was the French. The earlier attempts to build a Channel Tunnel failed because of fears of the French. Today the British have a rather complex relationship with the French. They've had many differences over foreign policy, especially over The European Union (de Gaulle stopped British entry a couple of times). However, they fought together in both World Wars, signed the Entente Cordiale over a century ago and are in NATO together. In June 1940, an Anglo-French Union was seriously considered but overtaken by events. The two have recently signed a historic defensive and cooperation act, to save government military spending. Quite possibly, the pinnacle of Anglo-French collaboration was their joint design, production, and operation of what to this day remains the only financially successful commercial supersonic passenger airliner. (contrary to rumour, Concorde did turn a profit, albeit not during its whole career, the fact that it ever turned a profit at all is still news to many people), even if its Russian rival, the Tupolev Tu-144 "Charger" first flew before Concorde. It also lost an aircraft to a crash earlier, five years after it launched, in 1973 with 14 fatalities. The Concorde wouldn't have its first crash until much later in 2000, with 113 fatalities. Then there's the cultural business. The English may well mock French cuisine in their movies (mockery which is cheerfully and loudly reciprocated, with rather greater justification, by the French), but the English love to eat French food - any baker's will sell baguettes. The British upper and middle classes are also positively obsessed with French wine, with the kinds of Bordeaux aimed at the insatiable British market receiving the label "claret" (pronounced English-style with a "t" at the end) just to make things clear. Then there's the whole "booze cruise" phenomenon. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are rather cheaper in France than in the UK. Crossing the Channel between Dover and Calais via ferry or Le Shuttle is pretty cheap. So, what a lot of British people do is go across the Channel to France for a day, buy up a lot of cheap booze and cigarettes and then come back, sometimes selling or giving the produce on to their friends.
— Douglas Jerrold
- It's legal to bring an unlimited amount of stuff back from France for personal use or as a gift to give to a friend. It's not to bring it to sell, or buy it for someone else. HM Revenue and Customs set informal limits on what they'll accept as "personal use".
- There are limits on how much stuff you can bring back from more recent EU members such as Poland and Hungary, because the price difference is so great that it's asking for someone to take advantage. These limits aren't very heavily enforced though. To the extent that you can sometimes walk through the blue channel with nothing but cigarettes in your hand luggage and not be challenged.
They're taking our loungers — the Germans
"They may have beaten us at our national sport. But we beat them at their national sport twice in the 20th century."English is a Germanic Language as is German ("pardon my Anglo-Saxon" is a British way to apologise for swearing, as is "pardon my French").
- "Pardon my French" will always carry a slight jab to the French (one reason why they are used and not, say, the Germans) as though what one has just uttered should not normally issue from the mouth of a 'civilised' Brit.
- Almost all of the English language's most coarse and obscene expletives come from Anglo-Saxon roots, while many of the more polite euphemisms come from either Norman French or snide allusions to the original words (like Cockney rhyming slang), which considering the Norman Conquest, centuries of rule by French speakers and further centuries of French being the diplomatic language (it's now English, due to a mixture of the legacy of the British Empire and the political and economic influence of the US), is not exactly surprising.
Costa de los Ex-Pats — The Spanish
"The French are wiser than they seem, and the Spanish seem wiser than they are."Hostility between nations can probably be traced back to the Spanish Armada and the colonising of the Americas and such things eventually led to the popularity of somewhat "Spanish" villains in Renaissance fiction (notably in Shakespeare's "Othello"; Iago being named for the country's patron saint). For a long time Spain represented a Catholic Europe that Britain (specifically Protestant England; the Highland Scots didn't mind them so much) had been firmly sceptical of. Modern relations with Spain are fairly pleasant. Like with France, many Brits will have holiday homes in the country and enjoy the culture. In fact, it is common to see characters in British television talk of clubbing in Ibiza or big bad crime lords going to Spain to disappear for a while (although there is now an extradition treaty with Spain, it is not retroactive). There is of course, that little bit of the UK just south of Spain as well however, which has caused much dispute.
