When one speaks of the English, one can mistakenly mean all the nations living within the borders of the United Kingdom — Scots, Welsh or Irish. The difference between these nations is great enough for everyone who lives in Britain, but for the outside world it is less apparent.
The national character of the English has been described in different ways, but most commentators agree over one quality, which they describe as a serene sense of superiority or “insular pride”. English patriotism is based on a deep sense of security. Englishmen as individuals may have been insecure, threatened with the THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS loss of their job, unsure of themselves or unhappy in many ways. But as a nation they have been secure for centuries. Like any other society, the English like to create an agreeable picture of themselves – the majority like to think that the important national values are tolerance, decency, moderation, consensus and compromise.
The English display a surprising unity in a crisis. They are a well-disciplined people – they have a strong sense for public order. However, the strong sense for conformity is in sharp contrast to the extraordinary toleration of individual eccentricities. This is perhaps explained by their well-known THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS politeness. It is probably no exaggeration to say that they have the best manners in the world. They all know how to hold their knife and fork and how to behave in society. Travellers are often struck by the fact that life in Britain is less noisy. Coarse expressions are hardly ever used. Even the word ‘no’ seems to be avoided – ‘sorry’, ‘I’m afraid not’ are the most typical substitutes.
The single best-known quality of the English is probably their reserve – ‘the stiff upper lip’, the ability to stay calm in a difficult or upsetting situation. The THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS apparent coldness of Englishmen has been almost universally noted by the foreigners. But they also confess that once one gets to know an Englishman better, he turns out to be a very companionable fellow. The English humour, another important characterization, is first of all the ability to laugh at oneself.
The typical feature of the English is their love of games. Games are nowhere as popular as in England. They love playing all of them. They play football and cricket, golf and tennis, they love gambling – races and lotteries. But however childish at their games might be, they THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS are very serious in business.
There is a striking contrast between the reputation of the English as hard-headed practical men and as the men of poetry – the countrymen of Shakespeare and Shelley, Keats and Wordsworth, Byron and Blake. On the other hand, English tradition in philosophy has always been realistic and hostile to mysticism. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, someone described as an ‘intellectual’ usually feels embarrassed rather than flattered. On the whole, they prefer practical common sense to pure logic.
All cultural stereotypes, however attractive or unattractive they might be, exist for a reason, and can often be traced to THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS specific events in history. It’s hard to understand some common jokes if you’re not acquainted with the widespread opinions about the national characters. Most jokes about Scots are based on the opinion that they are stingy. However Scots themselves would probably disagree with it, saying that they are just thrifty. Also, they say about themselves that they are ‘Penny wise, pound foolish', meaning that they can be very careful or mean with small amounts of money, yet generous, wasteful and extravagant with large sums.
A list of Scottish character traits might also include: passionate, sentimental, hospitable and THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS socially friendly, loyal and fiercely patriotic however misguided this might be, defeatist, alcoholic, rugged, prone to violence, good at engineering. In sharp contrast to the Scottish frugality and common sense is their reflectiveness, a tendency for the maudlin, and a romantic longing for a different state of affairs however unlikely they might be. On the whole, Scots consider themselves talented, and admit that they don’t tolerated stupidity in others, which probably contributes to their cynical sides.
In general the nation of modern Scotland derives from three main racial sources. The Celts, the Scandinavians (or Teutons THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS) and the mysterious and shadowy Picts. These Picts, historically speaking, were the first inhabitants of what we now call Scotland. They were a small tough people. They have left their strain in the blood and occasional marks in the land and language. They were conquered by the invading Celts from Ireland who, incidentally, were called Scots and from whom the name of the modern nation comes.
Later, however, the Celts retreated into the north-western hills and islands, their place in the east and south lowlands being taken by the Scandinavians, Teutons and Angles. Hence the celebrated division of the THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS Scottish people into Highlanders and Lowlanders.
It was a division which marked the distinction between people of different culture, temperament and language. It is from the Celts that there comes the more colourful exciting and extravagant strain in the Scots – the Gaelic language and song, the tartan, the bagpipes, the Highland panache, and so on. It is from the Lowland strain that there comes the equally celebrated Scottish tradition of dourness, implacability and splendid courage in defence, providing a complementary virtue to the splendid Highland courage in attack. The cautious, dry, humourless, mean, red-nosed Scot is, of course THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS, a stock figure for stage, fiction and comic picture postcard use. But in so far as this admittedly highly comical, and sometimes even affectionately regarded figure, touches reality at all he derives from certain Lowland characteristics.
"The so-called Irish temperament is a mixture of flaming ego, hot temper, stubbornness, great personal charm and warmth, and a wit that shines through adversity. An irrepressible buoyancy, a vivacious spirit, a kindliness and tolerance for the common frailties of man and a feeling that 'it is time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him' are character traits which THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS Americans have associated with their Irish neighbors for more than a century" (Carl Wittke, a historian).
In the past, all agreed on the warm-heartedness, inquisitiveness, and social disposition of the Irish; whereas, on the dark side, their indolence, proneness to fight and riot, inclination to lawlessness, and lack of forward thinking were commonly mentioned. The Irish are often teased for what some call "Irish logic." But still they are renowned for their gifts as storytellers and admired for the lyrical constructions of their daily talk. The gift of eloquence, or "the Blarney," is widely believed to THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS be an Irish quality, one that is much prized, and every year thousands of tourists come to Cork "to kiss the Blarney stone." Although English is not the native language of Ireland, in Britain, the Irish literary achievement—the long roll-call of names that includes Spenser, Congreve, Swift, Sheridan, Wilde, Yeats, Synge, Shaw, Joyce, Beckett, and Heaney—has become assimilated into the tradition of English writing. Ireland occupies an almost mythic place in the English-speaking world. The soft music of the Irish voice is admired by speakers of British or American English everywhere. Many people say they THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS prefer the Irish accent to all others .
An old Welsh proverb says “the Celt always fights and always loses”. This has been true militarily and politically, but during the centuries of endless strife the Welsh have preserved their passion for the national traditions, language, music and poetry.
The Welsh are very proud of their language and culture. Some Welch people learn Welsh before they learn English and some of these never learn much English. About 20 per cent of people in Wales regard Welsh as their mother tongue.
The Welsh are known for their singing. They like singing together. Every village has THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS at least one choir, often more. They sing in competitions, on holidays and of course, at the rugby matches. Rugby is a form of football, and despite the fact that it was developed in England it is the Welsh national game. When the Welsh team are playing at home at Cardiff Arms Park their supporters often try to encourage them by singing the Welsh National anthem, “Land of My Fathers”.
Perhaps, no country in the world has a greater love of music and poetry than the people of Wales. The annual competitions where people meet to dance, sing and THE ENGLISH, SCOTTISH, IRISH AND WELSH NATIONAL CHARACTERS read poems, called eisteddfods, are held throughout Wales, from May to November. Usually, only the Welsh language is spoken. The programme may include male and mixed choirs, brass band concerts, children’s events, drama, arts and crafts and the ceremony of the Crowning of the Bard.
The nickname Taffy, sometimes used by the British to call someone from Wales, is now considered offensive. Its origin is uncertain – it may come from the River Taff, which runs through Cardiff, the capital of Wales, or it may be a shortening of “Daffydd”, the Welsh form of “David”.