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What is the "English" culture?

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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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    Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 02:22
Hello to you all
 
Every country in the world has its own cultural heritage which people can define themselves with wether be it language, social norms, literature, folk art etc.
 
In the British isles for example each constituent nation has its own special cultral print that one can easily identify in a person or a group wether they live in Glasgow or Cape Breton.... Except for the English.
 
I mean the welsh and Irish are know for their poetic culture, lively festivals and pride (especially in the welsh case) of their language and country. They took these traites where ever they went especially the Irish and one can see that St. Patricks is celebrated more in the US than in Ireland.
 
The Scotts too have their own cultrual print especially the highlanders and there is no place like Nova Scotia and Newfounland where even the accent in kept despite the years.
 
But what is really strange is this, where is the "English" cultural heritage, what traite (other than bacon and eggs) really can identify a group of people in Cape Cod or PE iseland (typical places with High english descent concentration) as being of "english heritage".
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 03:57
Do you mean the "Anglo" culture or the "Saxon" part? I bet for outsiders -like myself- english culture is clearly unique, and different from Irish, Welsh and Scotish. I hope I am not wrong, but traditions in storytelling, like King Arthur and the Lord of the Ring stuff, seems to me clearly associated with Anglos rather than with the other groups of the British Isles.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheRedBaron Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 04:28
Culture = Cricket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Act of Oblivion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 04:49
..that is a good question...even us English struggle to define what it is to be such...out of all the Isles, i think it is the English that is most associated with being 'British'...for example, when Scots, Irish and Welsh win something, despite being 'British'...the national charcteristic is celebrated more acutely...and rightly so...the term 'English' tends to be more prominant when used in a negative context...(football hooliganism etc...i heard that some Germans call the physical discipline of children as the 'English disease' etc etc)...when in the positive, it becomes British....!!...i recall Lewis Hamilton giving an interview on tv following a successful period in the F1 season and he said something about 'pride' and being 'English', but he found the need to immediately correct himself and say 'British'...Lewis clearly feels his 'English' background but deferred to the British angle (being of black heritage adds another dimension to the question)...its interesting that despite the fact that the English football team have only one major trophy, they are still the team that everyone likes to beat and enjoy the victory the most!!!...it would good to speculate what this might be like if there was an international British football team...(its the same in cricket, every country just loves to give the English team a good whipping, but i think this because like the football team, they are being perceived as British and with all the connotations of having a crack at the old 'Empire' and beating it)... 
 
...but an English culture is difficult to define....the 'mongrol' nation as some one once called it...a mixture of lots of aspects and lot of of it mythical rather than solid...i do not think of myself as British but neither do i feel a particular defining 'Englishness' in my behaviour or character...others may see differently and have done....a foreign girlfriend once thought my doggedness (ie stubborness!), my immersion in pub culture and my willingness to fight in the face of extreme adversity and to the last for friends, family, was all typically 'English'..but they are things i observe in pretty much all nations....for that girlfriend, i tended to live up to her perceived stereotypical ideas about an Englishman....
 
...i guess it is easier to look for personal chracteristics when trying to explore a 'culture'...but as i have already said, none of these aspects are singularly English....while writing this up, i have thought hard to find something in my Englishness that i could call distinct...and i can't..!!!...everything i can come up with, i find has some origin or feature that came from somewhere else!!!...even fish and chips!!!...
 
..i am looking forward to what other have to say on this subject....i might just learn something about myself...!...all the best...AoO...   


Edited by Act of Oblivion - 21 Aug 2009 at 04:59


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 05:09

Hello to you all

Act of Oblivion mentioned an important, though some might not appreciate it, traite of "English" culture and that of the "pub culture".
 
I mean the pub as a center of social activity is interesting phenomenon since the French don't have it nor the Germans. The bar culture in America is quite similar to it (I assume).
 
Another cultural print is the Ballads and songs common to country people. I read when I searched them that the ballads common in the American South as well as songs and instruments are virtually the same as those in England. They have alot of the same themes, the same settings and the same morals.
 
Could these ballads be a traite of "English culture"?
 
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Edited by Al Jassas - 21 Aug 2009 at 05:10
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Terri Ann Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 05:45
Beer (but so many pubs are closing down, so I guess the English pub culture is dead or dying fast), cricket, football, tea, the weather, scones, gardening, Coronation Street ..................?
 
