If you’ve travelled from another nation it’s always good to know the customs and accepted behaviours of your host country, so here’s a little primer.

 

  • It goes without saying that smile goes a long way in any nation on this wonderful planet. The UK is generally very open and accepting of any nationality. It is said that the British are reserved in nature; in some circumstances this is true, but it doesn’t mean the people are not welcoming. We’re happy to say hi and help out where we can and on the whole we are very approachable.
  • Queueing. Now this is something we say we pride our ourselves on and is well know around the world. Generally if someone stands in line for a service, be it at the shops, at an ATM or on a train platform, the people already waiting go ahead of you and you go ahead of anyone that joins after you. It’s a ‘first come, first served’ basis unless there’s an emergency or someone is running late. If that’s the case then politely ask the person at the front if they can join them at the front and explain your situation to the people immediately behind. We’ll understand. Otherwise queue jumping is seen as disrespectful.
  • Please say ‘Excuse me’ in order to get someone’s attention.
  • If someone is in your way then please do say ‘Excuse me’ and they will move aside. If anyone says sorry for being in the way on knocking into you, take it as a respectful acknowledgement and not a deep seated sorrow for what just happened, even if it’s your fault 😉
  • ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’… the two most respectful phrases in the english language. Use them liberally and the world will be a better place.
  • Upon sneezing, coughing, belching and yawning – please do cover your mouth to minimise any unhygienic contact. It’s also appreciated that you refrain from flatulence in close vicinity to other people, especially on public transport.
  • Upon greeting someone we always say ‘Hi’‘Hello’ or ‘Nice to meet you’. Sometimes they will extend their arm for a handshake in a business or formal setting. Other colloquial ways of saying hello include ‘Alright?’, meaning ‘Hi, how are you/Hi, are you ok?’ but you’re not expected to answer specifically. You can say hello back or say ‘Good thanks, you?’. We’re not asking if you feel ok, it’s just a greeting.
  • The word ‘Mate’ (meaning friend). If someone says ‘Alright mate?’ it is the same meaning as above but with ‘mate’ added which is a friendlier term, likewise ‘Cheers/Thanks mate’. This is the only times you’ll probably hear the word mate – and it has nothing to do with mating. Never say ‘mates’ as that is only ever used in the plural friend context ‘My mates and I…’ or ‘…with my mates’.
  • Please remove hats in churches, cinemas, theatre and high-end restaurants.
  • It’s good to hold doors open for people and let them they pass through first if you are on the opening side of the door.
  • Please do not stare at people as this is rude and can make them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
  • Please do not spit or swear in public.
  • Please do not follow someone unnecessarily without explaining why.
  • Please do not touch someone unless you are greeting them or tapping them on the shoulder, it can be threatening or even abusive depending on the context.
  • Tipping. There are no expectations or written rules for this so it is with your discretion, but bars and restaurants sometimes ask if you’d like to tip upon payment. Generally 10% is the minimum if you do wish to tip, but be aware that some staff are on low wages so make up their pay with tips. If their service was great then it’s nice to pay a little extra. For taxis/private cars, rounding up to the nearest pound is ok unless the driver has helped with luggage, been very helpful or friendly in which case £2-5 is usually ok, depending on the distance travelled. Likewise for hotel staff, a few extra £s for their service always helps if they have been of good assistance to you.
  • Finger signals. Never use the ‘V’ sign (reverse peace sign) with your fingers, or ‘middle finger’ as these are inflammatory and disrespectful. A thumbs up is fine as if to say ‘Thanks’‘Good luck’ or ‘Okay’.
  • Please do not be excessively loud in public, not everyone wants to hear your personal conversations. On some trains there are ‘Quiet Zones’ where talking, messing around and mobile/cell phone use is prohibited. It’s best not to take younger children into these carriages unless necessary.
  • Smoking & vaping. You can smoke in most public spaces but be aware of people around you, especially children. This does extend to public services such as public transport, musuems, tourist attractions and similar places with lots of people. Most restaurants, pubs, cafes  have designated areas for smoking so please search these out. Vaping is generally ok but again not on public transport. Please check first and do not use inside any venues unless the management are ok with it.