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When you first meet someone it can be difficult to know how to start a conversation,
especially if your first language is not English.
Which topics are safe for small talk?
- Introductions, eg "Hello. May I introduce myself? My name is Mark"
- Travel, eg "Did you manage to find here OK?" or "Did you have a good journey?"
- Family, eg "How is your family?" (but only if you already know about the person's
- Hospitality, eg "Can I get you something to eat or drink?"
- The weather, eg "It's a lovely day today, isn't it?"
- Holidays, eg "Are you going anywhere this weekend?" or "Are you going anywhere
on holiday this year?"
- Nature, eg "The garden looks lovely, doesn't it?"
- Pets, eg "What a lovely dog. What is his name?" (British people love dogs or cats)
- General news, eg "What do you think about the recent floods?" (but safer to avoid
gossip and politics)
- Films, eg "Have you seen the film Bridget Jones's Diary?"
- Television, eg "Did you see The X Factor last night?"
- Music, eg "What sort of music do you like?"
- Books, eg "Have you read any good books recently?" (but only if you know the
person likes reading)
- Sport, eg "Have you been watching Wimbledon?" (note that many British people,
especially men, enjoy talking about football)
- Hobbies, eg "What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?"
- Business, eg "How's your business going?" (but only ask if you know the person has
a business)
- Studies, eg "What are you studying?" (but only ask if you know the person is a
- Work, eg "What sort of work do you do?"
- Food, eg "I had a lovely Chinese meal last night - do you like Chinese food?"
- General matters about the person you are talking to, eg "Have you lived in this area
- General matters on subjects that you know that interests the person you are talking
to, eg cars, film stars etc
Which topics are best avoided for small talk?
You may need to be careful when you talk about some topics, especially with people
that you've only just met, people who are older than you, people who appear to have

strong religious or political views, or people who may have some personal problems
or sensitivities. For example, be cautious if you discuss these subjects:
- Age, eg "How old are you?"
- Appearance or weight, eg "You seem to have put on some weight"
- Personal gossip about somebody you know
- Jokes that might offend (especially sexist or racist jokes)
- Money, eg "How much do you earn?"
- Sex (some people have strong religious views about this, or are embarrassed by the
- Previous or current relationships, eg "Do you have a girlfriend?"
- Politics, eg "Who did you vote for at the last election?"
- Religion, eg "Do you believe in God?"
- Criticisms or complaints, eg "Why is British food so bad?"

1. Queuing

Its definitely normal, in some cultures, to squeeze into the queue, or jump the queue, or not make a queue at all. However,
this is England. Queuing is very, very important to us. In no circumstance should you cut into, jump, or attempt to avoid a
queue. You are to join the end and wait your turn. People WILL make a point of it if you attempt to do otherwise. Even if
there is no obvious queue, people will be making a mental note of who arrived whenso if you then jump on the bus before
the someone who was there earlier, people will not be happy!

2. Say sorry (all the time)

We are incredibly polite in the UKyoull find that British people will frequently apologise for EVERYTHING. And we mean
everythingeven if its not your fault. If youre walking down the road, and someone bumps into you even if it is entirely
not your fault it is completely normally for both people to apologise. Brits will apologise almost as reflex. According to GB
Mag - Brits can say sorry up to 1.9 million times during their lifetime! We also say please and thank you all the time too
whoever you are dealing with, good manners are always welcome!

3. Tipping

Tipping in the UK is not compulsory. If you feel youve had good service in a restaurant, then you can leave a tip (usually
around 10%) but make sure you check the bill in case service has already been included! It is normal to tip taxi drivers and
hairdressers too the amount you tip is up to you, but again 10% is usually fine.

4. Be on time

We like to be on time, and we like others to be on time too. If you arrange to meet someone at 10, you should be there at 10.
If youre running late, it is best to contact the person youre meeting to let them know.

5. Make some small talk

Now is your opportunity to talk until your hearts content about what a LOVELY day it is todaythat its supposed to snow
next weekand hasnt there been a lot of rain recently? And so on and so forth. We do love a good chat about the weather.
When you first meet someone, it is polite to make general conversation with them (or small talk) and to avoid personal
topics, such as political beliefs, age and money. Besides the weather, other safe topics of conversation for someone youve
just met could be about studies, travel, music, sport, recent activities, the local area. You could always prepare yourself and
check the weather forecast so you have at least 5 days worth of weather chat stored in your mind as back up!

6. Buy a round

Most pubs in the UK dont have table service, so you have to go to the bar and order your drinks there. If youre in the pub
with friends, it is normal to buy rounds. This simply means to take it in turns to buy drinks for your group of friends. So when
you first arrive in the pub, you might say its my round, and buy a drink for everyone else in the group and then another
friend will buy the next round of drinks, and so on until everyone has bought a round. This can carry over into your next pub
visit.if youre with a group of 8 people, it doesnt mean you HAVE to have 8 drinks that night. It is just polite to remember
the next time you go out if its your turn to buy a round!