— Francis Bacon
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll — The Dutch
"My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them."Over a million Brits visit Amsterdam every year. Note that they rarely want to visit the Netherlands; it's just that Amsterdam happens to be in the country. Given the cheap and easy access in the city to virtually any sexual fetish (prostitution is a legal and, for the most part, well regulated business complete with its own union), the plentiful bars and clubs where one can buy an astonishing variety of legal soft-drugs such as cannabis and mushrooms, and the fact that Amsterdam has had a thriving underground music scene for decades, it is perhaps unsurprising that it's a common weekend trip for many of them. Some Brits also visit the rest of the country, but they are in such a minority as to be not worth mentioning.
The European Union
"That grand drama in a hundred acts, which is reserved for the next two centuries of Europe -— the most terrible, most questionable and perhaps also the most hopeful of all dramas."Despite the fact that the UK has not been successfully invaded since 1066 (some count 1688, but William of Orange was invited by English nobility), it is one of the most Eurosceptic nations in the EU. Had the French and Dutch not done it first, the European Constitution would have been rejected by the UK electorate. While the UK did vote to stay in the EC in 1975, many feel they were misled as to what the EC actually was. The current situation is that a significant majority (>70%) of British citizens want a referendum on EU membership and a majority of these would vote to leave (though as of June 2015, the pendulum has swung towards remaining in the EU, with 66% outright stating that they want to remain in it), but all three main parties ummed and aahed about it while trying to avoid calling a referendum. The Conservatives promised a referendum in 2017, if they got re-elected (which they did, with a slim majority, much to everyone's surprise). The pro-exit parties such as the UK Independence Party are still comparatively small, but the economic crisis has increased demands for withdrawal from many corners. Somewhat strangely, the SNP, who want Scottish independence, are also pro-European integration.
Special Relationship: The Colonials — Americans
"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they have tried everything else."The UK-US relationship was somewhat dicey up until the late Victorian era, due to a number of historical disagreements. The Jay Treaty, ending the revolutionary war, sums up US-UK relations pre-WWI nicely. Basically it comes down to not being worth the money for either side to start up another war for very long. Since the war, Britain and the USA have since been fairly close allies, sharing military technology and intelligence, often banding together politically against the rest of Europe, especially France (which is amusing when one considers that the exact opposite was true in earlier times, with the USA and France acting as mutual allies against English interests). The relationship can occasionally be strained, particularly when an American utters the Stock Phrase "We saved your asses in World War Two" (the civil response is usually something along the lines of "When you finally got round to it..."). It's not as hostile as Hollywood would like you to believe, though; it's not like the UK's still fighting the Revolution against the traitors (except if you're in the world of South Park). Hollywood seems to have have softened on this relatively recently though, with British characters tending to end up as Plucky Comic Relief at worst rather than all out villains. Britain being the first nation to declare solidarity with the US after the events of 9/11 probably helped. The United Kingdom was, and still is, a valuable power projection place for the United States, considering it "an unsinkable aircraft carrier" (The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier was the name of a 1984 investigative work into US bases in the UK). This is probably the reason why Britain is called Airstrip One in 1984. Europeans sometimes accuse Britain of being America's lapdog, a feeling that many Brits share - especially with regard to the Iraq war, which many accuse Britain of entering just to keep on America's good side. Popular perception has improved considerably following the election and re-election of the notably less interventionist Barack Obama. They also share another (considerably more controversial) unsinkable aircraft carrier, Diego Garcia, in the British Indian Ocean Territory.
