07/17/2014 09:56 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Things The World Can Learn From Britain

So much of the news is focused on what a country isn't doing right that we often forget the wealth of knowledge and wisdom it can teach the rest of the world.

Britain is no different -- there is so much in the folds of history, the achievements of its citizens and national events that shape what it is all about.

Here are 10 things that Britain can teach the rest of the world (and no, it's not about phone hacking or how to shuffle a ministerial cabinet...)

england football

This quote sums up everything about Britain

"The land of embarrassment and breakfast," said author Julian Barnes, which explains our national habit of saying sorry when someone steps on our foot or vomits on our shoes.

Embarrassment -- which seems to be a national sport -- is part of our self-deprecating make-up. If you've ever seen us on holiday - we're the ones who have possum suntans, wear loafers with shorts and refuse to complain even when we've spotted a family of cockroaches nesting in the pillow slip.

Well, we have to be good at something after crashing out of the World Cup so early.

But perhaps the best quote that has applied to almost every British era comes from Charles Dickens: 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' from A Tale of Two Cities. In our darkest moments we rally together, and in our best moments we manage to find some way of mocking the powers that be.


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Our history lesson for the world

Our indomitable 'even if everything is crashing down in flames I'm still going to soldier on' spirit can be traced back to World War Two. Hence the poster campaign motto at the time: 'Keep Calm And Carry On,' which has now re-appeared as a motto for the 21st century.

world war two uk

On the back of that is an event which has stayed in the consciousness of Brits for many years, which is the Little Ships of Dunkirk in 1940, when civilians got into 700 private boats to rescue stranded French and British soldiers who were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. This stoicism of never leaving a man behind is still one of the most poignant in our history.

But above all, our lesson to the free world is that free healthcare is possible. It may be broken in places, some of it drives us crazy when it doesn't work, but the National Health Service Act of 1946 that led to the creation of the NHS in 1948 was one of our greatest achievements. It was established by Aneruein Bevan, who enabled rich and poor to have the same level of care.

Our legendary hero is...

Whether you're a Scot, Welsh or Englishman, the one thing that unifies us is that we love an underdog. For us, it's the challenge of the impossible and the pureness of spirit, all wrapped up in a 'getting on with the job' attitude.

The English veer between the honour, valour and decency of the legendary King Arthur (who would never be seen tripping out of nightclubs), and Robin Hood. Robin may come up trumps as his example of stealing from the rich to give to the poor is still inspiring many to try and change the law so banks’ money is more fairly distributed.

robin hood

Robin Hood

Another legendary leader of resistance against the establishment is Owain Glyndwr, who led a long revolt against English rule. Along those lines is William Wallace (whose story was sort of told in the film Braveheart) for the Scots, who defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

A big thing we did right

Ten years ago, Britain legalised civil partnerships and this year, we saw legislation change to allow gay couples to get married.

With the debate still (sadly) raging in many westernised countries, we are proud to say that we're a liberal country that celebrates and demands that the gay community has equal rights.

Our spiritual tradition is...

The tea break. We invented it. Elevenses, which takes place at er, 11, is one of the most important parts of the day where you officially get to put your feet up for a moment. You can re-group, have a laugh with your friends and create a restful pause during a busy morning.

When we celebrate, we really go to town

london 2012 street party

The Diamond Jubilee

The last few years have seen some fantastic celebrations that have united the whole country, from the 2012 Olympics to the Royal Wedding. Those of us who didn't head to London unpacked the bunting and held street parties all over Britain. We felt patriotic, proud and part of one nation, even when it rained non-stop at the Queen's Jubilee.

We're also a festival-going nation, with Glastonbury as the jewel in our crown, bringing together thousands of people united by a love of music, sunshine and sausages.

In Britain, weather is news

Rain, hail, sun, snow -- we're experts on all sorts of precipitation. Heck, some of us can even differentiate between cloud formations. We never get tired of talking about it even when the other person's eyes have long since glazed over.

Our unofficial motto sums up our attitude to pretty much everything

Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) ended almost every phone call with KBO -- an acronym for "Keep Buggering On".

winston churchill

Winston Churchill

Sundays are sacred

Sunday trading hours - which are much shorter than Monday to Saturday -- are a good reflection of everyone needing a bit of time off from the grindstone.

For those of us who don't work on this day, we use it to collectively unwind, from slow-cooked Sunday roasts to hours spent leisurely reading the weekend papers. It's a moment to pause and catch up with our families and friends before the rush of the week.

We nail this custom

british queuing

Although we're utterly rubbish at chatting to strangers or making eye contact with people, we are masters of queuing. And holding doors open for other people. Even when they don't say thank you in return.

This post is part of a Third Metric collaboration among The Huffington Post’s international editions, showcasing wisdom from around the world.



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