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Lesson Transcript

Gabriella: Hi, I’m Gabriella.
Gina: And I’m Gina. Introduction to British Society.
Gina: In this lesson we will tell you about British society.
Gabriella: What, about all of it? That’d be a long lesson!
Gina: No! We’ll just about a few parts of it very briefly.
Gabriella: Ah ok, good!
Gina: Let’s talk about five different important topics.
Gabriella: Five sounds good! I think the best place to start would be with the major cities of the UK.
Gina: Yes, I agree. And the best city to start with would be the capital, right?
Gabriella: Right! So, the capital of both England and the UK is London. It’s in the south-east of England and is the biggest city in Europe, with a population of over eight million people.
Gina: It’s a very diverse city and is very important in both the business and finance worlds and also for the arts.
Gabriella: Yep. Another important city is Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. It’s the second largest city in Scotland, with a population of under half a million people, but it’s the second most popular tourist destination in the UK.
Gina: Why is that?
Gabriella: Probably because of Edinburgh Castle, which the city was originally built around, and all of the arts festivals that happen throughout the year.
Gina: Let’s talk about one more city…
Gabriella: Okay. The second largest city in England and in the UK as a whole is Birmingham, with a population of just over a million people. It’s about 120 miles, or 200 km, north of London and became the centre of manufacturing during the industrial revolution.
Gina: So that’s a few of the cities in the UK. How about the family life of those who live in those cities?
Gabriella: The definition of a traditional British family is rapidly changing. There’s been a lot of immigration into the UK over the last couple of decades so that, alongside the younger generations wanting to work or remain single, has changed the traditional view of the family.
Gina: Traditionally it would have been a married couple with a couple of kids, right?
Gabriella: Yes, with the man working, the woman taking his name upon marriage and then remaining at home to look after the kids. But the generous maternity allowances and need for a second income means that more women are choosing to work after having children now.
Gina: While we’re on the subject of incomes and work, how is the UK’s economy?
Gabriella: The UK has the sixth largest GDP in the world. GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product, and is used to measure the value of the goods and services produced in a country in one year.
Gina: The UK was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, and the British have a history of being hard workers.
Gabriella: Yeah, typically the British working week is longer than that of the rest of Europe. The government has made laws to cap it at 48 hours per week, but employees can still choose to opt out of that and work longer.
Gina: What are British workplaces like?
Gabriella: Generally they’re pretty casual and friendly, I think. Some offices especially will have dress codes but that’s down to each individual office. There is a long history of unions in the UK, so the work conditions are pretty worker friendly.
Gina: As you raised the subject of the government making employment laws, let’s move on and talk about the government.
Gabriella: This lesson is moving very smoothly!
Gina: It is, isn’t it? The head of state of the UK is the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, but how much power does she have?
Gabriella: Not much, surprisingly. The UK is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the Queen doesn’t make the rules and laws. She has the power to dissolve the government and block any law that she chooses, but in reality she doesn’t do that.
Gina: It’s largely a ceremonial role?
Gabriella: Yeah, with the safety feature of being able to kick out the government if they’re causing trouble!
Gina: That’s good to hear! So who does make the laws?
Gabriella: The Prime Minister. The UK political system is the Westminster system and is divided into two houses – the elected House of Commons and the appointed House of Lords. When a general election to find a new PM is called, the public vote for who they want to represent them at a local level, and not for the actual PM.
Gina: And whichever party wins the most local seats comes into power and their leader becomes PM, right?
Gabriella: Yes. There are many parties to choose from but the big three are the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats. The current Prime Minister is David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, after he made a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Gina: What is the voting age in the UK?
Gabriella: It’s 18.
Gina: Okay. Our final topic for this lesson is generational trends. How are things changing in the UK?
Gabriella: I briefly mentioned it earlier, but there has been a lot of immigration into the UK over the last few decades. Each generation is becoming more multi-cultural and more exposed to different cultures.
Gina: This is partly due to the European Union allowing free movement between the countries, isn’t it?
Gabriella: Largely, although there are also a lot of immigrants from Asia and Africa that are making homes in the UK.
Gina: Sometimes the different cultures can cause tension, can’t they?
Gabriella: It can be difficult at times but I think that the UK is a largely tolerant society and a good place in which to live.
Gina: I think so too. The younger generations are also becoming more open minded about many different subjects and less willing to follow the expectations of society that their parents did.
Gabriella: Yes, they’re becoming more individual and willing to live their lives the way they want to.
Gina: Britain really is changing!
Gabriella: It is!


Gina: Ok, everyone. I think that’s all for this lesson.
Gabriella: Thank you for listening everyone. See you next time!