Adapting To British Culture

If you are planning to travel to England on a vacation or study abroad adventure, you are likely expecting to make a smooth cultural transition. After all, you are traveling to a country where you speak the native language, making social interactions easy. If you have never before traveled to England, however, you may be surprised at the differences between American and British culture. Learning what to expect prior to your travels will make your experience in England all the more successful and enjoyable.
You’ll likely find people in England to be a bit more reserved than you are used to. By contrast, Americans are often considered by other countries to be bold, open, and even too friendly. Do not be offended if people you meet seem cold or unfriendly. Rather, try to be a bit more reserved yourself so as to avoid making anyone uncomfortable. Do not ask personal questions of those whom you do not know well. You should respect the privacy of strangers.
Respect the personal space of those you meet. The British are not generally demonstrative. Kissing, hugging, and backslapping are reserved only for close friends and family. Even prolonged eye contact can make others uncomfortable. When meeting someone, a polite handshake is an appropriate form of greeting.
Most people in England strive to be very courteous. Men and women hold open doors for one another. People tend to apologize readily, even if incidents are not particularly their fault. Remember to apologize and excuse yourself if you accidentally brush up against others in a crowded place, as you will appear rude if you do not acknowledge the small invasion.
The English often enjoy entertaining others in their homes. If you are invited, it is customary to bring a small gift such as wine or candy, just as you would in the United States. It is also important to send a thank-you note afterwards. Even if you wouldn’t normally send a thank-you note after a dinner with friends in the United States, making this effort is important in England.
Table manners are of the utmost importance, so when you are having meals with others, you should keep in mind everything your parents taught you about polite dining. The only difference will be that your knife and fork will change hands in the style of Continental dining. If this is too awkward for you, your dining companions will likely understand. With practice and by watching others, however, you should be able to quickly pick up the Continental style of eating.
When going out in England, be aware that it is customary to pay for each drink in a bar as it is brought to you. Do not talk loudly in public, as this is considered to be rude. You may notice that a tip of around 10% is sometimes added to your bill for restaurant service. If the gratuity is not already included, you should leave a tip and round up to the nearest number of pounds.

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