by Maryla Shlyk and Richard Browning
Those of us with other halves from different countries will understand the endless discussions about whose homeland is more unique (obviously Belarus!). However, me and my British fiancé decided this was more hurtful than helpful, so we decided to focus on what actually unites us. Here is a little list of similarities between Belarus and Britain we though you would appreciate. Yes, they really do exist!
1. Castles. When you think of Britain you often think about its romantic countrysides covered in castles. Well, Belarus like Britain also has a number of castles. Unfortunately, several of them need a lot of restoration but, some are true masterpieces. I’m not just talking about Mir and Nesvizh. There is also Kossovo Castle; a 19th century neo-gothic castle/palace that boasts more than a hundred rooms and functions partly as a tourist hotel, restaurant, and local cultural centre surrounded by lovely wooded grounds. So although it’s no Windsor Castle it is our version of Downton Abbey.
Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England (on the left) and The Palace of the Puslovskys in Kossovo, Belarus (on the right)
2. Size. Often foreigners picture Belarus as a small country in the middle of nowhere. Where in fact, we are located in the centre of Europe and actually the exactly same size as Great Britain (ok, Great Britain not including North Ireland). We even have our own sea (Minsk Sea). So the next time someone asks…now you know how to respond!
3. Music. You can’t talk about Britain without mentioning Scotland. We also like kilts (although these tartan skirts are usually just worn by women in our country). However, there is one thing that unites Belarus and Scotland and that is the unique musical instrument the bag pipes known in Belarus as the duda. So, for those of us Belarusians travelling to Scotland, try and take up the duda, it might be a wee bit easier than understanding the Scottish dialect!
Scottish bagpipes (on the left) and Belarusian duda (on the right)
4. The Weather. The weather is often a hot topic when deciding on a travel destination. I mean, who hasn’t heard the stories of all the rain and fog in London? Nevertheless, we Belarusians think we have the perfect seasonal weather: hot summers, beautiful autumns, snowy winters, and soft springs. But, in reality Minsk is wetter than London? That’s right, Minsk has approximately 195 rainy days a year in contracts to London’s 164 days.
5. Food. Both nations enjoy a delicious bowl of porridge for breakfast. This hardy staple can be eaten a number of ways. We Belarusians enjoy ours with honey and fruit, just like the Brits, who also enjoy a few nuts and Golden Syrup on theirs. So, for breakfast there will never be a big culture shock.
A bowl of porridge – typical British and Belarusian breakfast. Photo source: pixabay.com
6. Fashion. Which shop could be more British than Marks & Spencer? But is it truly British? We think not! Mojsza Marks was born in Slonim, a Belarusian city in the Grodno region. In 1882 he emigrated to UK where he opened his first shop with the slogan: “Don`t ask the price, it’s a penny”. Later he met his business partner Thomas Spencer, with whom he created the Marks & Spencer brand. The Independent Newspaper describes Mojsza Marks as one of the 10 most significant immigrants who changed the face of Britain.
7. Sport. We both have Olympic champions in…rowing and tennis! Yes, GB is not just about football, just as Belarus is not only about hockey. We are very proud of our athletes and wish them good luck in future Olympics!
A famous British footballer David Beckham (on the left) and a Belarusian professional tennis player, former world No.1, Victoria Azarenka (on the right)
8. Politics. Medieval and Early Modern Belarus and Britain had many political similarities. But, over the years and the many wars and occupations our two countries seem to be more divided than united. However, we can both lay claim to the great 20th century politician Chaim Weizmann; a Belarusian born Jew who went on to study Chemistry in Germany and Switzerland, and eventually became a professor at the University of Manchester. He remained in Britain, becoming a citizen, for thirty years and during this time he became active in the Zionist movement. To make a long story short, after years of campaigning for a Jewish state, Weizmann eventually became the first President of Israel. So, we have that in common.
9. Potatoes. When we discussed porridge earlier in the food section maybe you were surprised that we didn’t mention potatoes. Don’t worry! We just decided that they should have their own category! This humble vegetable is at the heart of both Belarusian and British cuisine. The Brit couldn’t live without their fish and chips and where would Belarusians be without delicious drainiki?
British fish and chips (on the left) and Belarusian draniki (on the right)
10. Design. Finally, when you think of British products might think of Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Burberry, and maybe, just maybe, the antique British watch company Sekonda? Well, did you know that these watches were made in Minsk at the well known Luch factory! Renowned for their high quality and great design, Luch still produces watches for leading Swiss watch companies.
British Sekonda watch (on the left) and Belarusian Luch watch (on the right)
So, these are just a few of the things that unite Great Britain and Belarus. Maybe we forgot to mention something important? Let us know and we can make our list bigger!