The quintessential good manners, politeness and stiff-upper-lip attitude of the previous generation (and even my childhood) seems to have died along with the good old English pub.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Act of Oblivion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 06:10
...i was going to offer up the concept of the 'English garden' and gardening as whole phenomonon in  this country....but the Japanese also have taken the 'art' to its pinnacle!!...and i guess the Scots, Irish and Welsh all have gardens as well!!...mind you, i showed around one visitor to this country and they were deeply impressed with the amount of care and attention that a lot of people had put into making their gardens nice...they to thought this to be 'typical' of the English...but once again, nothing defining...
 
.....pub culture is/was important but there are very specific ideas about what should be the idea of an English pub culture....as noted earlier, the kind of traditonal pub that perhaps does define part of English life is a dying breed.....most 'successful' pubs now are places specifically used just to get drunk, eat, and watch tv....serving food has become a way for landlords to survive as rents, price of beer and costs all rocket skyward but it never used to be that common except maybe for the odd bread a cheese ploughmans lunch....like watching tv, eating is what you did at home otherwise what was the point of going to the pub??....traditional pubs were meant to be socialising first, drinking second and thats it really...( from what i gather, the Irish still manage to maintain this kind of thing quite well, so, not really that English afterall!!)...it was the hub of a successful and prosperous society......the 'community' aspect has all but gone...the country pubs still manage to have a toehold but generally, pubs nowadays have no resemblance to what many think should be a 'proper' pub and its role in the community...you would be surprised how may old traditional pubs are now being turned into curry houses...the 'new' pub culture maybe!!....


Edited by Act of Oblivion - 21 Aug 2009 at 06:15


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 06:19
I could make a rather sarcastic comment here, but I better not. I think that the prevailing English culture down the generations was essentially class based. The three classes were always most prominent in England. In Ireland there is a certain uniformity of national ethos which blends through all the class groups. This is probably helped by our education system - 'Private schools' are not that well attended by those outside Dublin, only a bare handful in each country town attend a boarding school. So people of all classes intermingle in their schools. I like to think that class barriers outside Dublin and our other large cities aren't as important in the rest of the country, but again this is only something I've noticed through personal observation.

In England the difference seems to be much more profound in the classes, even today. The upper classes had traditional virtues such as personal courage, good manners and a strong 'can do' attitude to life. And a huge helping of patriotism. The middling classes have had and still do have a certain comic appeal based around their resentment of the upper classes and repulsion of the working class. People like the comedian David Mitchell in their various guises portray all the quirks and pleasantries of the English middle class in all its splendour. The working class I would gather built their virtues around a certain community solidarity with the 'pub' at the heart of it -> Particularly in the earlier decades of the 20th century, though some might say that that is dying out around now. The Miners strikes of the 80s, and the particularly moving social history behind it should tell all you might need to know about this section of English society.

I would say generally that the class differences in England have always been more marked than other countries - of course places like the States and France had class differences but its always seemed to me that they also had a pervading sense of togetherness -> A billionaire American will stay wave his flag proudly from his front porch, just like the poorest redneck living in some trailer outside some pokey West Virginian town. The French, after all, always have their wine, and thats not something that will disappear soon.

Of course this thesis of mine is all personal opinion and observation, and hence there is a very good chance that its all hogwash. I don't know.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 06:32
Hello to you all
 
Well, another intersting thing I have observed is this, is there actually a "one" England? I mean considering that England has more accents than the whole of the US (according to my linguist proffessor who is by the way a nationalist welshman), can we actually consider the whole of England as one?
 
Some parts of England like East Anglia and Kent are the most Germanic while Cornwall is of a primarily Celtic nature. Both counties (Kent and Cornwall and to a lesser extent Devon) from what I understand differ drastically in their culture from each other, more than lets say the North country and the Scottish lowlands. Yorkshire has a culture of its own while Lancashire remained largely Catholic compared with the rest of the country. So does this count?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Act of Oblivion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 06:58
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Hello to you all
 
Some parts of England like East Anglia and Kent are the most Germanic while Cornwall is of a primarily Celtic nature. Both counties (Kent and Cornwall and to a lesser extent Devon) from what I understand differ drastically in their culture from each other...
 