The Bear and the Lion — Russia
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interests."The UK and Russia fought on the same side in the two World Wars, mostly because the Germans were on the other side. They also teamed up against the French in the Napoleonic Wars, too (though only after Russia had teamed up with the French and been backstabbed). Between times, it's not been a particularly good relationship, partly due to British support for the Ottoman Empire and the two nations' rivalry in the so-called 'Great Game' of power politics in Central Asia. The Crimean War is a prominent example. During the Cold War and more recently, following the rise of Vladimir Putin, Tu-95 (also now Tu-160 as well) bombers would regularly enter the UK Air Defence Zone to probe British defences, getting chased out by the RAF. The range of the Tornado F3 (the interceptor form of the Panavia Tornado) was designed to travel the long distances involved. The Eurofighter Typhoon is now taking on this role. The threat of Mnogo Nukes led to the setting up of a US radar station in Yorkshire to give warning of incoming Soviet missiles. While this gave the US about thirty minute's warning of nuclear attack, the UK only got about four, hence the term "four-minute warning". There's a bit of a diplomatic dispute going on at the moment over the murder/assassination of Alexander Litvinenko — the UK wants a Russian suspect for questioning, but the Russians refuse on grounds that their constitution prohibits extradition of their own citizens. They are, supposedly, willing to try said suspect locally, but claim the British haven't provided enough evidence. The British take this with a pinch of salt, and relations have been frosty (at best) ever since. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine and ongoing sanctions against Russia over this are not helping matters.
Ashes to Lords — Australia
"Of all God's creatures, the only ones with no evolutionary purpose are the wasp, the leopard seal and the Australian."The UK has a very good relationship with the Land Down Under, in a Vitriolic Best Buds manner. There is much gentle mocking of each other's customs and a fierce cricketing rivalry that is the most watched international cricketing contest in the UK. If there's any nationality that can expect a universally positive welcome in Britain (outside of an Ashes year) it's the Aussies. Australia is also renowned amongst many Brits to be the most British 'foreign' nation in the world, as the Aussies share the style of humour enough to laugh at British jokes and the British laugh at theirs. Generally it is regarded as a 'sunny England'Note and a prime holiday location (minus the local wildlife, of course). The beer is okay, too. The relationship hasn't always been so bright, however, even when Australia was under British Dominionship: anti-Empire sentiments existed since at least 1854, and even before then there were certain resentments against newer British settlers from those who were born in the colonies. Other events along the way (the execution of Breaker Morant, the failure of the Gallipoli landings, and Churchill's perceived abandonment of Australia to the Japanese while Australian soldiers were still required to fight in North Africa) certainly didn't help this. Despite this, the two nations share a very close bond, so much so that even Australian Republicans love England and the royal family (they maintain that they're only sticking around for Liz).
Beefeaters vs Beefeaters — Argentina
"What an unlikely pair of antagonists! The British have always fought, to be sure. No nation on Earth can be taken seriously in historical circles unless it has had at least one war with the British; it's like not having an American Express card. And yet the very idea of Britain in a contemporary war is a shock. Britain, one feels, fights in history books and not on TV."This one is probably the most fractious the UK has. The central problem is, of course, The Falkland Islands. Sovereignty has been in dispute for centuries but the problem became much more acute in the 20th century culminating in The Falklands War, a short but bloody conflict in which left nearly 1000 servicemen dead on both sides (as well as three civilians). After the collapse of the military junta that had orchestrated the invasion relations improved for a while but the discovery of oil in the waters around the islands has re-ignited tensions. Current relations are somewhat tense with periodic flare ups caused by actions such as Argentina denying port access to UK registered vessels. Another war is unlikely but relations are unlikely to improve as long as the question over sovereignty exists. Like the Germans, a considerable footballing rivalry exists, and unlike the Germans, both sides are roughly equally passionate about it. The last clash came in 2005, with England winning 3-2. Previous encounters have included the 1986 World Cup quarter final and the infamous 'Hand of God' goal by Diego Maradona, which is well remembered and widely reviled by English fans. His second goal that match, wherein Maradona ran rings around half the English team, however, is considered by the English to be one of the best footballing moments of all time, because it was just that good.
Examples of this trope in popular culture:Live-Action TV
- Root Into Europe: This British comedy mini-series poked fun at many European countries, namely France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, by having a British couple visit them. The man, Henry Root, is very skeptical of the European Union and thinks all Europeans should act more like the British. Yet at the same time the British are ridiculed too, through the character of Mr. Root, because his ideas about these peoples are extremely stereotypical. He assumes the Germans lack a sense of comedy, that the French are arrogant intellectuals, that Spaniards are lazy, Belgians are boring,...
- Rob Ager: Rob Ager is a very Euroskeptic person, also vocally supporting a political party with those ideas.