While the best way to learn about a new culture is to immerse yourself in it, reading up on the more unique features of a country can also be helpful! Here’s a list of 6 key topics about the UK that might be good to know if you’ve never visited.
British people love good manners! It’s good to know what is considered polite and rude. For example:
“Please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “sorry” are all used a lot. To British people, showing politeness and gratitude can be important, and they may apologise for something very minor! This is just a normal part of being British.
Queuing is a part of daily life, from in the supermarket to at the bus-stop. Even if there’s no visible queue, the order of people served (usually prioritising who arrived first, or the disabled and elderly) is important.
Holding the door open for someone behind you will be appreciated!
Privacy and personal space are highly valued! People usually avoid intrusive questions or comments on others’ appearance or circumstances, and avoid standing too close when talking.
Understanding accents – accents vary a great deal across the UK. Even British people themselves can find them confusing! If you visit, keep listening and having conversations and you will eventually tune in to an accent.
British weather is unpredictable. Always carry a sturdy folding umbrella or a waterproof jacket just in case. Wearing layers, particularly in winter, is usually a good idea too!
Frequency of UK public transport services can vary. It’s usually best to plan your journey in advance, and manage your time in case your chosen service runs early or late. Overall, public transport is great as a cheaper, more eco-friendly alternative to driving.
Some bus services charge a flat rate, while others charge you depending on your destination. Some services will accept card payments, but others still require cash.
Like anywhere, meals are handled a little differently across households. However, there are some things you can usually expect.
Breakfast is usually something quick to prepare before leaving the house, like toast, cereal or porridge.
Lunch is often a medium-sized meal, such as sandwiches, fruit and a snack. On Sundays some families have a large lunch such as a Sunday Roast!
Dinner is usually the biggest meal of the day, with families sitting together to eat and talk.
Younger people often clear the table or wash up
Standard manners include: elbows off the table, holding cutlery properly, and chewing with your mouth closed. Eating noisily or burping is considered really rude!
When eating out, it’s usual to raise a hand slightly and say “excuse me” to call a waiter. Shouting out or clicking fingers isn’t appropriate!
Some things British families might do together include:
Going for a nature walk, or to a local park, e.g. to walk the dog if they have one, play frisbee or have a picnic
Playing a game together, such as a board game
Watching TV/a film
Sharing hobbies/playing sports
Quietly doing their own thing together, e.g. reading, puzzles or crafting
Some people are able to go out frequently, while others might not have the time, money or physical ability. It’s best not to make assumptions about anyone’s situation. Popular activities include:
Recreational activities like the cinema, going bowling and shopping
Sports – especially football and rugby! Swimming, tennis, climbing, badminton and more are well-liked by many too.
Playing games – video games are commonly played in the UK; tabletop-games like Dungeons and Dragons have also become quite popular, and in a few places there are societies available for students to play these together.
Days out to national sites and attractions – like museums, monuments and historical sites
Major holidays and celebrations in the UK include: Christmas Day (25th December), Boxing Day (26th December), New Year’s Day (known as Hogmanay in Scotland) and Easter Sunday. These are usually spent together as a family, especially Christmas and Easter Sunday.
Guy Fawkes Night (5th November) is also widely celebrated with fireworks, and Halloween (31st October) is becoming more popular.
Like any culture, there are all sorts of things about the UK that must be experienced to be understood. Then again, you may have already known some of the points mentioned here! Hopefully this list will be helpful when exploring the wonderful uniqueness of UK life.