BYOB is a phrase youre bound to hear if youre going to a party. It stands for Bring Your Own Bottleand basically means,
bring a bottle of drink with you. Even if it doesnt state this on the invitation, it is polite to bring a bottle of drink with you
anyway if youre going to a party at someones house this could be a soft drink, a bottle of wine or some beer. On the
subject of parties, its normal for a party in the UK to start at around 7-9pm. In other cultures, this might seem FAR too
earlybut thats they way we do it here!

8. Keep your voice down

The general public dont want to hear what you did last night, what happened between your best friend and her boyfriend or
where your cousin has been on holiday. So whether youre talking on the phone while sitting in a caf or gossiping with your
friend on the train, try and keep the volume on your voice box turned down. British people tend to be quite reserved, so you
may find if youre talking a bit too loudly or sharing a bit too muchyou may get a few glares and the odd tut.

9. Greetings

Do you shake hands? Kiss on the cheek? How many? How about a hug? Saying hello and goodbye can be a bit of a bit of a
grey area for everyone, even Brits themselves. Some situations are easy in a formal situation (job interview, business
meeting), you should always greet someone with a firm handshake. Man to man, a handshake is normally the best greeting
too, regardless of the situation. But woman to man? Woman to woman? Thats when it gets complicated! For a first meeting,
a handshake is always the safest option. The Guardian has put together a humorous guide to the top tips for getting the
right greeting. If in doubt, always go with a handshake.

10. Smoking

Smoking in all indoor public places in the UK is now illegal and be aware that indoor places include train station platforms
and bus shelters! Do not light up unless you are outside or in a designated smoking area. If you smoke in an area where
smoking is prohibited, you will find yourself thrown out rather swiftly and could get yourself fined or even arrested.

Etiquette is the code of polite behaviour in society. Knowing a little bit

about British etiquette will help you ensure that your behaviour is
polite and appropriate whilst you are studying in the UK. Below weve
given you a few hints and tips about some of the most common codes
of British etiquette.
In the UK, people have a tendency to over-apologise. For example, if you tell someone
about something unfortunate which has happened to you, its quite likely
that they will apologise. E.g. Im so sorry to hear that you
have been unwell.
British people cannot resist the urge to apologise, for example, if someone accidentally
bumps into you, it would be common for you to apologise and say Im sorry as though you
are sorry for being in their way. If you have reserved a seat on a train but somebody is sat
in it, it would be common to say Im so sorry but you appear to be sat in my seat. If
somebody spills your coffee, again its quite normal for the victim to apologise. Of course,
the person to blame would apologise as well, but apologising as the victim is a very English
thing to do.
In the UK, we like receiving warm heartfelt apologies as well as giving them. If you have
done something to upset or offend someone, it is important to offer them a genuine apology.
A half-hearted apology will not go down well.
If you are offered an apology, it is considered good grace to acknowledge and accept it. In
some cases you may still be a little upset over the incident, but by not accepting the apology
the situation will escalate. A typical way of accepting an apology is by saying its okay,
dont worry about it, or for more serious incidents, I forgive you.

In the UK, wherever there is a mass of people you will find an orderly queue.
British etiquette dictates that when you arrive, you join the back of the queue so that each
person receives the service in the order that they arrived. We wait our turn in queues.
The notion of an orderly queue relies on everyone in the queue agreeing that this is fair. It is
seen as unfair if someone doesnt join the queue and pushes in.
Queuing can seem very strange if you are not used to it however if you are seen to push in
it is considered very rude and unfair to other people who have been waiting. If in doubt ask
is this the back of the queue? to avoid offending anyone.
A common British trait is that despite everybody in the queue being annoyed with someone
who has pushed in, very few people will ask that person to go to the back of the queue.
British people do not like to cause a scene by arguing, but likewise, we like people to know
we are annoyed in subtle ways. Instead people will shake their head, roll their eyes, tut,
and/or have an angry facial expression. They may also complain to the person next to them
in the queue.

