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4.2 Oxford and Cambridge

What is so special about Oxford and Cambridge, the two oldest English Universities? Why do so many students want to study there? Oxford and Cambridge have the highest academic reputation and many famous people are their graduates.

Both of these university towns are very beautiful. They have houses with the finest architecture in Britain. Some of their colleges, chapels and libraries are three, four or five hundred years old. Both towns have lovely gardens where the students can read and relax in summer months. Oxford is the older university of the two. The first of its colleges was founded in 1249. There were no women students at Oxford until 1878. Now women study together with men.

It is not easy to get a place at Oxford or Cambridge to study for a degree. But outside these universities there are many smaller private universities which offer less difficult courses and where it is easy to enroll. Students in these private universities take business, secretarial or English language courses.


4.3 British Character

British people are naturally polite and are never tired of saying “Thank you” and “I’m sorry”. British people are generally disciplined and reserved, you never hear loud talk in the street. British people don’t show much emotion. They remain good-tempered and cheerful even under difficulties. British people like jokes. English sense of humour is famous and humour is highly prized in Britain.

When English people meet someone for the first time, they shake hands. They do not usually shake hands with people they know well. Women sometimes kiss their women friends. When a man meets a man friend, he just smiles and says “Hello”. Men do not kiss each other or hold hands.


4.4 Family Life

A typical family had a father, a mother and two or three children. This was the image of the traditional British family in the 1950s or 1960s. Nowadays only 7 per cent of British families consist of five or more people. The average British couple today has 1.8 children. Grandparents come to visit, but do not usually live with their children. Most people get married, but many marriages end in divorce, one in every two marriages ends in divorce. This means that there is a large number of “single parent families”: a father or a mother looks after their children alone. Nine per cent of families are lone parents.

A typical British family has or rents a house or a flat, has a car and a cat or a dog. They start the day at about 7 o’clock, have breakfast at 8, and start work at 9 o’clock. More and more women now go out to work like men. The children have lunch at school at about 12.30, and come home at 4 in the afternoon. Their parents are usually at home by 6 o’clock, and the family eats together between 6.00 and 7.00 o’clock. In the evenings, father may go to the pub for a drink, or stay at home and watch TV with the others. Children go to bed early, two or three hours before their parents.


4.5 Pubs

Pubs are typical of Britain and are an important part of British life. People go to the pub to relax and to meet friends. But pubs are not open to everyone and they are not open all the time. People under the age of 16 cannot go into pubs. And pubs are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. or later.

In a pub you can buy beer, wine, fruit juice and soft drinks. Beer is the most popular drink in a pub and there are many different kinds of beer.

Many pubs also sell hot food, which is often good and cheap. But you must go to the bar and get your food and drink because there are no waiters in pubs. Most pubs now serve good value hot and cold meals. They often have family areas where a whole family can eat together.