There are some pretty well-known stereotypes about Brits, most of which are genuinely spot on. Whatever the question, tea is the solution. Wherever you go, an umbrella is of utmost importance. And whatever you want, you'll have to politely line up for. But, how to experience these essential British-isms when traveling there? It's not enough to simply book a flight to London, and browse the well-trodden tourist haunts (likely, in the rain). No, you have to really immerse yourself in the culture, and embrace all the lovable quirks of the Brits and their customs. Here's how.
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Indulge in the poshest afternoon tea at Claridge's
Listen up, afternoon tea is a real big deal. Brits are as attracted to tea as bankers are to coke. Seriously, don't snort at the comparison (see what I did there?), there's nothing like the 4pm custom. As soon as mid-afternoon rolls around, young and old quake with excitement about upcoming bliss – AKA dipping chocolate biscuits into their milky English breakfast tea. Yep, if you want to drink your tea like a local, go for milk but no sugar. Nowhere is better to practice this vital tradition than at a locale dedicated to the art of afternoon tea. If you're in London, you must head to Claridge's, one of the most luxurious, iconic hotels in the city center. They've literally spent 150 years perfecting their fresh scones (with cream and jam – a must), sweet pastries, and, of course, otherworldly tea. If you're up north, head to Bettys Tea Rooms for tea with dainty sandwiches, quaint surroundings, and a glass (or three) of bubbly.
Browse real life Downtown Abbey AKA Highclere Castle
PSA: North Americans get, like, A LOT more excited about royalty and castles than any of their British contemporaries. Ask most Brits about their affection for the royal family and you'll be met with a characteristic shrug or grumble that they're a "waste of taxpayers' money." That being said, you won't get a taste of charming British architecture and the nation's history without visiting at least one castle on your stay. Sure, you could join the hordes of tourists taking pics of Buckingham Palace's incredibly grey exterior, but you should consider visiting Highclere Castle instead. Hit period drama Downtown Abbey is set there, and although you won't be able to kid yourself that everyone in Britain is as well-spoken as the characters on it, the Victorian estate doesn't disappoint. At the on-screen home of the Crawley family, you can tour the castle and its epic grounds, take photos aplenty, and, obviously, visit the tea rooms and gift shop.
Eat soggy fish and chips on an overcast beach
Back to food, obviously. Now, Britain doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to its cuisine, but we're here to tell you why exactly that's so unfair. Comforting pub grub is always a win, some of the Indian food in London has gotta be better than in India itself (seriously, go to Dishoom), and the iconic dish of 'Fish and Chips' is famous for good reason. There are a few ways to do this meal justice. For starters, don't call the chips 'fries' – British chips are thick, hot, and best served with a good dollop of vinegar. Second, take your battered cod (yeah, that's what you should get) out of the restaurant itself and to the beach to munch. You simply can't do the meal justice if you're in London – though Hook in Camden is pretty damn good – so you have to venture to a seaside town. As you'd expect, it'll be raining nine times out of 10, but there are some spots so tasty that you won't even realize. VIVA's recommendations? Family-run Bardsley's in Brighton, Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop in Suffolk, and Chez Fred in Bournemouth.
Drive by iconic Stonehenge, then swiftly move on
Assuming you know what Stonehenge is – a prehistoric stone circle and ancient wonder of the world – you might be tempted to spend a while checking it out. After all, it has been dubbed, "Britain's greatest national icon, symbolizing mystery, power and endurance." This is spectacularly inaccurate. If you want to celebrate endurance, celebrate how many pints Brits can have in a row whilst remaining both stoic and sarcastic. But if you do want to see something that's both incredibly important and incredibly boring then feel free to visit the landmark. It's in the middle of nowhere, and, if you haven't already clocked, is made up of a selection of big rocks that are fairly unremarkable. Therefore, we advise you experience Stonehenge like a true Brit. Get in the car, drive past it, make a brief remark about its existence, then continue driving on your merry way. To the pub, or something like that.
Queue for a solid 8 hours for tennis at Wimbledon
Considering all the hours spent being couch potatoes and analyzing to what extent Brexit will fuck them over, the country genuinely doesn't suck in terms of sporting prowess. Football (soccer, to you) is what Saturday afternoons are made for, cricket and rugby are both a BIG DEAL, and the rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge uni is as pretentious as it is celebrated. But, there's one event that stands proudly as the most British summer past-time, and that has to be Wimbledon. The tennis championships really are a two week-long experience that will stick with you forever. That might only be because the queue for on-day ticket sales lasts nearly as long, but arrive early, bring a picnic and sunny disposition, and you can't not leave happy. Of course, you might luck out and get tickets at the overseas ballot, but seeing the tennis is only part of the fun. The enjoyment also comes from photographing the oldest (and coolest) tennis tournament in the world, and lapping up warm Pimm's and extortionately-priced strawberries and cream.
Stay disgustingly drunk the entire Glastonbury Fest
Last but not least, it's time to explore Britain's fantastically unhealthy binge-drinking culture in a little more detail. Of course, you could just witness it at any pub or club across the country, where typically reserved Brits slowly but surely come out of their shell. But, you might as well combine it with one of the world's most incredible music festivals, Glastonbury. Though getting tickets for it might be even trickier than getting 'em for Wimbledon (see above), the five-day extravaganza is well worth the agony. Every summer the small British town transforms its fields into the muddiest, funnest playground around, and though it always attracts big names (Adele, Muse, Bastille and Jay-Z, to name but a few), it's the culture that's really infectious. By that we mean the fact you'll spend the entire festival happily wasted. Which is just as well, because it'll distract from the fact that toilet facilities are a nightmare and your tent will be 100 percent sodden.
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