Photo by Daviddje
Many people from outside the UK find it strange that we say please and thank you as
much as we do. It is considered polite, well-mannered and is a regularity of British speech.
What may surprise you is when we are in a shop, restaurant or anywhere we are receiving
customer service, we say thank you to the person serving us e.g. when they give you
change, the bill, or come to give you your food and drinks. In Britain, every social
transaction is eased by reiteration of these phrases from both parties.
Remembering to say please and thank you is very important, if you are not doing it you may
be told to mind your ps and qs or, more specifically, to say both please (ps) and
thank you (thank qs).
Britain isnt a particularly tactile country. Because of this, some cultures perceive British
people as being completely unemotional whilst others perceive us as having a stiff
upper lip. This refers to the fact that British people do have emotions, theyre just very
good at hiding them. When a persons upper lip begins to tremble, it is one of the first signs
that the person has experienced deep emotion. The stiff upper lip is an idiom to our ability
to conceal our emotions and keep a straight face.
Whilst you may be hugged and kissed 2 or 3 times by a total stranger in some European
countries, its unlikely that you would receive the same reception in the UK. Social
kissing is becoming popular in Britain, but it is by no means an accepted norm. For
example it is rare for men to kiss in the UK- this is usually a gesture reserved for women.
Kissing is not appropriate in many professional situations. If you are unsure,stick to a
handshake (see below).
Holding hands as friends in the UK is quite unusual. Instead, more common for female
friends is to link arms. For male friends, there is usually no contact. Holding hands is
usually reserved only for parent-children relationships, or between partners (e.g. girlfriend &
boyfriend, husband & wife).
Unlike in most countries, discussing how much you earn or how much something
costs (anything from the cost of clothes, up to the price of a house) has traditionally been
a strictly taboo subject according to British etiquette. Sometimes British people find
it embarrassing to discuss money and it can be seen as rude.
If you are having a conversation with someone new, money and personal wealth are
subjects best avoided. Only discuss money if the other person has raised this then you
know they feel comfortable talking about it. Definitely do not ask somebody how much they
earn. If you talk about how much money you have and all of things you bought, it can be
seen as bragging, particularly when it heightens the difference between your financial
situation and that of the person you are talking to.
However, things are changing and British people are more open to discussing things such
as house prices or how much their holiday cost. But usually this is if the item they have
bought is perceived as a bargain, for example if they bought their house below market
value because the seller wanted a quick sale or got a really good deal on their holiday

Photo by Images Money

Chivalry is seen as a very British trait and a distinguished feature of a gentleman.
In old English Literature, women swoon over chivalrous men!
In modern day British etiquette, chivalry is still an admired trait however men must be
careful that their chivalrous behaviour isnt patronising to modern independent women. For
example, taking of ones coat and placing it in a puddle so a lady may step on it and not get
her feet wet (a classic feature in Jane Austen novels) may not receive the gratitude it would
have had in 1800.
Some examples of modern chivalry for the 21 st century include:

offering a lady your seat on the train if she is standing

opening the door for a lady

offering to carry a heavy bag for a lady if it looks as though she is


offering your jacket to a lady if she is cold

When a teacher, your homestay or anyone in a position of authority asks you to do
something, you mustrespect them and do it. It is very rude to disrespect people in
authority. If you do not understand something about UK culture then please just ask!
In your country, it may be considered respectful to look at the floor when you are being told
off. In the UK, this would be considered a rude and disobedient gesture. When people are
talking to you, even to tell you off, they expect eye contact.
A good firm handshake is a common way to greet someone in a business or social
situation. People might make assumptions about you based on your handshake so its
important to get it right. For example, if you offer a limp handshake, it can give people the
impression that you are disinterested and/or not confident.
To give a good handshake:

Firmly grasp the other persons hand

Get the pressure right do not crush the other persons hand but equally
do not offer a limp hand

Check that your palms are not sweaty. Pat lightly and discreetly on your
clothing before shaking someones hand if needed.

Keep it brief. Shake the hand just two or three times before letting go.

Accompany the handshake with direct eye contact and a smile.

Photo Photo by Scottish Parliament

In school you may have tasks and chores in your boarding house, it is polite and helpful
that everyone does these equally to make the boarding house nice and clean for everyone
to live in. Whilst you are at a homestay you should offer to help with the washing up and
other household chores. Your homestay may not need you to help but its always polite
to ask.
We understand that technology is very important in todays society but when you are talking
to someone it is polite to put down your mobile or iPad so you can have a conversation with
them. It is especially rude to use your mobile when eating at the dinner table. In the UK
dinner time is a time for talking and chatting with family or friends.

Good manners at the dining table are very important in Britain. It is quite likely that you
will find British table manners strange when you first arrive in the UK and it will take you a
while to get used to them. Here are some pointers to help you:

Unless your host instructs you to start eating immediately, wait until
everyone has been served their food until you start eating.

If you are dining in a group and food is shared, put others needs before
your own. Offer to serve food to your neighbours first, and do not take too
much; leave enough for others, and do not take more than you can eat.

If you are right handed, your knife should be held in your right hand and
your fork should be held in your left hand. If you are left handed, it is
becoming more acceptable to hold your knife and fork the other way around.

