Since living here I've become aware of the stereotypes about the British that are out there. Some are true, others obviously are just ridiculous. Unfortunately I think a lot of these have been created by movies and television. So here's a few I've heard and my opinion on whether there's any merit to them:
1. Everyone drinks tea- Not everyone does drink tea here as there are plenty of coffee shops and Starbucks to go around too because of the influence of Europe. But go to any grocery store here and you'll see I kid you not about half an aisle dedicated to every type of tea known to man. The tea-break is to England as what a trip to the water-cooler is to America, a part of the culture and considered an 'institution'. I personally have come to love herbal and green tea for its health benefits. Some still do 'high-tea' and have biscuits or little sandwiches, but most just take it with sugar or milk-straight up. Some of the favorite types of tea here are 'Earl Gray' or 'English Breakfast Tea'. Don't ask me to explain the difference though--although I can say that these two are a lot darker in color than green tea.
2. Everyone either talks like Eliza Doolittle or Hugh Grant- There are more accents here than cockney or posh upper class accent. The ranges of how people speak are huge just like you get in America. (If any of you are curious, James has a mixture of a 'posh' and Midlands accent because he went to private school)
3. Everyone has bad teeth- I think it depends on where you go for this one. This is a big stereotype that the British all have horrible yellow teeth. Its partly true dependent on the area. There seems to be a lot that don't have decent teeth sometimes here because dentists on the NHS are hard to come by but in London it seems you get less people with the whole mangy thing going on. Its definitely better in recent years but all that sugar they put in their tea doesn't help either. So I would say this stereotype is sorta true unfortunately.
4. Everyone wears bowler caps and carry round umbrella's (brolly's)- In 7 years of living here I've seen a guy in a suit, bowler cap and umbrella once. Bowler caps are really a thing of the past. Umbrella's particularly in London are a necessity though. I saw a funny thing the other day in Canary Wharf--an umbrella dispenser. You put £2 in a machine and out comes a cheap umbrella. The weather here makes this kind of thing understandable though---its pretty rubbish between the months of October-mid March.
5.British Food is crappy- I've eaten the food here for this long and haven't keeled over yet. The 'traditional' food gets a bad wrap as being horribly fatty and just plain gross. I think it depends on how you cook it though and I really think you can make it a lot healthier. Some stuff I still have a hard time with like steak and kidney pie or black pudding (blood pudding), but there are good things like fish & chips and sausages & mashed potatoes (bangers & mash). British food is really making a comeback in recent years and many chefs like Gordon Ramsay are bringing good food to this country with their Michelin star restaurants. Particularly in London, a lot of the melting pot of cultures have made their way into the food such as curries in east london, great Asian food in China town and good Italian food like carluccio's. I'm grateful for this huge choice because otherwise I think I'd starve!
6. The British are stuffy/snobby- I think you do get the ocassional upper class snob, but generally the British like to have a good time. They are not as laid back as the French and it takes a while to crack their shells and open them up, but once you do that they are as warm as can be.
7. British generally carry a 'stiff upper lip'- I think this one is true just because of having to live through the wars and bombings that they have had. I was here during the London terrorist bombings of 2005 and whilst I was freaking out, the Londoners here were very admirably resiliant in the face of everything.
These are just a few stereotypes that I've heard about. I'm sure there are others. I think every culture has these 'images' (i.e. not every American is fat or french person is rude). That's the great thing about truly living in a country is you get to find out 'THE TRUTH'!