- Wait for your turn! 5. A thousand apologies
- Visiting British friends 6. Presents are always appreciated!
- Give way to others! 7. Being polite at the first meeting
- Respecting the older generation 8. Modern technology creates new rules
A In most houses in Britain, the doors are usually kept closed. The common way to see people is at a pre-arranged time and day. Generally, people are not comfortable if you just drop in. Nevertheless, if someone says to drop in at anytime, feel free to do so as long as it is not in the middle of the night. When you go into someone’s house, do take your hat off (men only).
B. In Britain the handshake is a common form of greeting. When you meet people for the first time, it is normal to shake hands with men and women – there are no issues over gender in Britain. The usual formal greeting is ‘How do you do?’ Remember it is a greeting not a question, and to respond you need to repeat ‘How do you do?’ In Britain it is not usual to embrace or kiss the other person, unless they are family or a very close friend.
C. Whether at the supermarket, train station, or a concert, people across the UK often form neat and tidy lines, awaiting their turn at the front. British people take waiting in line (called ‘queuing’) incredibly seriously. The worst mistake one can make is queue-jumping – pushing ahead in the line. This will always be met with disapproval from those who wait patiently. The British think that waiting with good humour is a sign of strong moral character.
D. No guide to etiquette would be complete without mentioning the British love of apologising. If you accidentally bump into someone, say ‘sorry’. They probably will say it too, even if it was your fault! Foreigners are often surprised when they find two British standing in front of each other and offering their apologies for being in the other’s way – no matter who is at fault.
E. On all escalators but especially those in tube stations, you stand on the right side of the escalator and leave room for people to walk past you on the left. Commuters are far too impatient to wait for the escalator to make its way to the top or the bottom, and they need to be able to rush by you. If you are in their way, they will never forgive you.
F. During birthday and Christmas celebrations, it is common for the British to exchange gifts between family members and close friends. The gift does not need to be expensive, but it should demonstrate an attempt to find something really special. When invited to someone’s home, it is normal to take along a box of good chocolates or flowers. Note that gifts are opened when received!
G. As we tend to use our mobile phones everywhere, it is important to observe some unwritten etiquette about electronic devices. Avoid making and receiving calls when you are in a hospital or in the theatre. Using a mobile phone at the dinner table is considered impolite. Remember that speaking loudly when making a call, especially on public transport, is considered very improper too.