You’re finally crossing the pond. Visiting the UK is an exciting experience, especially for Americans who have only encountered British culture through the media. Before you touch down in England, there are a few things to know that will help you blend in with the locals. While your accent may give you away in the end, that doesn’t mean you can’t wow the British with your refined understanding of their day-to-day mannerisms.
Things operate a bit differently in the UK, which is not just England, by the way. The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Each country has its own unique culture, regional dialects, special attractions and history. Remembering these dos and don’ts will make your vacation much more enjoyable.
Go the Extra Mile to Show Respect
British people are polite to a fault, and they prize respectfulness in public spaces above all. Learn how to properly queue, that is stand in line, in restaurants, coffee shops and on public transport. Whenever you notice a queue, don’t question whether others are waiting for something when it’s evident they are. The queue exists for a reason.
Simply head to the end and wait at a courteous distance until your turn arrives. You should also avoid any accidental bumps, shoves or touching at all costs. This is considered extremely impolite, and it will likely garner some unfavorable stares and commentary from others. Avoid excessive staring as well, as people tend to avoid making any eye contact with strangers, which may be perceived as impolite or judgmental.
Don’t Confuse the UK With Great Britain
The official United Kingdom is four countries, but Great Britain consists of three: England, Scotland, and Wales. Northern Ireland is only a part of the UK, and it does not recognize itself as Great Britain. Referring to any country as Britain is politically and geographically incorrect. Only use the respective name for each nation. While you’re at it, avoid any discourse about the government or comparisons to American society. You are not in the United States, and no one wants to wage an invisible cultural, political or social war.
Travel Using the Local Methods
The tube isn’t the only transportation system you should know about. London’s famous underground railway is not the only way people commute. There are many ways for you to travel throughout the UK. Using a travel search platform will help you find the best options, from Manchester to Glasgow coach tickets to London and Bristol commutes. You can easily get from one country to another in a matter of hours and preparing ahead of time will allow you to board and depart like a local.
Familiarize yourself with local transportation etiquette prior to your travels. You should have your identification and tickets safely tucked into your bag or pocket at luggage storage in London for easy retrieval when the steward comes to check them. You should also avoid eating any food with strong odors and talking loudly. As per British custom, the goal is to avoid disturbing others at all costs.
Visit at Least 3 Museums
Many times travel is the best form of education so make sure that you add museums to your itinerary as you explore England. Don’t limit yourself to London, as there are many museums throughout the country that offer unique perspectives on the nation’s history. If you’re a fan of football, or soccer as we call it, then you can try the National Football Museum in Manchester.
Literary connoisseurs can explore Jane Austen’s home, Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum, the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. There are a phenomenal number of historical attractions to feast your eyes on while you wander through the city, and they make a good starting point for further study and exploration. You may get inspired and decide to pick up a few books for some inspired reading on your return flight.
Don’t Try to Copy Local Accents
UK English is extremely diverse, and each region has its own vernacular. One of British people’s greatest pet peeves are foreigners’ terrible attempts at their accents. For starters, the typical accent most U.S. visitors default to is a poorly done posh accent, which only exists in a certain part of London. The entire UK has over 40 unique dialects, which makes it incredibly diverse. Enjoy the exposure, but don’t try it on for size, at least not until you’re in your own room or amongst good friends who won’t take offense.