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What does being british mean to you?


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I'm proud to be British, and proud to be English, too. My job has kept me out of England for many years, but I remain an Englishman, as Gilbert wrote. Britishness implies a tolerance of almost anything, up to the 59th minute of the 11th hour at any rate. It turns away from excessive exhibition of emotion, be it patriotic, antagonistic, whatever. "Steady on, old chap" is a reprimand as effective as a mouthful of insult. We look at life from a slightly cock-eyed, wry, humorous viewpoint. Not smug - we laugh at ourselves as much as at others. We're proud of who we are, the freedoms for which we stand, but don't cram them down other peoples' throats nor pretend that we are their only champions. We embrace real progress, and are deeply cynical about change for change's sake. We preserve our heritage with just enough zeal to avoid stagnation. We're generally calm, understated, underestimated, and probably let too many take unfair advantage of us. The bulldog still has teeth, though, so don't push us too far.
Roger French, Houston, Texas, USA

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I grew up in a magnificent, large cockney family, we had nothing to speak of materially, and we "got on with it" yet maintained a sense of pride and dignity. Having lived in the USA for 35 years I no longer romantazise about the past London I knew, nor the good manners, the safety or the supportive neighbourhoods. One has to be away from it for a while, and upon a return visit, see things now as they really are. I love my heritage and I love my memories of the city I grew up in, and I shall defend England's honour as long as I live
Barb Whitlock, Virginia/ex-Camberwell, USA

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I have lived in Canada for 31 years but still consider myself to be British - and proud of it. I am proud to be a member of a nation that has offered so much to the world in the form of medical discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, world leadership, social reforms, a political foundation that is copied and envied the world over, whose people have a wry sense of humour and are able to laugh at their own quirks and foibles and above all else a tolerance for others that has sometimes been stretched to the limit - but has not been broken
Gareth J Green, Niagara Falls, Canada

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I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and think that all the things mentioned by your other correspondents boil down to just one concept: "Fair Play". Everything truly British is encompassed in that phrase - freedom, justice, respect for others, honesty and common sense - and everything the British really hate can be accurately characterised as a lack of fair play
Denis Smith, Norfolk, United Kingdom

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Being British conjures up notions of fair play, rounded education, good driving, respect for laws, standing up for rights and against injustice, sharp humour (irony, self-effacement, puns etc), sociability, appreciation of foreign people and customs (yes, I really mean that!), generosity in giving to charitable causes, invention and creativity, independence, tolerance and flexibility. We are certainly not perfect and perhaps we still cling too much to the “glorious” past but we represent a lot of what is good in the world
John Barry, Paris, France

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A country's worth may be estimated solely by the values embraced by its people. Those values, fashioned over time, are a consequence of reactions to historical forces. They define the type of people of which they form part. Britain's people, if not the best in the world, are amongst the best.Their greatest characteristic is their intrinsic decency. There are a myriad of others : their sense of fair play; courteousness; the manner in which adversity is confronted and their passionate love of freedom and justice. Yes, Britain has made mistakes, but what country has not? It has its share of criminals and ne'er-do-wells but so do all others. On balance, the way it runs its affairs is better than most - if not the best
Tony Warner, Wingham, Kent, United Kingdom

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I am proud to be British. I am proud to be a Yorkshirewoman. I feel that being British isn't something to be ashamed of, nor is it bigoted prejudice. Britishness doesn't really cover things like accent or skin tone, but more a sense of history and dignity. Also I do not think that Britishness encourages slandering other countries, even the French, with whom we have many disputes and many family ties. To me, Britishness means Good Form, Decency, Rain Stops Play and glorious summer evenings. All right, it also includes being stuck on the M25 when I go North to visit my family, but the joy of being British is that the bad things are glossed over
Caryn Smith, Sussex, United Kingdom

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I'm a hugely proud Englishman and a hugely proud Brit. Living abroad these last few years has given me an even better appreciation of the worth of our nation and just how much our small island has given to the world. Are we perfect? Of course not, nor does our society lack the vices common to most industrialised nations, but our characteristic decency, fortitude, sense of humour and fair play, and the freedom and toleration we so easily take for granted are all things that inspire a love of country within and act as a beacon for other people throughout the world
Andrew Robinson, Vancouver, Canada

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As an expat who has never been inclined to changed her citizenship, being British means having a sense of fairness and consideration for others. Being British means considering the options before actions take place and having valid reasons for taking those actions. Being British means having a real sense of history and learning from our past mistakes
Sue Hains, Ontario, Canada

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Lucky to be born in the prettiest place in the world among some of the most benevolent, caring, intelligent and compassionate people.
Bob Miller, Essex, United Kingdom

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