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Is Britain the world’s most self-loathing nation?

Is Britain the world’s most self-loathing nation?

Even Britain’s pensioners, a generation you might expect to be more pragmatic, seem to regard our treasures with short shrift – which might explain why two octogenarians launched an attack on a Magna Carta exhibition at the British Library in May. 


British food is so often disparaged by continental Europeans and Americans alike as bland, boring and beige. Why do we do so little to defend it? The UK is home to nine Michelin-star restaurants and the Old Stamp House Restaurant in Ambleside is ranked the third best restaurant in the world on Tripadvisor. But what are the dishes we’ve exported as quintessentially British? Fish and chips, roast dinners and fry-ups.

In France, though, people are still fiercely defensive of their culinary traditions, even though last year just four per cent of its restaurants presented diners with meals made from scratch in their own kitchens. 

Italians too are extremely protective of their national dishes – even though many of its most famous were in fact created (or embellished on) in the States: spaghetti bolognese, caesar salad, marinara sauce and round, cheesy pizzas, to name a few. 

“Italian cuisine really is more American than it is Italian,” said controversial food history professor Alberto Grandi in an interview last year, in which he implied that his countrymen’s obsession with their cuisine stems from an insecurity over their national identity. It prompted outrage, and no wonder – on the same day the interview was published, Italy’s ministers of Culture and Agriculture officially entered Italian cuisine into candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage status. 


The British famously love to moan about the weather, but is it really all that bad? Sure, we don’t get as many sunshine hours as California or the same breezy warm days enjoyed in the south of France, but things here are temperate, calm and (usually) predictable. 

Maybe this is why we have such an extreme reaction when it rains or shines. A spell of 25C days is a Mediterranean-style “heatwave”, as one newspaper declared the other week; meanwhile there were fears of a “total washout” after the sun failed to appear in the first few weeks of June. 

In fact, the UK is one of just five countries that has the “favourable starting conditions” to survive truly catastrophic levels of climate change, according to the Global Sustainability Institute. Take that, Florida. 


“Again?” came the response when it was announced that Coldplay would headline at Glastonbury for the fifth time. Surely this should be a point of pride, not embarrassment – few other bands could draw revellers from around the world to watch them take to one of the most important stages in music history.