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Good Manners in England

British people are famous for their great politeness and sense of respect. Their etiquette dictates the behaviour your are expected to adopt at all times. Here is a list of some “tips” everyone should be aware of before going to the United Kingdom.

 

Greetings

First of all: SMILE. People tend to be more friendly to a smiling person. Then, on the first meeting, it is often better to say “Hello” or “Good morning”, etc., and to shake hands. Always shake their right hand with your right hand.

It is advisable to reserve hugs and kisses to people we are close to, such as friends or family.

 

Surnames

Here in England, tourists can be surprised by the affectionate way people call each others. But actually, calling someone “mate”, “dear”, “love” or “honey”,  is a normal and common thing.

 

Conversation

When talking with someone, especially if you just met him/her or if he/she is older than you, there are topics to avoid. For example, avoid personal questions, such as the age (especially for ladies!), wages or weight. Also avoid talking about religion, politics and sex. And finally, particularly nowadays, avoid jokes that might be offensive or insulting.

Start by introducing yourself. Then, you can preferably talk about common and daily life topics like weather, music, food, pets, hobbies, news, etc.  

 

Behaviour in public

Apart from politeness between two people, you must have good manners in public. Always cover your mouth whenever you yawn or cough, and say “sorry”, especially if you bother people around. Do not speak loudly, do not spit, and do not burp and fart: try to find a private place. And if you do it accidentally, do not forget to say “excuse me” and to cover your mouth if you burp. Staring at someone is also very rude, and reserve too friendly or loving gestures for private life.

Also, as you probably know, it is very common to often say “sorry”, “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you” whenever the situation allows it. Most of British people will say sorry even if they did not do anything wrong but you did.

Finally, you must hold and open the doors for people behind you or people who need it.

When in a queue, wait patiently for your turn, do not try to make your way ahead. And, especially for men, take off your hat when you go indoors.

 

When invited at someone’s home (for dinner)

Of course, you are expected to be as polite as in public. But there are some specifications. First of all, arrive on time. Being late is considered very rude. Also avoid arriving too early. Then, offer your host a gift, like a bottle of wine. And basically, you should wait for everyone to be served before starting to eat. Do not talk when your mouth is full of food, do not lean your elbows on the table, eat silently and ask someone to give you an item, rather than reaching it by yourself. And remember to send your host a ‘thank you’ note afterwards.

Using cutlery and plates is also done regarding some rules. Hold the fork in your left hand, and the knife in your right one, and never eat food off your knife. Moreover, except when attending to a barbecue or an informal dinner/lunch, do not use your fingers to eat.

 

In public places (restaurant, hotel…)

Would you need anything or any information, start with “Excuse me, could you please…” or “May I…”. Moreover, it is more polite to use the term “ladies” or “gents” instead of toilet in public places.

Then, it is usual to tip waiters, for example in a hotel (when a member of the staff provided you a service or helped you), at the hairdresser, or in a restaurant. In this case, we usually add an amount of 10% of the bill if the service charge is not already included.

 

Of course, there are many other rules of courteousness to follow every day, everywhere, sometimes depending on your sex, age or social position.

But, as it can be noticed, many changes in the social and economic environment occurred, leading to a modernisation of the British social etiquette. It is now common to adopt less formal behaviour as well in public as in private life. Nowadays, some of the codes mentioned above may be old-fashioned. But many others are remaining relevant. Try to respect them for a better stay in England.

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