10 interesting facts about British behaviour
There is a lot to learn about the habits and quirks of the British people when you visit London for the first time. Here is a short guide to how to navigate daily life with ease
Know when you are being asked to do something
Have you noticed that British people are indirect when we speak? Here are some examples. If the phone is ringing, we won’t ask someone to answer it; instead, we will simply state ‘the phone is ringing’ in the hope that somebody will answer it. If a window is open and we would like to close it, we might say that ‘is anyone else cold?’ and expect the person nearest the open window to close it.
When it comes to paying the bill, expect anything!
After a social outing, there is no common convention as to who will pay the bill. Even if someone has invited you out, that doesn’t mean they will pay for you and they may just want to spend some time with you. On the other hand, some people may insist on paying their share, so don’t be offended if you have offered to pay for them but they refuse. Here are some expressions you might hear when it is time to settle the bill:
- ‘Going halves’, or ‘splitting the bill’: this means to divide the sum between the number of people
- ‘It’s on me’, ‘I’ll get this’ or ‘it’s my treat’: this means that the other person is paying for you as well as themselves
The pub is at the heart of socialising
Visitors to the UK are often surprised at the wide range of ages, sexes and socio demographic backgrounds of people who go to pubs. The word pub is short for ‘public house’; it is literally a house for everyone in the community to sit, relax and socialise. It is common, especially at weekends, to find families and groups with people of all ages together.
Some pubs focus on food, some focus on drinks. Some pubs will provide games and books for people to play and entertain themselves as they would at home, whilst others will put on live music or even a comedy show.
There are many lovely pubs around the Holland Park area close to The London School of English; The Windsor Castle has a nice garden for sitting in the sunshine and The Castle has a great selection of beers and gins.
What to wear
People often think of the British businessman as being dressed in a pinstriped suit with a bowler hat, briefcase and umbrella, and a copy of The Times under his arm. Whilst Savile Row and Jermyn Street in London’s Mayfair still have traditional tailors’ shops where you can buy this type of outfit, many companies have moved away from this traditional work attire.
Most men now go for a shirt and chinos combo, and women go for a smart-casual skirt or trousers and top, or a dress. Some men might keep a jacket and tie at work that they can put on if they have a client meeting or some other reason to look extra smart.
Away from the workplace however, there are still places that expect a suit and tie. For example, if you head to the Ritz Hotel for tea, or visit the members’ section at Lord’s Cricket Ground, you will be expected to dress appropriately. And if you are going to a wedding as a guest, it is best to avoid wearing white. Advance research is key.
The art of giving a compliment
If we receive a compliment, we will often make a self-deprecating comment to emphasise modesty. For example, if you tell somebody ‘I love your dress!’, expect the reply to be ‘This old thing? I bought it in Primark ages ago!’. In this example, when faced with a self-deprecating Brit, you could say, ‘Well, I think it’s lovely’ and you will have made their day.
Visit a garden
Gardening is one of the most popular leisure activities in the UK. Two-thirds of British people visit a garden centre each year, and the gardening industry is worth £25 billion!In fact, we love our gardens so much that each year the National Garden Scheme opens over 3,000 private gardens to the public, raising money for charity in the process. You can even visit them virtually this year. Find out more here: [link- https://ngs.org.uk]
Living the rural dream
Roughly 84% of English people live in urban areas, and for many city dwellers, the idea of a cottage in the country with picturesque walks to a thatched pub, and enjoying drinks in front of a roaring fire with a dog at their feet, seems idyllic. The English poets William Wordsworth and William Blake praised the landscape with their words, and painters JMW Turner and John Constable captured timeless rural scenes.
During your visit to London, make time to explore some of the beautiful towns, villages, and areas of outstanding beauty within easy reach.
What to eat
Britain may not have a famous culinary heritage, but we have welcomed and embraced people and cuisines from all around the world, our home-grown produce is fantastic, and our top restaurants are on a par with other countries. England has seven restaurants that currently hold three Michelin stars, and our long history of brewing ales and beers is now matched by our world-class and award winning wine producers When in London, try a robust and tasty English roast dinner, which is traditionally eaten early in the afternoon on a Sunday.
When it comes to money, less is more
The truly wealthy rarely show off their wealth, and we don’t like to talk about money or how much we earn. A common saying is ‘money can’t buy taste’. In other words, if you are truly ‘upper class’, you do not need to show it.
We are a nation of keen amateurs. We are happy to give anything a go, whether we’ve been trained at it or not, and we don’t really care too much about whether we are good at it either. You may hear the saying, ‘it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts’, and that sums us up perfectly.
Many British people are members of football teams, photography clubs, theatre groups, art classes, choirs, etc, simply because they enjoy the activity and are interested in meeting other people with the same hobby. And sometimes, our amateur enthusiasm pays off. Lots of British inventors were amateurs, for example, according to Bill Bryson’s book Home, the number of vicars who made scientific discoveries in the nineteenth century is 10 times that of professional scientists – Reverend George Garrett pioneered submarine design, and Reverend John Mitchell helped discover the planet Uranus!
Welcome to Britain!
Quirk: an unusual characteristic
Convention: a way in which something is usually done
Entertain: to give attention, amusement or enjoyment
Landscape: the geographical features of an area, the view
Combo: a combination
Outfit: a set of clothes worn together
Self-deprecating: being modest or expressing disapproval of yourself
Leisure: time when you are not working
Dinner: the main meal of the day taken either at around midday or in the evening
This blog has been written at level B2. Practise your reading and listening by reading the blogs below.
More English tips and skills
- 7 mistakes that English learners often make (level C1)
- How to learn English in 2021 (level C1)
- How to get the best out of your English language immersion (level B2)
- How to choose the best learning method for you (level B2)
- How to overcome negative self-talk when learning a new language (level B2)
- Useful expressions for negotiating (level B2)
- Business English for job applications: writing your CV and cover letter (Level C2)
About The London School of English
The London School of English has over 100 years of history teaching English and communication skills to adult learners. It is the joint #1 English language school in the UK according to the British Council inspections, the highest rated English language school in the world on Trustpilot, and the best value for money school according The English Language Gazette.
Our practical, individualised approach enables our clients to learn effectively and make rapid progress. Courses include General English, Individual English training, Legal English, Business and Professional English, IELTS preparation and Academic English. We also offer bespoke business solutions for staff training and assessment.
You can learn English with our expert trainers in our London centre at 15 Holland Park Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or you can choose to study English online in groups or in individual classes. Contact us online or via phone +44 (0) 207 605 4142.