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16 Thoughts that make you undeniably British

Every culture has its unique characteristics. Spain has bull fights, Italy has its famous pasta and pizza dishes and Britain has hob-nobs and milky tea. Venture inside the mind of the average Brit and you will also find many identifying thoughts and feelings common to you as well. Humdrum they may seem, but they are no less a part of our nation's collective psyche than our stiff upper lips and even tempers.

\#16 "I'm not sure if England is a country"

Is Britain a country? England? Scotland? The UK? Unlike most other populations on earth, most of us aren’t quite sure what country we’re from. When foreigners ask us about this, we are first confused, then embarrassed then ashamed. We don’t know.

Apologising and saying thank-you makes up about 50 per cent of all conversation in the UK. At least that’s what it seems like. We particularly enjoy apologising for things that aren’t our fault. “Waiter, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s just there’s a piece of glass in my minestrone.”

\#14 "I feel compelled to ask taxi men about their work schedule"

Is there an uncomfortable silence in the taxi? Never fear – we can always bring out the conversational big guns with “busy tonight? What time you on till?” They know the drill, we know the drill.

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\#13 "My voice gets posher and more robotic when I talk to foreign people"

This affects nearly all of us and we don’t even know we’re doing it half the time. Those of us with non-southern – or “regional” – accents are particularly prone.

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A knee-jerk reaction to politely refuse is something we Brits excel at. Especially when we don't know the person all that well. We say “no thanks” before we’ve even thought about the true answer to the question. We spend the rest of the visit rueing a missed opportunity.

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Every year with the coming of Wimbledon we feel compelled to dust off the racquet and get back on the court. But within days of this thought, the rain comes back and we forget we ever had the notion. Until next year.

Drinking and smoking too much? Eating too much chocolate and drinking fizzy drinks? Your health professionals don’t need to know all the gory details do they? After all, you don’t want to take up too much of their time. Just apologise and be on your way.

\#9 "I always sound like I’m taking the Mickey when I say 'great.'"

Because the word is usually reserved as a one-word-sentence conversation ender, we can’t say or hear “great” without thinking of it in this context. Go on, try it.

\#8 "Men aren't allowed drink wine in pubs"

He may have been drinking wine all evening at home, but when you go to the pub the man has to either drink a pint or a spirit. No wine allowed in pubs for the men. If you do you’ll instantly be picked out as either weird, camp or foreign.

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You can smell the charcoal and grilling meat just walking around the streets on a sunny day in March, even if it’s seven degrees. “You’ve got to make the most of it,” we cry. “The summer’s here now.”

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We think we’re so rational and civilised, but very few of us can resist a superstition here and there. No new shoes on the table, crossing fingers and avoiding passing under ladders are all still very much part and parcel of British culture.

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Never has such a banal drink dictated so much in the way of social standing and etiquette than the ritual of tea. Sugar in tea is only meant for the common classes and workers of Britain, don't you know.

Related: How to brew the perfect cup of green tea

\#4 "I only ever have 'quiet' Christmases"

The most common adjective used to describe our Christmases in the UK must surely be “quiet.” If you have a dangerous or exciting one it’s possible you went abroad that year.

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Handing the goods over, passing the card, taking it back, getting the receipt – at every step of the process we have to say “thank-you.” The cashier does too. We can’t help it, we’re British.

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\#2 "I always think we can win at sports, but we never do"

If we don’t already thrive on disappointment, we should learn to. We always think we’re good at sport, but we’re not, unless you count cycling and rowing at the Olympics. Unfortunately, few do.

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\#1 "I'll tut and head-shake but will avoid confrontation like the plague"

Besides a few tuts and maybe a stern look, we don’t like confrontation on a one-to-one basis – it’s just too awkward. Yes, that person’s ipod may be turned up way too loud, but rather than say something we’ll just stew to a mild simmer, then get off the bus.

Related: The most middle class British problems

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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.