The basics

The UK is short for "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". It is a sovereign state, in the same way as France or the US. But, and this is where it gets odd, the UK is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The term "Great Britain" refers to a landmass, not a country. The term "Great" is used, simply because it is the largest island in the British Isles, with the countries of England, Scotland and Wales within its shores.

Capital cities

CountryCity
EnglandCardiff
ScotlandEdinburgh
Northern IrelandBelfast

UK population size

As of 2019, the approximate population size is 67.6 million people.

Official languages

Britain has two official languages: English and Welsh - English being the most commonly spoken. Scottish Gaelic is also spoken in some parts of Scotland.

Government

The UK is a constitutional monarchy that is a representative democracy.

The monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is recognized as the head of state. The sovereign of the UK also acts as head of state of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a union with those states. The Crown has sovereignty over the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey.

The elected Prime Minister is the head of government.

Economic profile

The UK is a leading trading power and a financial centre. Agriculture is an important industry and highly efficient. Primary energy, like coal and oil, are major contributors to the economy, but services like banking and insurance are the greatest contributors.

Currency

Britain uses the Pound Sterling. The sign for the Great British Pound (GBP) is £.

Time zone and Climate

SeasonTime zoneClimate
Summer (June-August) UTC + 114 - 25° C
Winter months (December-February) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) 1 - 4° C

Major UK holidays 2020

DateHoliday
Friday, 10 AprilGood Friday
Monday, 13 AprilEaster Monday
Friday, 08 MayEarly May bank holiday
Monday, 25 MaySpring bank holiday
Monday, 31 AugustSummer bank holiday
Friday, 25 DecemberChristmas Day
Monday, 28 DecemberBoxing Day

Weights and measures

Historically, the UK used the imperial system. The metric system is now more commonly used, with the exception of a few items, for example distance and speed are measured in miles and miles per hour.

Electricity

Voltage is 240 volts AC at 50HZ. Appliances generally use standard 3-pin square plugs and sockets.

The easy start to life in the UK

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