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Questiontime with Miss McCurrie

INTERMEDIATE Vydáno dne 11.04.2008

Otázky týkající se Britů a britské kultury a jak na ně odpovídá rodilá mluvčí. Dozvíte se např. jak mladí vnímají královskou rodinu, co si myslí o školních uniformách, o Harry Potterovi atd.

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with Miss McCurrie

Questions: Ondřej Hajda (the winner of the competition 'Everything you Wanted to Know about the UK')
Answers: Catherine McCurrie

1) What do young people think about monarchy, queen etc.? Are they interested in this topic?

Predominantly, the British youth of today do not posess a great deal of knowledge about the royals for a start. If you compare them to the older generation, the know little to none, to be honest. They will 'know' the Queen's birthday, by seeing the announcements on TV and such like. This is probably why the young people don't really have a lot of interest in the royal family. Those few who do have some usually acquire their views from parents. The opinion among the older generations is, of course, divided. Some consider the royals a total waste of the taxpayers' money and time, and some think of them as the strongest symbol of our nation. Youngsters don't bother with such debates - they are more interested in the sex, drugs and rock and roll lives of Harry and Wills...

2) Is it true that families in the UK are fond of lawns and they cut their lawn several times a week?

Lawns are indeed the pride and joy of many gardening-obsessed Brits. Unlike gardens in many other countries, the lawn is the main focal point of a Brit's front garden (whereas, for example at my old summerhouse in Estonia it was all about the bushes and the trees, with little patches of grass between them). A lot of people will spend hours manicuring and trimming and feeding their precious lawns. I am not entirely sure about cutting them a few times a week. For instance, we mow ours once a fortnight. For some people it's a full-time job, because keeping a perfect lawn is difficult with all the pests, leaves and moss posing threats.

3) Is it annoying for children to wear school uniforms or do they think it is just a habit and they don't really mind it?

You know what, the uniform is such an old tradition that it has become natural for people and they don't know otherwise. Of course the uniform is at the centre of an age-long debate. On the one hand, it keeps everyone equal, i.e. kids from poorer families will not feel bad about not wearing Dolce and Gabbana like their rich classmates. It is also difficult to regulate the dress code when there is no uniform. On the other hand the uniform does not give students a possibility to express their individuality (which could in some cases help them feel more at ease and in their element). I, personally am for and against it at the same time. I remember, we had a beautiful (British sarcasm) emerald green uniform, with a polo shirt and a kilt. Most of the girls had to have their kilts down to their knees, so we would roll ours up to spite the teachers and look somewhat more sexy. But then, when we reached 12th grade and were thus allowed to wear our own clothes - it was nothing special! So, as you've said in your question, it's pretty much a matter of habit in Britain.

4) Which sport is the most popular among teenagers?

Football has always played a major role in our lives. We are proud and we are passionate about it. But you see, fewer and fewer people are actually playing it nowadays (since we have a perfectly good ProEvolution for Playstation, you see :) ). Footy is closely followed by rugby, tennis and squash, I would say.

5) The most popular book among children in the UK (and not just in the UK) is definitely Harry Potter but what does the older generation think of this famous book?

I will not be joking when I tell you that people of ALL ages were camping outside bookshops (sleeping bags and everything! :) ), waiting until twelve at night for the new Harry Potter books. Then, most of them put their lives completely on hold, reading them twenty-four hours a day until the book is finished. The rest of the year is spent in discussion of the book and the possible future events. It is almost worthy of capital punishment to reveal what would happen in the book to someone who has not read it! :) Harry Potter is certainly very popular among all age groups. Of course, the biggest fan of Harry Potter is J.K. Rowling herself, who admitted to crying her eyes out when she was finishing the last Harry book.
A good author to recommend to the older generation is of course Terry Pratchett.

6) It is said that people from Scotland are very mean. However, I didn't have this feeling when I was there on holiday. So my question is if it is true and also what is your opinion about Scotland? Would you rather prefer Scotland as an independent country or as a part of the UK?

The Scottish are some of the merriest people on the planet, and that's a fact. By 'it is said' you mean, 'the English say', because the Scots are not the biggest fans of the English AT ALL. I don't have a problem with them (only when I meet someone from Glasgow or the Shetland Islands in which case the only problem I encounter is understanding what they are saying). Quite a few of my friends at university are Scottish, and I get on with them like a house on fire. All of the states of GB want to be independent (though not all of them say it out loud you see). Scotland is the closest to being an independent state, really. They have their own parliament, healthcare and education systems (they don't pay for university - how unfair is that!?). The current English prime minister is Scottish, and a lot of the English are none too happy about that. Most recently, his decision to remove 'Britannia' from our coins caused some outrage.

7) We all know that in GB you still drive on the left, so have you ever had problem with driving in other countries?

It does get quite difficult I have to admit!

8) Who is your greatest national hero from history? Who is the worst villain who you are not proud of?

This is a difficult question, actually, because there have been a lot of great and not so good British people over the course of history. From scientists to politicians, the British have had a big impact on society. There are no top goodies or top baddies!

9) Can you write down 3 good & 3 bad things which can describe you as a nation?

- We are friendly and approachable
- We have contributed a lot to society outside our country
- We pay a lot of attention to charity work

- We do not speak a lot of foreign languages
- We are sometimes way too conservative for our own good
- We are expensive!

10) And my last question: Can you explain how you wash yourself when you have two taps - one for cold and one for hot water - you have to choose if you prefer freezing or scalding your hands. :-o

It makes you very quick I tell you! :) I don't quite understand it myself to be honest. I am always way too lazy to mix the water in the sink so I usually just freeze.. or have a shower. I much prefer the European way!

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