Quick note: Simon who wrote this article also runs a very interesting little blog called Transition Consciousness. Please feel free to drop by and take a look : )
Here is a map of the UK:
What does my passport say?
“United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island”
Nationality: British Citizen
I was born in Scotland, I am a British Citizen, and I tend to describe myself more as British rather than Scottish, since my parents are English, but I grew up in Scotland before moving to England when I was 8.
So the United Kingdom is made up of four countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are not countries in the same way that say France or Germany are countries, because these four countries have just one Parliament and government, based in London.
Therefore the United Kingdom is a political union of four countries. It gets a little bit complicated since Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also have their own local parliaments for local laws and things, and this annoys English people who do not have their own parliament for English stuff, but let’s not worry about that.
Great Britain refers to the geographical land mass which includes England, Scotland and Wales. The British Isles refers to both Great Britain and also the 9000 little islands which are also part of the UK. However, “the British Isles” also includes the country of the Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the UK, and which is a sovereign European state. Confused?
The money in the UK is called Sterling, and we do not use Euros, unlike the rest of Europe. In daily life though, we use the word “pounds” to refer to our cash, i.e. “How much is that CD?” “Ten pounds”.
When you watch the football World Cup, you will see England play. (We use the word football whereas in the US they call the game soccer). Obviously in theory Scotland, Wales and Northern Island could qualify for the world cup, but they rarely do, having such smaller populations than England. Not that England are that good, they always cause fans much grief!
In the Olympic Games, you will see “Team GB” rather than teams from the four countries, and are officially known as the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team. So you will see the athletes with our “Union Jack” flag, and not the individual country flags.
Just one other thing. The United Kingdom is part of Europe and the European Union. However, if you listen to British people, they will sometimes say things such as
“I went to Europe on holiday last year”
What this means is that they travelled to continental Europe, i.e. the rest of Europe, but this phrase often annoys other Europeans who will reply that
“But you are already in Europe!”
Us Brits do know that, but maybe it is because we are an island people that we do not really see ourselves as fully European, and of course many Brits can not stand the European Parliament, due to waste and incompetence and other such nonsense. But that again is another story, and I am just trying to explain the basics.
So there you go. There is much more information on Wikipedia, but this article will hopefully help you begin to understand the UK!