For aspiring international students who have set their eyes on the UK as their top choice for a study destination, knowing bits and pieces of interesting facts about the sovereign country may give them a sneak peek of how and what is life there.

First things first, let’s clear the air on what is the UK, Britain, and England. Unbeknownst to some, the United Kingdom is an island country located off the northwestern coast of mainland Europe and comprises the whole of the island of Great Britain—which is home to England, Wales, and Scotland—as well as the northern portion of the island of Ireland. Geographically speaking, Great Britain (aka Britain) is an island part of the British Isles, which is comprised of over 6,000 islands.

While London is the capital of the UK, which is also sometimes referred to as Britain, other major capital cities in the UK are Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester in England, Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in Scotland, and Swansea and Cardiff in Wales.

Here are 7 fascinating facts about the UK:

  1. Queen Elizabeth II is not only the longest-reigning monarch in Britain but in the world. She became a queen at age 25 in February 1952 following the death of her father and was crowned a monarch in June 1953.
  2. Over half a million international students were studying in the UK in 2019/2020– 395,630 of them were non-EU.
  3. In the 2018/2019 academic year there were 164 universities and higher education institutions in the UK, an increase of one university versus the previous academic year.
  4. Chicken Tikka Masala is the country’s national dish. Reflecting on the UK as a cultural melting pot, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook highlighted in his speech in 2001 that the Indian entree is a symbol of modern multicultural Britain. He said: “Chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy.”
  5. The first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom on 1 May 1840.
  6. Originally crafted in China, the Brits embraced tea so much so like their own, with 84% of the British population drinking tea and herbal infusions daily. The country consumes approximately 100 million cups daily, equivalent to almost 36 billion per year.
  7. Bath, which is aptly named after its Roman-built baths and the largest city in the county of Somerset, was the first city in England to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  8. Stonehenge, located in the English county of Wiltshire, is a prehistoric stone circle monument, cemetery, and archaeological site built in six stages between 3000 and 1520 BCE, during the transition from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) to the Bronze Age.
  9. British passports are issued in the name of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, which makes it unnecessary for the Queen to have one. But the rest of the Royal family possess passports.
  10. London is home to over 8 million citizens and has around 300 languages spoken in the city, with Bengali as the second most-spoken language in London, followed by Polish and Turkish.