Al-Jassas
 
..that is part of the reason why i mentioned the idea of a 'mongrol' nation.....the counties can be very different in culture and heritage but also, each county can have differing cultural 'regions' within the county boundaries...i live in Kent and north Kent is as different from the coastal regions in the south.........even from one town to the next there can be a slight difference...much of this is down to the specific history of these regions (the south coast and its maritime background and the north of kent is more 'London' in its heritage, and of course the degree and content of immigration over the past 1000 years has helped to deliver a cultural feel to certain areas..also, the English Civil Wars have added a flavour of distinction which can be hard to detect but it is there..).....
 
....people can be different to in their classification....because i was born east of the River Medway i would be considered a 'Man of Kent' but someone born west of the river would be a 'Kentish Man'..effectively, it does not mean nothing really but some would hang onto this as part of the Kent English culture!!! (that and the game 'bat and trap' and apple picking!!)
 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Craze_b0i Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 07:14
Yes there are strong regional identities. The main aspect is probably the traditional North-South divide. Traditionally the south has always been wealthier and more populated, yet even here one can generalise too much - there is poverty in the inner city of London and equally there is prosperity in parts of the north that have witnessed economic regeneration. Of all the regions Cornwall maybe has the most sense of seperate identity. But despite the regional difference there is enough shared culture that one can still think of England as one country.

What that English culture is can be hard to define. Probably because Englishness became mixed with Britishness. Traditionally there is football, cricket, afternoon tea, beer and pubs. Also a great literary and poetic tradition.


Edited by Craze_b0i - 21 Aug 2009 at 07:15
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"English culture" is as diffuse an element to define as that of other imperial states when yapping about "French culture" or "Spanish culture" since in essence we are speaking of the metropolitan cores as against the myriad of distinctions discovered away from the centers of political power. Such the reason why most usually resort to the vague Western Culture as the cohesive bond. The phenomenon is certainly seen in Spanish, where the distinction between la Patria and la Patria Chica is most evident and equivalent to the uniqueness of the "shires" within an English context. Hence, how can we approach this discussion in terms any absence, since the minute one leaves the Il de France one would observe a similar phenomenon among the FrogsWink as well.
 
Not that the English are not protesting their being cast into secondary status as far as national identities are concerned--soon we will hear an intensification of the call for a purely English parliament. Personally, I view it as an essential step in the shift to a political Europe rather than the varied nation states that form the EU.


Edited by drgonzaga - 21 Aug 2009 at 07:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 07:42
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

 
Not that the English are not protesting their being cast into secondary status as far as national identities are concerned--soon we will hear an intensification of the call for a purely English parliament. Personally, I view it as an essential step in the shift to a political Europe rather than the varied nation states that form the EU.


There won't be an English parliament ever and there certainly won't be a Federal Europe for at least a thousand years(!). European citizens don't want it, the only people who seem to think its a good idea are a couple of hardy journalists and political scientists.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Justinian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 08:24
Originally posted by Act of Oblivion Act of Oblivion wrote:

...i heard that some Germans call the physical discipline of children as the 'English disease' etc etc

The Germans make fun of the English when it comes to disciplining children?Shocked 

What about English humor?  (I suppose its more British humor isn't it?)  Tea? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Act of Oblivion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 09:13
Originally posted by Justinian Justinian wrote:

Originally posted by Act of Oblivion Act of Oblivion wrote:

...i heard that some Germans call the physical discipline of children as the 'English disease' etc etc

The Germans make fun of the English when it comes to disciplining children?Shocked 

....its only what i heard some time ago on some tv programme and i did not bother to follow it up even when i once worked with some German colleagues (who called us English island monkeys!!!)...still, they got as good as they gave!!!.....and yes, maybe the 'English' sense of humour is something distinctive and to be thought about in more depth?.......Spike Milligan? the Goons? Monty Python? Stephen Fry? Peter Cook and Dudley Moore? Tommy Cooper? Benny Hill?..English or British??...


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Aug 2009 at 10:00
Fawlty Towers is quintessential English comedy. We'll be alright as long as we don't mention the war!
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There are a number of things which comprise "English" culture. What makes English so indistinct as a culture is not that England does not have one, but rather many of the norms of English culture have been adopted by some other countries (think of the white settler colonies) and as such the culture is less a distinctive norm of the central, southern and eastern 2/3s of the island of Great Britain.

Sense of humour is an important one, and perhaps one thing which does indeed remain distinctly English. I find it very hard to describe this sense of humour, save that it retains a subtlety and polite wit which many other cultures do not necessarily embrace.

The cuisine, which is simply awful. A combination of bad tasting food which is often unhealthy. A product, perhaps, of being at the furthest end of the trade routes for so long and the lack of a warm climate to cultivae some of the sweeter crops.

