What Is Britain Actually Like? – Cartoon Logic

There are a huge number of articles out there about the national stereotypes of Britain and/or the British. They are a mainstay of the Buzzfeeds and the Huffington Posts of this world. Even the national newspapers like to carry them. These articles examine statements such as: British people ‘all know the Queen’ and ‘all have bad teeth’. Many purport to demonstrate the accuracy of said stereotypes, then proceed to give vague, baseless evaluations, even when the statement in question is perfectly provable (or not). What follows are some actual facts about Britain based on actual evidence.

Britain is the rainiest country in the world

Britain is not the rainiest country in the world. If you’d bothered to look this up, rather than just accepting it, you’d know this. Of the 181 countries that The World Bank has data for, Britain comes in at 72nd. A bit rainy, but nothing spectacular. Here are some countries that are rainier: Bhutan, the sunny islands of Cuba and Jamaica, Switzerland and Chile. If I had asked you to name a rainier country, would any of those have featured? I doubt it.

The British drink more tea than anyone else

The British do not drink more tea than anyone else. There aren’t many countries that drink more, but there are some. Of the 156 countries that the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations has data for, Britain comes in fifth. Pretty good, but not the best. Turkey drinks nearly three times as much tea as Britain does.

The British drink more alcohol (or binge drink more) than anyone else

Britain isn’t incredibly high-scoring for alcohol consumption. Of the 191 countries the World Health Organisation (WHO) has data for, Britain comes in at 25th. Fairly drunk, but nothing much to write home about. Countries like Luxembourg, Portugal and South Korea beat Britain. Do the images of those countries strike you as particularly alcoholic? As for binge drinking, the WHO puts Britain at 48th, behind the renowned drinkers of Burkina Faso and Iceland. Not saying it isn’t a problem, but it’s a bigger problem elsewhere.

The national newspapers also like to carry shocking headlines about the state of Britain overall, especially the populist hate-engines. Here are some of their favourites:

Britain is a densely populated country; there is ‘no room left’

Britain is not full. Out of 244 states and territories that Wikipedia has collected data for in an excellently well-sourced list, Britain comes in at 51st, losing out to countries as infamously dense as Belgium and Israel. If Britain was as densely populated as Malta, it would be home to as many people as the United States. In a literal sense, we could cram millions more in. Of course, some places in Britain are more densely populated than others, but what are you going to do about it? Maybe services and housing can cope with immigration, maybe they can’t. I don’t know. Find me some data.

British democracy is down the pan

British democracy is generally doing pretty well. You may dislike Britain’s political culture, or think that Britain’s politicians are evil (I’m not blaming you), but, relatively speaking, Britain is doing fine. Britain is 16th on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, 13th on The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom and 33rd on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. Definitely some room for improvement, but Britain is hardly North Korea.

There’s so much vague, accepted wisdom regarding Britain and its extremes. The truth usually turns out to be far more relative, and it annoys me how blinkered we can be. There are good things and bad things about Britain, but it doesn’t help the national discussion when there’s so much disinformation out there. We have perfectly good ways of discovering stuff about the world. Virtually every person in this country has most of the total sum of all human knowledge sitting in their pocket or on their lap. This is the first time in human history that such a state of affairs has existed. You’d think a smartphone-loving nation (I’ve got no evidence to back that generalisation up) like Britain would be one of the best-informed nations in the world (perhaps it is: I haven’t checked), but I don’t think we are.

Do some research!



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