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Things I Really Wish People in The UK Would Explain To Me

Things I Really Wish People In (from?) The UK Would Explain To Me, a list, by jo

1. If I say "I'm in the United Kingdom", what am I saying? If I say "I'm in Britain", what am I saying? Are they two different things?

2. Are the traffic laws the same in England, Scotland, and Wales, and if so, can someone tell me when I'm allowed to cross the street? Other than when the little flashing man is green, I mean.

3. Speaking of which, why does Scotland have its own Parilment, and Wales doesn't?

4. I'm not touching the whole issue of Ireland/Northern Ireland, because I sincerely have no understanding of it at all... but if someone would point me to a nice explanatory website, that would be cool.

5. I don't really understand how doctors work here. There are no walk-in clinics, you have to register at doctors? I'm confused, what do you do in something that isn't quite an emergency? They sent me to the hospital because I was some weird foreign chick without a doctor, and I wanted to scream because "Hey, emergency wards are for emergencies!" (Before anyone frets, this was back in July.)

6. Can you tell me why you celebrate Guy Fawkes day? Is it yay, he failed at killing the King, or yay, he tried to kill the King, and you can to?

7. Why can I not buy a bag of flour bigger than 2 kilos in any regular store?

8. Are Scotland and Wales their own countries, or not? I'm confused by this, as Scotland is the "best little country in the world", but I thought it was part of the UK.

9. Would you say Mary was the last direct ruler of Scotland, or James? For that matter, who was the last ruler of Wales?

10. So... how come there is only either really really cheap ice cream, or really really expensive ice cream?

In unrelated news:

There's snow! It's so cute!

Also, I'm baking some cupcakes for a bakesale on Saturday (don't ask, it's easier that way), and was searching online, and am I alone in thinking that if the recipe calls for 'buying cake mix and making it entirely following the package directions, except in cupcake tins instead of a cake pan', it's not really much of a recipe?


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I can answer some of your questions.

The United Kingdom is Great Britain i.e. England, Scotland and Wales plus Northern Ireland. Britain does not normally include Northern Ireland. As far as I know the British Isles is Great Britain plus the Republic of Ireland. Make sense?

You can cross the road whenever you want. There are no “jaywalking’ laws here, as many years ago when they were deciding whether to introduce such a concept they were deemed unenforceable. This is the same in all parts of Great Britain. Cars are obliged to stop at zebra crossings and normally will although there will always be an exception. If you are crossing the road without the ‘aid’ of a zebra crossing or a green man then obviously cars have the right of way. Pedestrians are not allowed on motorways, that is the only law I can think of…

Scotland and Wales are not their own countries they are devolved administrations. They have some law making ability, particularly Scotland but I am not entirely sure how it works.

Wales has its own Parliament of sorts called the Welsh Assembly but it does not have as many law making powers as the Scottish Parliament. I think one difference is that in Wales they are not allowed to create any criminal justice legislation but they can on health care etc. Westminster still holds certain law making powers over the devolved administrations. Northern Ireland is even more complicated in terms of how its Parliament works and I won’t even attempt that.

I have never really thought about access to the doctor because I have always been ‘entitled’ to it or why we celebrate Guy Fawkes…

I can add try too:

1. Great Britain = England + Scotland + Wales
United Kingdom = Great Britain + Northern Island
and to clarify RR's comment, British Isles = Great Britain + whole of Ireland + other little islands (like the Isle of Man, which shares our Queen but has its own parliament and laws).

2. Yes. Anytime you like. Why did the chicken cross the road?

3. Scotland has a parliament and Wales has an assembly. In practice there is little difference, but as Scotland historically had its own parliament until the English shut it down I guess they wanted something back with the same name.

4. Try google.co.uk

5. We register with doctors. We have a national health service. The government is talking about introducing walk-in clinics, but in practice you can walk into almost any doctor's surgery and say you have a problem that is not quite "outpatients emergency unit of hospital" material and they will make an emergency booking. I travel for work and have done it a number of times.

6. It depends in what part of the country you live, and what your religion is. If for example you are Catholic you will probably avoid Bonfire Night celebrations in the South of England. Those around York will be more up your street.

7. Supply and demand? I sometimes wonder why it is difficult to find things like coat hangers and clothes pegs in my 'regular supermarket'.

8. Technically Scotland is a country and Wales is a principality (and Northern Island is a province). These things are quirks of history. All the same the government at some time in the past chose to request a single country code from the ISO for the entire UK. A not too dissimilar example for the USA would be to look at Puerto Rico - not a state, historically an independent country, now some kind of dependent territory, but falls under a single ISO code with the USA.

9. Queen Elizabeth the II is the last in the line of Scotish and English monarchs. The Jacobins would dispute this. I understand that Wales was ruled by a collective of Princes until the English conquered them.

10. In general the British market is very cost concious. Cost takes precedence over quality. I imagine that there is also a very small niche which favours quality. They pay more for this than other more "sophisticated" markets, such as on mainland Europe where they are more discerning about quality.

Goodness gracious, Jo. I thought you were some sort of History geek... Your Best Bet:

For a nicely interwoven tree/mangrove of the Monarch(ies):


(there are PDF downloads of the geneologies)

And for a brilliant segmented timeline of the history:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/timelines/britain/rom_saxons.shtml (this is only my starting point as I was noodling about the progress of languages in the British Isles. I highly reccomend "The Adventure of English")

And consider the Sovereign Association aspirations of a certain province back home with a "National Assembly"... That may shed some insight on the Wales/England/Scotland thingy.

Great questions and thanks to the above for their answers. I want to know if Wales and Scotland are not souvreign countries in themselves, why do they get to compete in the Olympics as such?

i have been explained this before by a home grown Englishman over many pints of beer. I dont quite remember it. Wait, its the pints of beer, I can see that now.

Thanks to you guys for the answers, but Phil's questions remains...valid....?


Hi there - Just doing the rounds of the 'Edinburgh' area blogs. There's a blogmeet on the 18th, in the Jolly Judge. More details on the Scottish Blogs website.

pass it on.

There's a GB olympic team. For football we invented it so all the home nations can enter the world cup, eurpoean cup etc.

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