British Culture – Social Etiquette

You are in another country. Should you act and do what you do in your own country?  Knowing about a country’s social etiquette is always useful, and finding out about it either before or when you are there will always make for a more pleasant stay. Here’s what to be aware of when in the UK.

  • When in a pub it is expected that you buy a round of drinks for everyone in your group. To not do so is considered quite rude.
  • The British do like to hear the words ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ being used. It is better to overuse them than not use them at all!
  • When on an escalator try to stand on the right. Standing on the left, and not moving, will only annoy people.
  • To get someone to move who is blocking your way in public, politely say ‘Excuse me’. Try not to touch the other person.
  • When in the UK, refer to it as the ‘UK’ and not ‘England’. Also ask people if they are ‘British’ and not if they are ‘English’. Quite rightfully people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get angry when you refer to their country as ‘England’!
  • When greeting people, especially for the first time, a firm handshake is common. However, the British are increasingly embracing or kissing others who they know and are friendly with, mainly in social situations.
  • If you are invited to someone’s house for dinner, remember to take a present (or two) normally wine and a box of chocolates (and/or flowers). Arrive at the time you were invited, British people respect punctuality. If it is a business meeting, do not turn up late!
  • When in a restaurant, and if you are satisfied with the food and service, a tip of 10% would be appropriate. Do however first check that a service charge has not already been added to your bill. In a taxi simply round up the fare. So, if the ride came to £5.50, give the driver £6.00.
  • When meeting British people for the first time, many can seem quite reserved. Do not be offended by this as they are not being unfriendly! In reality, most British people are friendly and helpful.
  • The British have become increasingly informal in recent years when addressing one another. Though family names are still used in a first meeting, it is much more common today to use first names soon after this. Customer service based organisations will, however, always use family names.
  • Dress, in most situations, is informal in the UK, though you would still be expected to dress smartly for certain occasions such as a wedding and in certain, more conservative businesses.
  • Try not to talk loudly, make a lot of noise generally or gesticulate wildly when in public. You may, however, see people doing exactly this on a Friday or Saturday night outside a pub!

Always worth bearing in mind that the above is what a lot of people think is correct, but then others might have a different opinion 😉

Thanks to Jeremy C.