Heading to London for a visit? Then you’ve no doubt done lots of research on the countless things to see and do whilst you’re here. However, if you’re visiting from particularly far afield, it can be a bit of shock when you do make it here, and start to acclimatise to your new surroundings.
After all, Britain is a bit of a one-off when it comes to culture, as it’s such a little island that has been making its own rules for centuries, especially when it comes to laws and general customs.
If you’re heading to the capital soon and would like to know a little more about the general etiquette, and what you’re most likely to find a little different to what you’re used to, we’re here to help. Here are some of the things that those from far-away lands may find a little odd about the UK when visiting London and the rest of the country.
British politeness is something that the country has become known for. We’re a polite people, and should you find yourself in a conversation with a British person, you’re sure to experience a lot of apologies, interested but not intrusive questions, and a lot of beating around the bush.
As a general rule, there are a few things that are frowned upon when it comes to communicating with a Brit. These include…
- Avoiding asking about money. It’s well regarded that you should never discuss with a British person how much they earn. So, keep the price of your hotel room to yourself….unless of course you’re sharing information about hard-to-beat London Hotels Special Offers .
- Don’t stare. Even if you’re having a conversation with a British person, and ESPECIALLY if you’re not, do NOT stare. This extends to things like public transport – look away!
- Don’t be loud or obnoxious in public. Though Brits love a drink and a good night out, they’ll always look down on those causing a scene in public. Avoid talking on your phone on public transport, or speaking louder than necessary in public places, including restaurants and bars.
- Always say sorry. If a British person has done something unfortunate, and perhaps even if not (maybe someone has bumped into them) you’ll find them apologising. Don’t make it awkward – do the same.
After an exhausting day of being nice to strangers, why not treat yourself? A Massage Paddington is a great way to start and if you’re a guest at the Chilworth, you won’t have to venture far for a world-class treatment or relaxing facial.
Our love for queueing
In line with politeness, us Brits LOVE a queue. Whether that’s for a show, a bus, or just for a drink at the bar, whatever you do, do not cut in line. You will be subject to a lot of sighs, huffs and puffs.
British comedy and sense of humour
British humour is heavy on irony and sarcasm, there is a large self-deprecating aspect to it, wit is appreciated extremely highly, and a serious delivery is standard. Satire is common, and everyday absurdities provide a rich stream of comedic value. It is an unforgivable insult to accuse a Brit of having no sense of humour – beware!
Driving on the left
Unlike the 64% of countries that drive on the right, the UK likes to be a little different. We drive on the left here, so that’s well worth a mention if you intend on driving round the capital. If you are driving on your trip, check-in with your hotel, at the likes of the Chilworth London Paddington Hotel to see what the situation is regarding parking, so you don’t fall short when you arrive.
Experiencing something from lots of different cultures
London is a very strong contender for being the world’s diversity capital – there are all kinds of people in the city, from all countries and cultures, speaking all languages – and there’s certainly a lot of them – over 300 different languages are spoken in London, in fact. Away from London, this is significantly less so, particularly in smaller towns and villages, the further north you go, as a general rule.
For example, you may find yourself having high tea served by a waitress from Spain, or you may even have a Czech bartender at your local pub. Having so many international influences means London has amazing food from all corners of the globe, and tourists are never far from bumping into someone from their home country or hearing their own language, which can be great if your English isn’t 100% fluent.
The high cost of living
Let’s make sure we’ve got one thing totally clear: London is very expensive. Accommodation, restaurants and exhibitions are all really pricey in London. In order to cut down on costs on your London holiday, make sure you visit the great mix of free exhibitions at the museums including the world-famous British Museum. Also, save funds on public transport by investing in an Oyster Card, and save cash on each ride as you use the tube. You may want to consider spending a little extra to be at a central hotel as this will help you will cut down on transportation costs.
The interchangeable weather
You might be surprised to learn that it doesn’t rain every day in London, as the internet may have you believe! In fact, sunny days are fairly common in the summer, and there’s less rainfall per year than in France! When it’s not raining, London locals head outside to enjoy the nice weather and the city in beer gardens and open spaces such as public parks. That said, it does rain a lot in London, so be prepared with a jacket and an umbrella. This is especially important in the winter and cooler months, from October to February, as a general rule.
The friendly police force
In the UK, we’re often regarded as having one of the most friendly, helpful and approachable police forces on the planet. If you are out and about and happen to spot a police offer or two, you’ll notice that they won’t be carrying guns (unless you’re in a key transport hub such as Waterloo Station, in which case, you may spot the odd police offer with a gun, though it’s pretty uncommon).
They are also known for being pillars of information, and for being super helpful when it comes to helping tourists (or locals alike) finding their way. Therefore if you ever find yourself lost in London, or after a few safety tips, ask a police offer on your travels who should be more than happy to assist you. If you’re after a photo, a few of them may be happy to oblige, too!