image: titleProject Britain

Your Guide to
British Life, Culture and Customs

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Acceptable Behaviour in England and the rest of Britain

Please note: We have mainly written about England, as that is the country within the UK where our students live. We would be very happy for schools and visitors to send us information we can add to our website on Wales and Scotland. Chatting at a wedding

Which of the following social customs are similar or different to your country?

The English are said to be reserved in manners, dress and speech. We are famous for our politeness, self-discipline and especially for our sense of humour. Basic politeness (please, thank you, excuse me) is expected.

How to greet someone

English people are quite reserved when greeting one another. A greeting can be a bright 'Hello' 'Hi' or 'Good morning', when you arrive at work or at school. text taken from and copyright of
Find out more about greetings ....

Terms of Endearment - Names we may call you

You may be called by many different 'affectionate' names, according to which part of the England you are visiting. Do not be offended, this is quite normal. For example, you may be called dear, dearie, flower, love, chick, chuck, me duck, me duckie, mate, guv, son, ma'am, madam, miss, sir, or treacle, according to your sex, age and location. text taken from and copyright of

Message from one of our visitors
"In Staffordshire and the West Midlands both men and women use the term 'duck' when speaking to another person irrespective of their sex. I was quite shocked when I first arrived here in Staffordshire from London to be called 'Duck' by a man and now I find it very endearing and reassuring and far better than that awful term 'Mate'."

Interesting Fact
The 'affectionate' name 'duck' is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon word 'ducis' which was meant as a term of respect; similar to the Middle English 'duc', 'duk' which denotes a leader, commander, general; from which comes the title 'Duke' and the Old French word 'ducheƩ' - the territory ruled by a Duke.

Visiting people in their houses

When being entertained at someone's home it is nice to take a gift for the host and hostess. A bottle of wine, bunch of flowers or chocolates are all acceptable.

See also our other page on Social Customs

Sending a thank you note is also considered appropriate.


We eat continental style, with fork in the left hand and the knife in the right.

Eating Etiquette - rules for eating in England


Manners are Important

DOs and DON'TS (Taboos) in Britain

See also our other page on Social Customs

In Britain...

Do stand in line: text taken from and copyright of

In England we like to form orderly queues (standing in line) and wait patiently for our turn e.g. boarding a bus. It is usual to queue when required, and expected that you will take your correct turn and not push in front. 'Queue jumping' is frowned upon.

Do take your hat off when you go indoors (men only)

It is impolite for men to wear hats indoors especially in churches.

Nowadays, it is becoming more common to see men wearing hats indoors. However, this is still seen as being impolite, especially to the older generations. text taken from and copyright of

Do say "Excuse Me": text taken from and copyright of

If someone is blocking your way and you would like them to move, say excuse me and they will move out of your way.

Do Pay as you Go:

Pay for drinks as you order them in pubs and other types of bars.

Do say "Please" and "Thank you":

It is very good manners to say "please" and "thank you". It is considered rude if you don't. You will notice in England that we say 'thank you' a lot. text taken from and copyright of

Do cover your Mouth:

When yawning or coughing always cover your mouth with your hand.

Do Shake Hands:

When you are first introduced to someone, shake their right hand with your own right hand.

Do say sorry:

If you accidentally bump into someone, say 'sorry'. They probably will too, even if it was your fault! This is a habit and can be seen as very amusing by an 'outsider'.

Do Smile: text taken from and copyright of

A smiling face is a welcoming face.

Do Drive on the left side of the road

Find out more about driving text taken from and copyright of

Do open doors for other people

Men and women both hold open the door for each other. It depends on who goes through the door first.

In Britain...

Do not greet people with a kiss:
We only kiss people who are close friends and relatives.

Avoid talking loudly in public

It is impolite to stare at anyone in public.
Privacy is highly regarded. text taken from and copyright of

Do not ask a lady her age
It is considered impolite to ask a lady her age

Do not pick your nose in public:
We are disgusted by this. If your nostrils need de-bugging, use a handkerchief.

Avoid doing gestures such as backslapping and hugging
This is only done among close friends.

Do not spit.
Spitting in the street is considered to be very bad mannered.

Do not burp in public
You may feel better by burping loudly after eating or drinking, but other people will not! If you can not stop a burp from bursting out, then cover your mouth with your hand and say 'excuse me' afterwards.

Do not pass wind in public text taken from and copyright of
Now how can we say this politely? Let's say that you want to pass wind. What do you do? Go somewhere private and let it out. If you accidentally pass wind in company say 'pardon me'.

Belinda sent sent us an email on the indelicate subject of 'passing wind' in public:

"The expression 'pardon me' would be considered by the upper classes to be rather common. When I was growing up, I was told by my mother, at school and by my aunt who was a nanny to an aristocratic family that the correct thing to do if this happens is to carry on as if nothing's happened and for the entire company to ignore it completely as if they've never noticed.  ( even if it's very obvious).  I think young people nowadays would probably be more inclined to laugh it off but certainly the older generation in 'polite company' would never, ever draw attention to the incident by apologising.  Basically the advice is say 'excuse me' for mouth burps, ignore bottom burps."

It is impolite speak with your mouth full of food

Do not ask personal or intimate questions
We like our privacy. Please do not ask questions such as "How much money do you earn?" "How much do you weigh?" or "Why aren't you married?". text taken from and copyright of

Never eat off a knife when having a meal.

In all countries in Britain ...

Women in Britain are entitled to equal respect and status as men (and indeed vice versa) in all areas of life and tend to have more independence and responsibility than in some other cultures. Women are usually independent and accustomed to entering public places unaccompanied. It is usual for women to go out and about on their own as well as with friends. Men and women mix freely.

  • It is ok for women to eat alone in a restaurant.
  • It is ok for women to wander around on their own.
  • It is ok for women to drink beer.

Suggested Student Activity

Why not make a similar list for visitors to your country?

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website.
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Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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