I don't think it is a culture throughout the United Kingdom. One of the sites I was introduced to through an Ancestry member is Lincs to the Past (Lincolnshire area). It is a free site and even though is takes more effort to locate records, once you find one family entry, you can often locate many more relatives in the same parish registry book. They have a copy of the entire book that you must go through page by page. And while they have not made it indexed it for searching, they have a list of last names recorded so you don't have to zoom in on all pages that don't list the family name you want. I found a lot of records on this site that Ancestry did/does not have.
I agree with looking on FamilySearch first. That is how I learned a little bit about my ancestors from Scotland.
Any suggestions on how many credits a first time user should purchase to get started? I have a few separate families I'm about ready to start to research there.