Music, which is often highly varied in what is produced. You have anything from the London Symphony Orchestra to the Sex Pistols. I would not say the English have a distinctive type of music all of their own (maybe I am wrong), but they have produced many of the past century's most renowned acts.

Which brings me to another point, the ability of the English to simultaneously produce high and low culture. As well as refined and rough people. One topic which has arisen often in conversation between myself and others from the former white Dominions is that our nations seem to have a larger middle class. England, on the other hand, has a larger and more privileged upper class, a smaller middle class, and a larger underclass. This may be one reason why, compared to some of their culturally similar former colonies, England continues to possess a striking juxtaposition of high and low culture.
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Parnell, hand me your lupins, please!
 
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Oh geeze. I know the answer to this so inimately I can hardly describe it! Comedy for starters, watch to see English culture and to see it made fun out of (after all, what's the point of having culture without making fun out of it). Monty Python has got to be a stirling example! So does the Hitch Hickers Guide to the Galaxy.
Maybe then progress to think about English Public Schools, where Rugby is high-society and women sue for seeing a snail.
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Beer, The Sun, football, and Sunday Roast.
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And scones.
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Another one I forgot to mention is that many have a quite decent interest in or knowledge of history. In many cases in the last thousand years their country has played a prominent role in European historical affairs, and a very prominent role in global affairs over the past several centuries. The English seem to take a lot of pride in preserving an interest in history through the maintenance of old castles, conducting historical re-enactments of battles, funding some of the best quality humanities programs at university level worldwide, making references to history in the media, hanging on to old vestiges of the past like peerage and monarchy.... the examples just keep coming. I think the English stand out distinctly in this regard.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Aug 2009 at 02:26

Hello to you all

I have been always lead to think that the American south has more in common with what can be classified as "traditionally" english than any other place in the world especially that the most Southerners are actually of English heritage.
 
I read a linguistic study once that say the dominant accent in certain places in NC coast are closer to those of England than any other place in the US which is interesting.
 
A question here is, were there any anthropological studies about this subject?
 
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That is a difficult question in which to ascertain an "English" parallel. Albeit, Americans are quite fanatical about geneaology and are often not too keen upon discovering the truth. Now, with regard to the US South, strangely enough with the exception of the tidelands, settlement was mostly a product of internal migrations during the years 1720-1820. For example, the Lewis family of Georgia are descendants of a Welsh Lewis that migrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s and moved down the Appalachian trail first into the northern portions of the state and later to points further South after the expulsion of the Amerind tribes in the 1830s. Likewise, many colonial individuals of Scotch-Irish ancestry did the same, a classic example is Andrew Jackson. Often, people assume a vast drift Westward from the coasts but such is not apt in early patterns for the populations of the southern interior. Interestingly, sociologists have argued for a new definition breaking down the old classifications on ancestry premised upon "European Origins" and the time frame of population movements; ergo, they now speak of "colonial stock" and "European immigrants" with 1790 being the cut-off point. Under that arrangement 53% of "European" Americans are of colonial stock ancestry (interestingly enough prominent throughout the country but specially noticeable in the US South) but origins in "England" is another matter entirely as such actually confuses the character of Welsh, Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots as well as obscures the French Huguenots of the Carolina tidelands that reached the colonies through England. Then there are the descendants of French and Spanish European origins that were already in the Americas by 1790. There are also the German and Dutch populations of the colonial period that are noticeable in the Middle Atlantic states and have to be considered distinctly from the waves of European immigrants between 1830-1890. These later immigrants constitute the remaining 47% of Americans with European origins in the current population. Here is an interesting observation as Wiki summarizes it:
 
