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Why is the UK so Overrated?

The British Isles in all its glory routinely finds itself at the tippy-top of countless travel bucket lists. From the bustling streets of Hong Kong to the lush jungles of central Africa, people around the globe aspire to stroll through the streets of Shakespeare and Rowling.

Yet the United Kingdom, despite its allure, stands as one of the most overrated travel destinations in the world. Its mighty reputation far outweighs its meagre offering, leaving many visitors disheartened when their romanticized vision of charming old Britain crashes down to Earth.

But why is this the case? In spite of its enduring popularity, why do so many find the UK to be so underwhelming? In this article, we’ll look at what makes the UK so overrated and why you should reconsider buying that ticket.

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The UK finds itself in an exclusive group of nations with a global reputation. Whether it be the tribes of Papua New Guinea or the deserts of the Sahara, there isn’t a soul who doesn’t know about the land of the royal family and the BBC.

The history and traditions of the United Kingdom stretch back to time in Memorium, as shown by the spectrum of relics scattered across these isles stretching back to a prehistoric age. Visitors come to marvel at the awe-inspiring palaces built at the hands of the British monarchy and continue to flock in their droves to experience their antiquated traditions and tax-draining ceremonies.

uk overrated
Jolly ol’ London

The UK has continued to find success by keeping its finger on the mainstream and providing a sophisticated respite to the influence across the Atlantic. The wave of sound from the Beatles to the Arctic Monkeys has resonated throughout the world as much as the mysticism of Hogwarts and intense baking competitions.

Overall, Britain is seen as a land of tea-loving, eloquent gentlemen and fair ladies who tip-toe along cobblestone streets and spend their warm summer evenings in ramshackle pubs or a humble garden party. Sadly, things aren’t quite as rosey.

As nice as it is to think that nations around the world had eagerly adopted the Britanic influence, it was more a matter of having it rammed down their throats at the hands of the oh-so-mighty British Empire. But even so, the UK is still held fondly in the hearts of many to the point where ancestors of former colonial subordinates actually wept at the death of Queen Elizabeth.

There’s an undeniable irony that those same historic atrocities are what indirectly make the UK so captivating to the hearts and minds of people throughout the globe. This island would be insignificant if it weren’t for the pounds of flesh needed to put it where it is today.

Is this what you picture?

This is not to say that you shouldn’t visit former and even current politically questionable countries. After all, there are plenty of nations out there with blood on their hands. Yet in the case of the UK, it’s peculiar that many of the people who wish to visit the UK have grandparents who could have lived under the bootheel of British rule. They’ll arrive to marvel at the structures and national treasures paid for by their cultures.

Let’s make one thing clear; when the vast majority of people say they want to visit “the UK”, what they mean to say is England, or in most cases, London. The unrelenting horde of tourists that befall the United Kingdom are mostly unaware that it is actually split between 4 different countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The word England has tragically become synonymous with the UK, leaving the rest as nothing more than an afterthought.

How to blow the mind of a non-Brit. Photo by UKPhoenix79, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a high likelihood that visitors to the UK will only be visiting London and a few little towns within a safe 20-mile radius before heading back home. If someone’s going to visit, they’re probably not thinking about Swansea or Blackpool, are they?

As narrow-minded as it may appear, it makes complete sense. There’s no question why England and its mighty capital take centre stage. After all, it was the might of the English crown that dug its claws into the commonwealth nations in the first place, including the rest of the UK. Hence, England has a bit more of a reputation.

In what seems like a complete paradox, the UK is still one of the best places in the world to travel to despite it being sorely overrated.

There’s something to love about each corner of the British Isles, whether it be its stunning natural landscapes, quaint traditional villages or the unique eccentric flare that comes with each respective nation. With an immense history and world-renowned sites, there are plenty of arguments supporting the UK’s place any travel bucket list.

With all that being said, overall, the UK and everything that supposedly makes it so special is rated far beyond its value. The UK certainly deserves a place in Europe’s top 5, but it is not the promised land that everyone hopes it is. It has been severely over-romanticized to a point which leaves visitors very disappointed.

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As much I lament the fact that London has become the single biggest representation of life in good ol’ Britainia, is it hard to understand why? Outside of the cockney jungle, what else is there? Nobody says they go to the United Arab Emirates, they’re going to Dubai. They’re both nations that revolve around a single city because there really isn’t much else to offer.

uk overrated
Ding-dong

Of course, you have the stunning natural highlands of Scotland and Wales, the lake of the north and the white cliffs of the south. You also have immense castles and medieval pubs scattered along historic streets with structures older than the United States of America itself! Pure beauty in the most fairytale of ways lay around every corner and behind every hedge-row. But realistically, when looking at a map of the UK, where stands out to tourists? Birmingham? Dundee?

Outside of a few wonderful spots scattered wildly across Britain, they aren’t worth spending all your hard-earned money on. Save your life savings for somewhere that’s worth the price.

For the most part, Brits are seen as bastions of elegance – people who enjoy a spot of tea and a freshly baked scone. We’re a nation of cricket lovers and loyal Royalists living one long Victorian novel or romantic Hugh Grant-romcom.

