GREAT BRITAIN: SOCIAL ETIQUETTE




“We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” -Winston Churchill, British politician and statesman. 

Like any nationality in the world, the British have their own idiosyncrasies. Here are the little things that you need to be aware of if you want to be culturally correct on your visit to Great Britain:
  • The British are obsessive about maintaining and respecting personal space, which is the reason why they have a certain reserve when engaging in conversation. They do not gesticulate wildly, make dramatic facial expressions, or raise their voices when speaking. Conversation is controlled and discreet at all times, which means that your tone of conversation needs to adapt accordingly. Good luck if you’re Latin!
  • The British value good manners and appropriate speech at all times, using phrases like “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, and “I'm sorry” as part of their daily “vocab”. Try elbowing an Englishman in the ribs accidentally on a crowded train and chances are they will end up apologizing to you. 
  • If you think that you have British graciousness all worked out when you hear the words, “drop in anytime”, think again. Unlike the Aussies, who will extend the invitation and expect you to literally drop by unannounced on your way to the shops or the beach for a "cuppa", this phrase is never meant to be taken literally in Britain, or you do so at your own risk. 
  • The British never say bathroom, or even restroom. The toilet in Great Britain is called a toilet.
  • As the English are a private and discreet people, any topics of conversation that are too personal - like religion, sex, politics, personal gossip, and asking someone their age - are considered in poor taste and impolite. The English are also of the belief that success and wealth should speak for themselves. The need to brag about ones success and wealth is considered crass, and a reflection of ones poor breeding and lack of education. And one last word: steer clear of criticizing the Royal Family!
  • The British bury their sentimentality under humor, finding open displays of emotion embarrassing and inappropriate. For this reason they are the absolute masters of irony. With a unique comedic style that is dry, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and razor sharp, it is delivered with deadpan accuracy. Some timeless masterpieces of British comedy include classics such as Mr. BeanMonty PythonFawlty TowersBlack Adder, and Absolutely Fabulous
  • The British reconnect with friends and family, establish new friendships, and cure all the ills of the world, with a soothing cup of tea. However, Tea Time has its own sets of rules and etiquette, starting from the way that you hold the teacup correctly. Holding the teacup correctly not only ensures grace, it ensures that the hot tea doesn’t spill and scald your lap. Ready? So place your fingers to the front and back of the handle with your pinkie finger slightly tilted up for balance. Don’t loop your fingers through the handle, or hold the body of the cup with the palm of your hand. When stirring your tea, try not to use wide circular motions. Reserve that for the “spac filla” in your home renovations.
Enjoyed the article? 

If you want to read more on appropriate behavior for Britain, and British dining, dressing, and gift giving etiquette, check out Chapter 6 on my book, “Culture Savvy For Women: A Complete Guide To Culturally Correct Behavior Around The World”. 

Click Here to Download “Culture Savvy For Women: A Guide To Culturally Correct Behavior Around The World”