Has COVID-19 changed UK culture for the better?

Big Ben at sunset
Lockdown has arguably changed UK culture into something more positive. Source: Free-Photos (via. Pixabay)
When someone thinks about UK culture, a few stereotypical attributes come to mind. Has the lockdown changed these ingrained stereotypes for the better?

By Molly Govus | Head of Comment 

When someone thinks about UK culture, a few stereotypical attributes come to mind, almost instantly. Whether it be the witty and dry sense of humour or our London-centric nine-to-five working style, there is no doubt that these renowned stereotypes have been challenged in the light of a global pandemic and lockdown. We have been forced to take a step back from these modern traditions; some may argue that our clean-cut sarcasm just doesn’t hit the mark as a coping mechanism anymore. The stiff-upper-lip of our culture has been weakened, but is this necessarily a bad thing?

According to a report from Eurostat, full-time workers in the UK work an average of 42.5 hours a week, which is above the European average. It goes without saying that we are hard-wired into the gruelling job routine that millions of people inevitably follow – after all, it gives a sense of purpose, dedication, and commitment.

With the UK’s unemployment rate currently at 3.9%, the lowest it has been in four decades, there is no doubt that the loss of our well-oiled working routine has thrown some of the population into a craze of inactivity and inability. A feeling that we, admittedly, find hard to accept. With 7.6 million jobs at risk, including furlough, lay-offs and reduction in working hours, even masks couldn’t hide the fear and vulnerability that millions within the UK faced. 

So, what do we do as a nation? When faced with hardships, it’s easy to assume that the general population chug a copious amount of tea to drown heavy, pandemic-related sorrows.

Instead, the reality is a lot more heart-warming. According to Google mobility data, visits to recreational sites such as national parks, forests and beaches increased, revealing that the general population were seeking happiness in nature in a way they hadn’t before. With most people working from home or furloughed during the lockdown, there were many opportunities to explore local areas that may have been missed during the typical work-day rush. According to Mind, bringing nature into everyday life can help bring a sense of calm and reduce feelings of stress, which is definitely what we all needed.

The term ‘Zoom’ has undoubtedly become a buzzword of 2020. At the start of the year, barely anyone knew of the social-media brand or what it meant. By April, the video-sharing platform allowed over 300 million people to meet daily.  The same rise in downloads was shown with the younger generations, staying in touch thanks to an app called ‘House Party’. Countless quizzes and family Zoom calls became the norm, and it is enlightening to know that the simplest of pleasures like quizzes have become more popular. People managed to find their own little sense of happiness in the simplest of circumstances, like a video call with Grandparents or friends. Hopefully, this is a sentiment that sticks with us, to remind us to keep in touch with our loved ones more often than just birthdays or Christmas.

The pandemic and the lockdown have put a lot of things into perspective. Maybe it is the harsh kick we needed to realise what is important in life after many grim, bleak months. We are more grateful for what we have, less selfish, more forgiving.

Data from the YouGov Weekly Mood Tracker survey found that there has been a relative rise in life satisfaction amongst the population. For instance, a survey by the University of Plymouth concluded that lockdown helped parents feel more connected to their children as they could achieve a better work-life balance from home. There is evidence that working from home, where possible, may be the new way to work in the future. The UK’s Office for National Statistics showed that 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Arguably, the pandemic has increased ever-improving networking and changing attitudes, and this number is expected to continue to rise over the next three years.

On a more global perspective, the lockdown was beneficial for the environment. Research shows that global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 17%, opening the eyes of the population. Goats have been seen walking the streets of Llandudno, Wales, and dolphins have been venturing closer to the Cornish shoreline – all due to less interference from humans. Hopefully, society will continue with a clearer and more proactive mindset following the brilliant environmental changes that took place whilst the social lives of the world were put on hold.

There was never anything drastically wrong with the way we coped as a nation before. At the end of the day, sarcasm and dry humour never hurt anyone too badly. With the destruction that has followed 2020’s reign, it is often hard to find the metaphorical light at the end of, what feels like, a long and never-ending tunnel. We still have the opportunity to make the world a better and more loving place. We are now so much more aware of how important it is to appreciate the little, seemingly significant things in life.

It would be inspiring and wholly endearing to know whether we are emerging from lockdown as better humans, with a clearer outlook on what is at risk, but only time will tell. 

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