That’s certainly true to some extent, especially when compared to our less cultured cousins across the Atlantic (yeehaw as it were). In reality, the typical Brit is humourous and well-mannered, loves a good tradition and an even heavier drink. Above all, they’re intrinsically lovable through their authenticity and effortless charm.

Suave and sophisticated

You can then imagine people’s disappointment when they encounter a beer-swilling, immigrant-fearing, job-seeking, council-estate-living mandem. For a significant proportion of the UK, this is a fairer representation of life in Britain. It’s a world fueled by government benefits and disposable vapes; a place where being a 16-year-old mother or murderer is no longer glanced at twice.

It’s a side of life you don’t hear much about outside of the British Isles. To be fair, why would we want anyone to know that this world exists?

The UK regularly features in the top 10 most expensive countries in the world, and that won’t change anytime soon. From extortionate train tickets to inflated essentials and unaffordable energy prices, even British locals find it difficult to afford to live in their own country.

Hence, travelling in the UK is an incredibly expensive venture. This goes double for London. You’ll be filling your pint glass with the tears of having to pay so much for it in the first place.

These prices tip the balance on whether or not the UK is overrated. The sheer cost of the experience is incredibly deflating when you’re already facing many of the disappointments that the UK has brought. Having your dreams crushed hurts a hell of a lot more when it’s expensive.

It truly gets ridiculous if you compare it to other nations. A day’s budget in the UK could afford you 2 weeks in Thailand, or a week on the Amalfi coast. Who in their right mind would choose to spend all that money on somewhere that would ultimately be so disappointing?

Need I say more?

uk overrated
British tapas

It seems that British food has less than a stellar reputation around the world, and there isn’t much argument against that. Though I’d rather a pasty than paella any day of the week, most prefer the sensory wonder of an aromatic ragu or freshly baked croissant compared to a meat and potato pie.

Frankly, pot noodles and a deep-friend Mars bar don’t offer the same level of depth when it comes to flavour and sophistication. The stark irony of having some of the world’s best chefs but some of the world’s worst food certainly isn’t lost on us.

This is yet another notorious disadvantage to life in the UK. Grey skies and torrential rain might be used as symbols of misery and suffering on the big screen, here it’s your typical summer afternoon.

While some nations have a regular rotation of 4 seasons, British weather is far more unpredictable. Rather, we will give you the entire seasonal calendar in a single day. You could have nip-hardening winds, scorching suns and soaking rain all in a single day, if not a matter of hours!

Needless to say, having literal rain dampen your parade during your dream trip surely dims the sparkle a touch.

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The British Isles has some undeniably jaw-dropping natural sceneries. From majestic mountain peaks to rolling blankets of farmland, there’s no taking away from what nature can provide. Yet, this collection of islands has been short-changed when it comes to its beaches.

While Brazil has Copacabana, the UK has Brighton – yet another overrated relic of Victorian summer amusement. In no small part to the miserable weather, the beaches here don’t really have the same appeal. Rather, they tend to be places to take your dog for a walk, hardly a sight to see.

uk overrated
Oh, I do love to be beside the seaside. I do love to be beside the sea.

Thanks to endless forms of media from the BBC News to Downton Abbey and Harry Potter, people are quite familiar with a British accent. People will freely denounce just how violently your silky smooth pronunciations turn them on. Yet these suave well-spoken individuals, as sophisticated as they might sound, aren’t a fair representation of the complexity of British accents.

This clear, well-spoken, standard form of English is usually segregated to southern England. The further north or west you travel, the more incomprehensible the accent becomes. While people expect to meet Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston, they encounter a Scouse or Scotch accent, leaving them absolutely speechless at the incomprehensible jibirish. In all fairness, the rest of the UK feels exactly the same.

In a twisted bit of hypocrisy, I’d encourage everyone to travel to the UK if they ever had the chance. My intentions are not to drive people away, I still believe it deserves a place on your bucket list.

Despite its sordid past, there is a good reason why the UK place lives rent-free in the heads of people across the world. Its incredible history, one-of-a-kind culture and humble natural beauty are reasons enough.

Yet, the UK has not earned its lofty reputation, nearly living in the wake of its reputation. All the while, other nations, even neighbouring European ones, deserve far more attention. Far too many people leave disappointed. It’s time for you to consider if this is the place you always thought it would be.

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One Comment

  • Ben Zabulis

    Some very good points, especially the prices and weather. As you say, London seems to influence most visitors’ itinerary to the UK. There are some very worthwhile places to visit outside of the capital, however. My main gripe would be the quality of public transport and the over-complication of rail ticket pricing. Whether UK is overrated or not depends I suppose on what people go there for. We spent a 10-year period back in UK but couldn’t really settle, seems we had lost our sense of belonging and so returned to Hong Kong, which, ironically, you mention at the start of this well-thought out article – cheers ! PS. Funnily enough, talking of the Empire, when I lived in Nigeria in the 80s, some folk openly admitted (lamented?) that they wished UK could return to rule them, at least there were jobs and order back then…

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