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The basics
THE UK: Latest News

What's popular in... the UK? [September 2013]

Sir Alex Ferguson

In the second of our new 'Living in...' series (read the first on American culture), Paul takes you through what is currently happening in UK culture, including new eras in both Television and Sports.


Who are currently the most popular music artists and genres?

'Pop music in the UK often goes through phases where particular genres are really popular, or at least influence other genres. Hip hop artists like Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Labyrinth and Tinchy Stryder have been ruling the airwaves for quite a while, collaborating with stars from other genres too. The X Factor has produced a lot of fly-by-night pop stars in the last decade, though Olly Murs has remained in the public eye. As is the case, a lot of music acts from the past have reformed over the years; Take That, an all-male pop group from the 90s, may have had the most successful reunion so far. A lot of world-renowned US acts like Beyonce and Jay Z are just as in demand over here, and will perform a string of nights at The O2 in London.'


What films have just come out in the cinema?

'Only God Forgives starring Ryan Gosling has just been released. I’ve heard that it’s quite violent compared to the last film by the same director, Drive (also starring Gosling). The World’s End just came out which was the third in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’, a series of comedy films directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; following on from Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, these are satires of specific genres and usually have a large ensemble cast of British comedy talent (I would recommend as a means of getting our humour).

There are several small or independent cinemas around the UK which will screen old films, some of which may have a cult audience. The Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End is a charming place, with lesser known documentaries and films showing on rotation. Similarly Somerset House in London stages large outdoor screenings during the summer.'


What are the most popular TV shows?

'Dr Who is popular all year round, even when it’s not on television. Every few years the Doctor regenerates in the show, and a new actor takes on this lead role; this is usually a major story shrouded in secrecy until the official reveal because it is so a revered role.  Just this week Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) has just been announced as the new Doctor which is the current buzz topic. Dr Who is somewhat of an institution here in the UK, alongside long-running soaps like Eastenders and Coronation Street. However, US shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are also really popular, and some are shown just a few days after they are transmitted in the States. The major channels have excellent streaming services like BBC iPlayer and 4OD so you can catch up on anything if you don’t have a TV.'


What slang terms or colloquial phrases are popular which someone from another country wouldn’t understand?

'"Mate" is a friendly term friends or even acquaintances will use to address each other in a relaxed, informal context (‘e.g. "Hi mate, how’s it going?"). A lot of phrases are coined from popular television shows which may be set in particular regions. For instance, the TV show The Only Way is Essex has popularised phrases like "amazeballs" (meaning to describe something as ‘amazing’ or ‘brilliant’) and "well jel" (short for ‘well jealous’, if you’re envious of something or someone). Contrary to popular belief, we don’t all speak in cockney rhyming slang, or extremely posh like the Queen. If you study in London, you’ll find a lot of different influences on the English language, like Afro-Carribean, because the city is so multicultural.'


What are the biggest fashion trends?

'It really depends on what kind of person you are, though stores like Topshop, Urban Outfitters and ASOS are among the most popular for students, and are found on most high streets (areas with lots of retail shops and places to eat). Men can’t go wrong with a simple T-shirt or checked button-down shirt with jeans/casual trousers. For women, Jack Wills, ASOS and New Look are go-to shops, with leggings, skirts or simple dresses wearable for both daytime classes and evening socialising. Primark grew in popularity through the wives of many famous football players, and it remains an excellent place to find very affordable clothing (especially for the raw materials for fancy dress and Halloween costumes). Also, you shouldn’t turn your head at charity (thrift) shop bargains either as you can find some hidden vintage treasures. As for accessories, thick framed glasses, popularised by the hipster archetype, are not just for fans of avant-garde cinema and little known indie bands.'


Any key politicians and happenings which international students should be aware of?

'The current government is a coalition of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties as a result of the 2010 election. It was then that David Cameron became Prime Minister, with Nick Clegg (then-leader of the Liberal Democrats) becoming Deputy PM. However, many critics feel the Liberal Democrats have since gone back on their promises, including allowing tuition fees to increase (so he’s not that popular among students). Tighter immigration control has been one major focus for the government in order to reverse unemployment and improve the economy, though opportunities for international students have been impacted as a result.'


What is the big sports news at the moment?

'Football season is starting about now which is probably the most popular sport in the country. After almost 27 years in charge, Sir Alex Ferguson retired last year as manager of Manchester United, probably the most popular football club in the world. So it will be interesting to see their first season without him – it’s a true beginning of a new era. Jose Mourinho has returned to Chelsea as their manager too, having previously managed them through a particularly glorious run.'


Not studying in the UK? Read our 'Living in....' installments for Australia and the US too.


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