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What does it mean to be British?

Updated November 21, 2016

Considering yourself to be British might mean that you were born or raised in the United Kingdom, or it might just mean that you know a lot about the culture and ideas. There are several ways that you or someone you know might be considered to be British. Being British by law is different from being British by culture, but both might amount to the same thing in your heart.

Legally British

You are British if you were born in the United Kingdom, or a qualifying territory, to parents who were legal citizens or residents of the UK. You are also legally British if you were born to parents who were legal citizens or had legal residency in the United Kingdom and you were born in another place. You are not legally British if you were born, even in the UK, to parents who were not legal citizens or residents of the UK at the time. If you are legally British, it means that you have all of the rights and protections that are given to British citizens by their constitution and by the government.

If you are legally British, chances are that you enjoy most of the cultural aspects of British people. You might speak with an English accent and you might enjoy flavourful foods like spotted duck and kippers for breakfast. However, if you are legally British by birth, but your parents immigrated from a different country, you might have mixed feelings about your own culture and will probably retain bits of both cultures.

Raised in Great Britain

You are British if you moved to Great Britain and became a naturalised citizen through legal channels. This includes applying for citizenship and being granted it, or being granted resident status. If you were raised in the United Kingdom or moved there, you have likely picked up several of the cultural aspects, including accents and societal norms. Many people who are raised in the United Kingdom feel that they are blessed to have both cultures. They might enjoy tea time every afternoon, but they might also eat foods from the homelands of their parents.

British By Culture

Some people consider themselves to be British by culture, even if they are not legal British citizens. This might include people who live in the UK without being legal or natural citizens, and who feel that the culture of the United Kingdom is all that they have ever known. You might also consider yourself to be British by culture if your parents were from the UK and have taught you about what it means to be British. Even if your family lives somewhere else, you may feel as if you are truly British by culture.

British by culture means that you probably love to watch football, although it is the same game that American's would call soccer. You also know that you came up with the game first, so football is the right name for it. You probably do have tea time at your home, or at least with your grandparents. Most likely, you've travelled to England at a few points in your life, and you feel that national landmarks like the London Bridge and Big Ben are indications of your homeland. You might watch the BBC or listen to the BBC radio on your computer, anywhere in the world. These are all aspects of being British by culture.

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