Modern manners anyone? With common courtesy standards changing as fast as your Twitter feed, it’s perfectly normal to be unsure of what etiquette rules we should follow. Worry no more. We’ve put together a comprehensible black book with suggestions on how to behave under the most basic to the trickiest situations you may find yourself in. Whether you’re a London-newbie or a local, these tips will be useful your entire life!
- Meeting People
- In general the British prefer to be introduced to strangers, if at all possible wait for a third party introduction when meeting someone new.
England is a non-touching culture. When greeting someone a handshake accompanied by a “Pleased to meet you” is appropriate. When departing be sure to shake everyone’s hand, a general group wave as is often done in the United States is not looked on favourably. Greeting people with a kiss is only done with family, friends and intimate acquaintances.
The British value space between one another.
Strong eye contact is not overly common among strangers and casual acquaintances, too much eye contact is considered and invasion of privacy. Eye contact is used when one really wants to make a point, when speaking with close friends, and when interest in a person or topic wants to be stressed.
- Communicating, Living And Interacting In The City
Bad Topics of Discussion
Politics, religion, and sex. Also the common American question “what do you do?” is considered rude and too personal.
The British are a big fan of the understatement; this is shown in their choice of words (“indeed”, “quite”), their volume (almost always quieter than other cultures) and body language (when first meeting facial expressions are kept to a minimum). Gestures are kept to a minimum and a polite self-possessed manner is strived for.
Waiting in Line
Waiting in line (or queuing) is a never-ending occurrence in the UK. You will find lines at every public facility, event, meet-up, etc. No matter how long the line is always go to the back and wait, and stay in line no matter how long it takes.
In the United Kingdom one walks on the left hand side and passes on the right.
Customer service is not as “in your face” as it is in the United States. Generally a salesclerk will ignore you until eye contact is made signalling service is required.
When shopping at the grocery store be aware that if you touch the fruits or vegetables—you buy them.
Always wait in line for a taxi, bus or train. When on the bus or train it is polite to give up your seat for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women and parents with children.
When you board a taxicab be sure to enter the cab from the opposite side of the driver and to sit in the back.
Standard amounts are 10 to 15 percent. Services that are tipped are generally the same as those that are tipped for in the United States.
At a hotel bellmen are generally tipped 1 to 2 pounds per bag.
Styles of dress are similar to those of the USA; however colours are often more muted (especially outside London).
- Gastronomy And Table Manners
- Meal Times
Breakfast is typically from 7 to 9 AM.
A traditional “English Breakfast” is a large hearty meal consisting of: bacon, sausage (“bangers”) toast/croissants/muffins/scones, juice, fried potatoes, eggs, cereal and juice. Tea & coffee are also commonly taken.
A traditional “Irish Breakfast” is called a “fry up” and consists of fried eggs, bacon (boiled pork, the name for American style “bacon” is “rashers”) tomatoes, hot cereal, potatoes and juice.
Lunch is typically from 12 to 2 PM
Standard pub fare tends to make up Lunch—sandwiches, salads, etc.
High Tea & Regular Tea Standard “Tea” is taken between 4 and 5 PM and consists of cakes, sweets, finger sandwiches and of course—tea.
Traditional High Tea is taken around 5 PM and is often a substitute for Dinner. High Tea includes all the fixings of a standard tea but includes a hot dish as well (pot pie, etc.)
Dinner is typically from 7-9 PM, with 8:00 being the traditional time. Formal dinners begin with an alcoholic drink followed by an appetizer.
The British do not switch their knife and fork as people do in the States. The fork remains in the left hand and the knife in the right hand.
Placing your utensils down on your plate signifies to wait staff that you are finished.
When not in use keep your hands in your lap and pass dishes to the left.
Never lick a knife when eating. Knives should be used to cut food, not to be licked off or eaten from.
In general the person who did the inviting is the person that pays.
- British Basics: The Do’s
When queuing (or standing in line) you should always wait for your turn. Do not push in front or cut the queue as it is frowned upon.
If somebody is in your way and you would like to get by, it’s always recommendable to say “excuse me” so they can move out of your way.
Pay As You Drink
At pubs and informal bars it is recommended to pay for your drinks each time you order them.
Always Say “Please” and “Thank you”
It is of good manners to say “please” and “thank you” and it may be considered rude not do so.
Cover Your Mouth
Make sure to place your hand in front of your mouth when coughing or yawning.
Say ‘sorry’ if you accidentally hit or bump into another person.
There is no better greeting than a smile.
Drive On The Left Side Of The Road
This is how it’s done in Britain.
Open Doors For People
This goes for both men and women. You should hold the door open if you’re passing through it first.
- British Basics: The Don’ts
- Avoid Talking Loudly In Public
Whether you are having a conversation with somebody else or speaking on your mobile. Bottom line: keep it down.
It is considered impolite to stare at other people in public.
Never Ask A Woman’s Age
It is impolite and sometimes rude to ask a lady what her age is.
Don’t Pick Your Nose
This is a disgusting habit and unacceptable past the age of five. If you are in need of cleaning your nose, use a tissue.
Do Not Burp Or Pass Wind
Please don’t do this in public, it is considered very rude. If you must do so, excuse yourself and go to the restroom. If you definitely can’t hold a burp in, cover your mouth and say ‘excuse me’.
Don’t Speak With Your Mouth Full Of Food
It is very unappealing and disgusting for whoever is watching.
Don’t Ask Personal Or Intimate Questions
People appreciate privacy. So it is suggested not to ask personal questions like how much money people make in their jobs or how much their rent costs.
- British Word = American Translation
Rubber = Eraser
Condom = Rubber
Plaster = Band-Aid
Tube = Subway
Bill = Check (at a restaurant or bar)
Note = A bill (as in money; Could I have a five pound note back?)
Quid = Buck (refers to money; Can I borrow two quid?)
Pence = Cent
Trousers = Pants
Knickers = Panties
Drawers = Male Underwear
Vest = “Wife-beater” style tank top
Jumper = Sweater
Pumps = Flat shoes
Courts = Pumps; low-cut front shoes with a heel. *Kate Middleton’s favourites!
Fancy – Like (I fancy the guy in the red trousers.)
Lift = Elevator
Bin = Trash or garbage can
Rubbish = Trash or garbage
Mobile = Cell phone
Snog = Kiss
Wee = Pee
Loo = Toilet/Restroom
*If you feel there are any terms missing in the BRITionary please email us at Geraldine@heruni.com
Sources: www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/behaviour.html; projcetbritain.com