Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

Nationality in Britain

by : 
Ellen Baston

UK, GB, British Isles – What’s in a name? Nationality, or national identity, can be a complex issue for those of us from Britain. Take me for example. I was born in England, but my Mum is Scottish and my Granny is from Northern Ireland. Now I live and study in Scotland. So what am I? I am both English and British. But can I claim my Scottish and (Northern) Irish nationalities as well? And why don’t we all just say we’re ‘British’?

When we Brits travel abroad we often confuse people as we try to explain why we have such muddled identities. So let me try to shed some light on the issue… The skinny island that contains England, Scotland and Wales is called Great Britain (GB). When you include Northern Ireland (the country in the north-eastern part of Ireland) we call it the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). And the British Isles are both GB and Ireland as well as all the little places lying off the coast, like the Isle of Man.

But beyond these geographical terms, it’s impossible to separate nationality from national pride. Everyone’s passports describe them as ‘British citizens’ but many will choose to identify themselves as Welsh or Northern Irish, for example. Each of the ‘home nations’ (as we refer to the four countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) has a unique culture and heritage that means they stand apart. There are even different languages such as Welch and Gaelic, as well as different patron saints and national holidays. And perhaps the most important separation of all: each nation has its own football team!

People tend to be passionate about their nationality and most Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish hate being labelled as English! Many feel that their countries are forgotten or overlooked by people abroad. I’ve met lots of people who have real difficulty convincing people that Scotland is a country and not an area of northern England! Of course there many other issues that play a part in determining your national identity. Many people have strong links to other countries, far from Britain. They might describe themselves as ‘British Asian’ or identify with the country that their parents or ancestors come from. And it is important to remember that Irish history makes the issue even more complicated and emotive.

Phew! So the next time you ask someone who speaks British English if they are indeed English, don’t be surprised if they say ‘no!’ At least now you’ll be able to understand why they’re able to be such a mix of nationalities!

Discussion

Did you learn anything new by reading Ellen's post? If you want to find out more about the UK have a look at this video called Four Nations.

Comments

Forever_in__dream's picture
1505x
21x
Forever_in__dream 3 March, 2016 - 13:17

Oh, finally I've sorted out all this information about the UK. I didn't understand this ealier. So, thanks a lot for your help.

up
0 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
105886x
779x
Jonathan - Coor... 3 March, 2016 - 14:18

That's great! It can be confusing but this blog explains it well :)
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

up
0 users have voted.
Pitaloka's picture
6159x
44x
Pitaloka 23 August, 2013 - 10:38

Thank you, I've learned alot from this article. Make me know the differences between GB or UK, but I prefer to love them both!

up
0 users have voted.
quangteo's picture
809x
7x
quangteo 17 June, 2013 - 17:34

Hello everybody!
I'm from vietnam. My country is beautiful but i want go to UK only once time because there are many facemous artict in here. I want see them

up
0 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
105886x
779x
Jonathan - Coor... 6 December, 2012 - 16:55

Hi! I'm back with another question. You're absolutely right, London's in Great Britain and it's the capital city of England, but is it ...

A) in the centre of England?

B) in the north of England, on the border with Scotland?

C) an island off the south coast of England?

D) in the far south-west of England?

E) somewhere else?

Let's see who's fastest with the right answer. Happy guessing!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

up
0 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
105886x
779x
Jonathan - Coor... 26 February, 2013 - 03:01

That's right, London's in the south-east. Well done ilda! Top of the class for geography!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

up
0 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
105886x
779x
Jonathan - Coor... 25 November, 2012 - 04:42

Hi rando. Good question! Ellen didn't mention that. 

I won't answer your question just yet. Instead, it's quiz time for all of you: 

Where is London?

Maybe one of our very smart users will come up with the answer...

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

up
0 users have voted.
bingogo's picture
2141x
11x
bingogo 27 October, 2012 - 12:53

My land torn apart because of different nations, which made that country. I hope it will not happen to UK.

up
0 users have voted.
Ellen Baston's picture
206x
1x
Ellen Baston 17 October, 2012 - 19:20

Thank you Sizar! 

Sometimes it is easy to forget to stop and appreciate what we have! And you're right, it is wonderful to be able to move around and experience a mix of cultures.

It is definitely worth coming to visit Scotland, it is truly beautiful here!

up
0 users have voted.
Sizar Torres's picture
7105x
38x
Sizar Torres 11 October, 2012 - 22:26

Hi..
Well about three years ago ,I was taught and learnt many new facts about UK ,especially Edinburgh , andI really liked it ,it really looks amazing! I'd like to visit Scotland one day..
I think that you are lucky! you know why? cause you now have three different nationalities , you know at least a little bit about these three different cultures and traditions , what a beautiful thing!
When you visit Scotland or Ireland you feel it's your country , you feel free, and you won't feel homesick,
For me it's very difficult to leave my country and even my city ,even if it was for tourism , I really feel homesick!
Finally I feel that it is beautiful to have different nationalities..
Thanks for this fascinating article.

up
0 users have voted.