They’re a curious bunch, and Americans are continually reminding them of it. (Go home Britain, you’re drunk!)
If you’re willing to dig a little there’s a whole bunch of customs and pastimes that make them unique.
Here are 12 quirky British traditions you won’t believe are actually real.
1. Weighing the Mayor (High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire)
The Mayor of High Wycombe is weighed in and out every May, along with his officials and councillors.
The implication is that any councillors who’ve put on weight have done so at the taxpayer’s expense, and this is announced by the town crier with the words ‘and some more!’ to much jeering.
They used to throw rotten fruit too.
2. Cheese Rolling (Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire)
The most famous cheese rolling contest in the country.
Participants race down Cooper’s Hill after a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese and the winner gets to keep it.
It’s said to originate from Pagan traditions to celebrate rebirth after winter, although it might equally be connected with grazing rights.
It was banned on health and safety grounds in 2010 but this hasn’t stopped thrill-seekers staging their own, unofficial event.
3. Wife Carrying (Dorking, Surrey)
The ancient tradition of carrying your other half over the threshold is alive and well and has turned into an unusual race over the hills of Surrey (as well as Finland and the US).
The course runs in at a little under four hundred metres, which may not seem very much, but when you’re carrying your spouse, it probably feels like a marathon.
4. Bun Throwing (Abingdon, Oxfordshire)
Abingdon claims to be England’s oldest town, and while this is disputed they do have the odd freak shower – in the form of 4,000 currant buns, chucked from the top of the County Hall.
The Mayor throws buns to the crowd to mark royal occasions such as weddings and jubilees in a tradition that dates back to times when they threw bread and cakes to the poor.
5. World Hen Racing Championship (Bonsall, Derbyshire)
They’ve been doing this for about a hundred years at Bonsall, although the event at the Barley Mow is a comparatively recent revival.
Hen racing was usually a competition between rival villages – any fighting between the hens is strictly forbidden.
Races always take place in complete silence so as not to upset the chickens.
6. Bog Snorkelling (Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys)
Participants attempt to snorkel through a six-foot deep bog in the fastest time possible.
If you pop along in August you can also watch them do it with mountain bikes.
7. World Gurning Championship (Egremont, Cumbria)
If you’re blessed with Jim Carrey’s facial muscles, you could do a lot worse than get yourself along to Egremont Crab Fair in September.
8. Wormcharming (Blackawton, Devon)
No, I’m serious.
Experts will inform you that there really is an art to enticing wriggly invertebrates from the depths of the soil, and in Blackawton they have a whole festival dedicated to it – presided over by Worm Master Nat Lowson.
9. Stone Skimming (Lydbury North, Shropshire)
Remember the moment you took your beautifully flat piece of flint and threw it out into the ocean, where it would land with a loud and unsatisfying plop?
Well, now you can hone your craft at the picturesque Walcot Lake, where the British Stone Skimming Championships take place.
10. Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival (Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire)
Straw men? Dull as ditchwater.
It’s not a real bear, of course – it’s a local chap inside a five-stone costume made of the best straw in the area.
It parades through the town, past the Morris men and folk singers, before the bear costume is ceremonially burnt at the end of the festival.
11. Nettle Eating Contest (Marshwood, Dorset)
This is an internationally renowned event: competitors come from all over the world to take part.
It’s an hour of non-stop chewing, and whoever strips the most nettle stalks clean is the winner.
The tradition stretches back almost 30 years to the day a local man offered to eat his own 15-foot nettle stalk if anyone could beat its size – and the rest, as they say, is comparatively recent history.
And whatever you do, don’t vomit – or it’s instant disqualification.
12. Tar Barrel Racing (Ottery St. Mary, Devon)
No one is quite sure why they started doing this in Ottery St Mary, but it’s probably connected to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 – or the Spanish Armada.
Barrels are coated with tar and then filled with straw and paper to make them easier to light.
The flaming barrels are then carried through the street, because that’s far more interesting than simply rolling them.
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. EVER.