The British culture can be tough to understand.
To foreign travellers, we appear standoffish, incredibly OCD about queuing, yet overly polite.
And this is just the start of it!
If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering what’s up with us Brits and how best you can educate yourself on our etiquette and culture, then this list is a good start.
British Etiquette Tips & Things To Know
We really do love tea!
Apparently, the average Brit drinks 876 cups of tea per year – enough to fill two whole bathtubs!
… But tea must be served with milk
But don’t even get us started if you serve us tea without milk, or if you assume we all like one type or brand of tea.
We’re a picky bunch!
Not all of us voted for Brexit
Not only is Brexit a very touchy subject (even for those who voted in favour of it), but you’d be wise to remember that the vote was super close with a 51% / 49% split.
That said, quite a few “leavers” (those who voted in favour of Brexit) are now wishing they voted differently.
We love to hate the weather – it’s a great ice breaker
“Why does it always rain?”
“Why is it too hot?”
Whatever the weather, we love to hate it.
We also find it to be a great ice breaker… example: “Isn’t the weather rubbish today?” or “Isn’t the weather behaving weirdly at the moment?”
We may be standoffish, but we do have feelings
To the outside world, we’re typically seen as quite standoffish. You’ve heard of a stiff upper lip, right?
Well, the Brits probably invented that.
But please don’t let this put you off.
We’re actually really nice people (ahem, most of us) and care about other people a lot!
We don’t all like the monarchy so quit asking us if we know the Queen!
There are some Brits who love the fact that we have a Constitutional Monarchy.
Others not so much, and some are simply nonplussed about the whole thing.
Therefore, quit asking us if we know the Queen, or any member of the Royal family as we probably don’t, and don’t care that we don’t either.
We’re not all from London, or from near London
Despite the UK being a small island, we only consider ourselves to be from “near London” if we’re an hour or two away in the car.
Any further than that and we’re not from near London, so best not to ask us this if you’re unsure… the chances are high that we’re definitely not from near the capital.
Polite on the outside, murdering you with our eyes on the inside
British people are incredibly polite. If you’ve upset us, you’ll be unlikely to hear about it from us, but we’ll be trying to murder you with our eyes instead!
We say sorry a lot!
We’ve bumped into you on the street, or you’ve bumped into us; either way, we’ll apologise.
Bumping into each other is just an example though – we behave this way about EVERYTHING!
Americans and the butchered English language is a touchy subject
We feel very strongly that Americans have “butchered” our language, so it’s probably best to avoid the whole Brit vs American spelling debate.
Scones are great, but we don’t have them everyday
We love scones, we love tea, we love afternoon tea… but this doesn’t mean you should expect scones if you come over for a cuppa.
We only have scones and tea on special occasions, as a special treat or if we’ve popped out to a cute little cafe somewhere.
… Speaking of scones, we care a lot about whether jam or cream comes first
If you’re going to eat scones in front of a Brit, be careful whether you put cream or jam on first.
It’s quite a big debate over here on which is right, and it’s been known to cause havoc on social media and split households.
Basically, you’d be best reading up on the pros and cons of each method and pick a side… even if I don’t agree with you, my next door neighbour might…
“You alright” means “hello”, it does not mean we actually care how you are
Sorry… that sounds rude, but it’s true.
So simple that it only needs one word – queuing.
Basically, just do it.
Standing in line for a bus stop, waiting in a shop, boarding a train… there’s always a queue system.
Sometimes we’ll even join queues without really knowing what we’re queuing up for, it’s just who we are.
But we get very annoyed when others (including travellers) don’t pay attention to the unwritten rule of queuing.
We don’t all speak “posh”
Yes, there are a number of us with decidedly “posh” accents. We refer to this as the “Queen’s English”.
But remember that there are a number of different accents from around the country, so don’t be surprised when hearing a Brummy (Birmingham), Liverpudlian (Liverpool), Bristolian (Bristol) or other type of accent… they’re all very different and don’t sound anything like the “Queen’s English”.
Our food is actually really tasty… so stop telling us it’s not
This one annoys quite a lot of us. When travellers come over here, we often hear how bad the British cuisine is, whether not tasty or unhealthy.
Now, our food isn’t going to be for everyone, but honestly, you’ll love our really good traditional food. Fish and chips, bangers (sausage) and mash, roast dinners, they’re all delicious… you’ll even want to take our best food home with you!
We get really weird about tipping
Tipping isn’t customary in the UK, although it is appreciated.
But generally, we’ll only tip if a) we’re really happy with the service, b) we’ve had great food, c) we’re very well mannered or d) we’ve travelled overseas and now think tipping is expected.
We feel that when we want to tip, 10% is more than enough.
But it’s been known to make us feel really weird on whether we should tip or not, as we don’t want to appear as cheapskates or give the wrong impression if we didn’t actually enjoy our meal.
Tipping is a complicated business over here.
PDA to a minimum please!!
Although we’re happy to see couples having a cheeky kiss in the street, or walking hand in hand, we’re not fans of lots of PDAs (public displays of affection).
If you’re full on canoodling in the street, you should expect some scowls or some “tuts”.
Bowls should be kept on the table
When dining out, or when dining in, bowls and plates should be kept on the table. This might make having that bowl of soup really tricky, but it’s how it’s done here.
Wait until everyone is served before eating
Once everyone has been given their plates, only now may you start eating.
Even when others say “Go ahead or it will get cold”, it’s best to wait as some of us can be quite thoughtful of “table manners”.
Don’t talk with your mouth full
Although true in a lot of cultures, Brits feel particularly strongly about not talking with your mouth full.
Keep food noises to a minimum… actually it’s best not to make any noises
When enjoying your food, it’s good to say “Hmm, this is tasty”, but it’s not good to simply go “Mmm” or slurp.
On second thoughts, maybe just keep quiet and eat… we like that.
Stand on the right of escalators
Not only true in London, but throughout the rest of the UK, it’s an unwritten rule that you should stand on the right of escalators. The left is for people who like to run up them if they’re in a rush.
Generally speaking, Brits are more softly spoken and less “rowdy” than other nationalities.
So it might be best to speak like a librarian during your trip to England… just in case.
If in doubt, just refer to the Very British Problems books and Twitter page…
But if you forget almost everything I’ve said, referring to the Very British Problems books and Twitter page will tell you everything you need to know about us… while giving you plenty of laughs I’m sure!
We’re a funny old bunch of people, aren’t we? Have fun getting to know us on your next trip! 😉