Great Britain is the land of good manners, afternoon tea, and the Queen of England herself. Without wanting to feed the stereotype too much, this is typically one destination where any impoliteness is likely to be noticed.
Brits generally don’t have strict social customs that are imposed on travelers the way other countries have them, but there is still a certain etiquette to be aware of when traveling to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. There are still things that are done on the regular, and things that are frowned upon.
Keep reading to find out what etiquette tips you have to know before traveling to Great Britain.
10 Understand Pub Culture
Pub culture is a huge part of life in Great Britain, so your best chance of blending in with the locals is getting familiar with the ins and outs of the pub. Generally, it’s considered polite to buy at least one round of drinks for the group you’re with when you’re out at the pub.
The idea is that everybody reciprocates as the night goes on. According to Business Insider, you will come across looking pretty odd if you go to the pub with a group and only buy drinks for yourself while you’re there.
9 There Will Be Many Apologies
You’ll probably find in Britain that people apologize much more frequently than they do in the United States. Brits tend to apologize for things that aren’t even their fault. If you bump into them, they will probably say sorry. Understand that they’re not genuinely expressing that they’re at fault and need to be forgiven; this is just a British quirk!
It will look pretty strange if you say “I forgive you” unless somebody actually apologizes for something they’ve done wrong. The best response is a simple “no worries” or you can even reciprocate by saying sorry too, depending on the situation.
8 Don’t Forget Your Table Manners
Britain is the mother of table manners. If you’re dining at a high-end restaurant or are attending a dinner party during your stay in the United Kingdom, you best brush up on dining etiquette. This includes waiting until everyone has been served to start eating and resting your cutlery on the side of the plate between mouthfuls.
If you attempt to talk with your mouth full, be prepared to be gawked at in horror. Study Links points out that it will also seem odd to locals if you make a lot of noise while you’re eating.
7 Avoid Discussing Money
In every country, there are taboo subjects that you should avoid talking about. In the countries of Great Britain, you should avoid talking about money. That includes how much you earn and how much you spend. It is considered the height of rudeness to ask how much somebody else earns.
With the younger generations, it is becoming more acceptable to talk about money, but you should still never bring up the subject. If you feel comfortable talking about it and somebody brings it up first, that’s one thing. But otherwise, talking about it will make you look impolite.
6 Know Your Geography
British people are friendly, but their patience wears thin with tourists who lump them all in the same category. Perhaps the most important thing to do before traveling to the U.K. is to know the local geography and understand that Great Britain is actually made up of four different countries.
The U.K. consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Some tourists get confused and forget about Wales, or think Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are the same thing or are just under the impression that London and Britain and synonymous.
5 Mind Your P’s And Q’s
The land of manners, Great Britain is not the best place to forget your p’s and q’s. In other words, don’t forget to say please and thank you when talking to people. These are considered the pillars of courtesy and are expected. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to a waiter, a shop assistant, or the Queen herself. Being polite means saying please and thank you regularly.
In other countries, it might not be customary to thank servers or say please, because they’re just doing the job that’s expected of them. But in Britain, every social exchange is traditionally polite.
4 Shake Hands With Everyone You Meet
Shaking hands is a common greeting in some countries, a little stiff in others, and only okay between certain people in other cultures. In Britain, you can generally expect to shake hands with everyone you meet, regardless of their gender. According to Expatica, the standard response to an introduction is, “Pleased to meet you.”
While Brits appreciate a handshake, they don’t always feel comfortable with prolonged eye contact. It’s best to avoid staring at people’s eyes when you’ve just met them. You should also use last names and Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr. rather than first names.
3 Wait Your Turn In Line
Lining up is a standard practice in many western countries. In the U.K., it’s taken very seriously. If you try to cut the line, you will be seen as rude by all the people you’ve jumped ahead of. The best thing to do is ask where the line ends and join it so you don’t risk offending anyone.
Typically, British people won’t always speak up when you cut in front of them. But they will let their irritation be known with eye rolls, huffs and puffs, and possible whispering to the person next to them.
2 You Will Be Expected To Be Punctual
Punctuality is held in very high regard in Britain. Even being a few minutes late can make you seem impolite and disrespectful, so it’s a good idea to always keep an eye on the time. When you can’t help but be delayed, be sure to let the person waiting for you know.
There are a few specific events in the U.K. where you should make every effort to be on time, or even a few minutes early. These include classes, concerts, public meetings, sporting events, and weddings.
1 Don’t Be Alarmed By Terms Of Endearment
Terms of endearment are typically used freely in the United Kingdom. In some cultures, being called “dear” or “darling” might be seen as patronizing, particularly if you’re a woman. But in the U.K., no offense is meant by it. Rather, these affectionate terms are commonly used.
You might also head the word “love” being used instead of your name. Again, this isn’t usually considered rude in British culture, so don’t be alarmed or feel singled out. It’s just another British quirk that might take some getting used to!