European Americans are largely descended from colonial American stock supplemented with two big waves of immigration from Europe. Approximately 53 percent of European Americans today are of colonial ancestry, and 47 percent are descended from European immigrants who came to the U.S. since 1790. Today, each of the three different branches of immigrants are most common in different parts of the country. Colonial stock, which is comprised mostly of people of English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish descent, may be found throughout the country but is especially dominant in the South. Some people of colonial stock, especially in the Mid-Atlantic States are also descendants of German and Dutch people immigrants. The vast majority of these are Protestants. French descent, which can also be found throughout the country, is most concentrated in Lousiana, while Spanish descent is dominant in the Southwestern United States. These are primarily Roman Catholic and were assimilated with the Louisiana Purchase and the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, respectively. The first wave of European migration came from Northern and Western Europe between about 1820 and 1890. Most of these were from Ireland, Germany, Britain, the , and Scandinavia, and with large numbers of Irish and German Catholics immigrating, Roman Catholicism became an important minority religion. Their descendants are dominant in the Irish descent is also common in urban centers in the Northeast. The second wave of European Americans arrived from 1880 to the 1920s, mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe. This wave included Greeks, Poles, and other Slavs, Portuguese, and Eastern European Jews from Poland and Russia, boosting the Catholic population further and introducing a significant Jewish minority into the country. Their descendants are dominant in the Northeastern United States. With large numbers of immigrants from South and Central America, White Hispanics have increased to 8% of the US population; Texas and Florida are important centers and there they constitute some 40% of the population.
 
An important factor to consider is the growing awareness among the US populations of their actual ancestry as seen from the data drawn by the US Census Bureau. In the 1980 census, some 49,598,035 people considered themselves "English", yet in the 2000 census this number had dropped to 24,509,692! Interestingly enough in 1980 only 16,418 people considered themselves Scotch-Irish but 20 years later 4,319,232 did so. Populations tracing their ancestry to Wales, Spain, and most other European states (with the exception of France) either remained stable or experienced growth.
 
Now to Al Jassas specific inquiry: A question here is, were there any anthropological studies about this subject?
 
Anthropologists, well hardly, but Philologists aplenty: here is a perfect jump-off point--
 


Edited by drgonzaga - 22 Aug 2009 at 04:35
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ulrich von hutten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Aug 2009 at 04:40
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Aug 2009 at 02:19

What about Australia-NewZealand particularly the latter. In both countries the Anglican church is still strong which indicate high level of "English" ethnic presence. What kind of English culture may exist there?

 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Windemere Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Aug 2009 at 05:48
It's true that the English don't seem to have much of an "ethnic" identity. Other ethnic groups (including Scottish) have their cultural celebrations and festivals, while the English don't seem to have any. I think possibly this may have come about because the English were the original colonial settlers, and thus had no need to make any effort to preserve their culture. Their's was the prevailing culture. As succeeding ethnic groups settled in the region, being a minority, they made a conscious effort to band together and institute ethnic-based groups and events in order to preserve their heritage, and this has persisted down the generations. I suppose if there were to be a 'new wave' of English immigration into the region, they might do the same thing. The descendants of the original settlers, though, never really had a need to create ethnic institutions.
 
They did however, constitute an elite upperclass establishment for many years. Being aware of their somewhat privileged economic position, they may have been too circumspect to indulge in ethnic festivities, they probably wanted to keep a low-profile and not draw too much attention to themselves. Meanwhile, the working-class English colonial descendants intermarried with the immigrant ethnic groups, and were absorbed into the 'ethnics'.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Aug 2009 at 07:14
What greater "ethnic" festivity than the Opening of Parliament or even the rarer Coronation ceremony? But, one has to admit a bit of discomfort over all those Germans parading about as English royalty!Evil Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Aug 2009 at 10:56
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

What about Australia-NewZealand particularly the latter. In both countries the Anglican church is still strong which indicate high level of "English" ethnic presence. What kind of English culture may exist there?

 
Al-Jassas


I wouldn't place much emphasis on the religious aspect in places like Australia and New Zealand. Attitudes towards religion here are very casual, and very few people take it seriously and make it a central part of their life or identity.

Something like one quarter to one third of the population may be nominally Anglican, but actual church attendance among Christians here is only at 8%. And I would be willing to bet the Catholics are more keen to attend church than Anglicans.

In many other ways, though, Australia and New Zealand show strong cultural links to England. In Australia there is the Irish influence which meshes with English to produce most of what is culturally Australian. In New Zealand, the strong Irish heritage is instead replaced with a strong Scottish one.

The legal system, government, economic system, language (Australian English is closer to Anglo English than American English), cuisine, music etc all show strong similarities to English culture, as well as American in some cases.

There are differences, naturally. Clothing is less bulky or formal, to reflect the need to live in a hotter climate. Society is also more egalitarian, with the idea of a privileged aristocracy being totally unacceptable to Australian sensibiliies. Australians and New Zealanders are also highly informal not only towards one another but also our leaders. Australian humour also contains its own quirks, such as what is known as 'dead pan' humour, which differs from the English.
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