Cutlery should be rested on the sides of the plate between mouthfuls and
together in the centre when you are finished.

Never talk whilst there is food in your mouth.

Do not eat nosily. In the UK, people eat very quietly, almost silently. It will
seem very strange if you make a lot of noise whilst you eat. Take small
mouthfuls, keep your mouth closed when you chew, and swallow delicately.
When drinking soup do not slurp.

Eat slowly. Eating quickly and/or overeating makes you appear greedy.

Do not pass gas or wind at the dining table. In some cultures this is a sign
of appreciation but in the UK this is seen as very rude and doing so will upset
other people at the dining table.

If you are staying with a homestay, you should wait until everyone has
finished or you are told to leave the table. If you really need to leave, you can
ask to leave the table.

Photo by Gisela Francisco

Theres a lot to know about British etiquette when it comes to the toilet. So much in
fact that we have written a separate blog post on this subject using the toilet in the UK.
It is becoming increasingly common to call people by their first name in Britain,
even in certain professional situations, for example most people are now on first name

terms with their doctor where as in the past they had always been known by their surname
e.g. Dr. Smith.
There remains certain situations where you would never address a person by their first
name unless you were invited to do so. This includes your teachers and people of an older
generation. For many older people the easy use of their first name is seen as over-familiar.
If youre not sure, opt for formality (e.g. Mr and Mrs Smith).
In Britain, we love to talk about the weather! Perhaps its due to the unpredictability of
the weather in the UK and our inability to prepare for extreme weather conditions. For
example, the UK grinds to a halt if there is more than a few inches of snow fall.
Talking about the weather serves as an ice-breaker. When a British person meets a
stranger a safe subject of discussion is the weather. The function of the conversation is to
initiate contact between two individuals. The conversation will usually take a diversion once
a shared common ground is discovered but the weather in the UK provides us with a variety
of topics as a starting point.

Photo by Garry Knight

British humour errs of the side of sarcasm and is often centred on real life,
sometimes painful observations of ourselves and others. The British use humour to make
the best of a situation and to lighten the mood. For example, if you spend a lot of time in
your bedroom, your homestay might sarcastically ask Why are you hiding in your room?
Has your hair turned pink?! In this case, your homestay does not really think your hair has
turned pink. They have noticed that you are spending a lot of time in your room and they are
joking that this could be because your hair has turned pink.
You may find it difficult to get used to it at first, but most important is that you dont take
British humour seriously. If you can laugh at yourself, you will be well liked and respected.
If you tell good jokes you will be very popular here as British people love jokes! We even
have a day devoted to them April Fools Day on the 1st April. You can find out more
about April Fools Day by reading our blog post on festivals, holidays and events in the
The key to telling a good joke is not always the joke itself but pitching it to the right
audience. A joke can alienate or cause offence in the wrong context. Telling a joke can be a
good way to break the ice and make new friends. Just make sure that your audience will
appreciate the joke you tell.
In the UK, tea is an integral part of everyday life. It is part of many British peoples daily
routine and serves many social functions. Tea has a long history in Britain and its
worth reading this article if you are interested in finding out more about its social history.
In modern day Britain we love nothing better than putting our feet up and enjoying a
cuppa or a brew. You will be offered a cup of tea anywhere you go in the UK and as
you travel around, you will spot many tea shops and cafes.
Afternoon tea is a big tradition in the UK and its worth having an afternoon tea whilst you
are here. You can find out more about afternoon tea in our British food blog post.
Here are some tips on the polite way to drink tea in the UK:

If you are in a group, you may be served a pot of tea. If the pot is placed
near you, it is polite to pour tea for the rest of the group.

Tea should be poured first and milk and sugar added afterwards.

If your tea is too hot to drink, dont blow on it. Wait patiently for it to cool.

Never slurp tea!

If you are having a cream tea the most common way of preparing a scone
is to cut it in half, spread it with jam first, then add clotted cream on top.

10 British Etiquette and Customs you should learn





When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This proverb is so true that Ive gathered 10
British etiquette and customs that I think international student ought to know. There
is a proper way to act in most situations and the British are sticklers for adherence
to protocol.
1) Visiting.
In most houses in Britain, the door are usually kept closed. It is customary to visit
people at a pre-arranged time and day. As a generalization, people are not
comfortable if you just drop in. Nevertheless, if someone says to drop in at
anytime, feel free to do so as long as it is not in the middle of the night.
When you go into someones house, do take your hat off (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
2) Form of Greeting
In Britain the handshake is the common form of greeting. When you meet people for
the first time, it is normal to shake hands. A firm handshake is the norm; there are
no issues over gender in Britain. The usual formal greeting is How do you do? and
a firm handshake, but with a lighter touch between men and women.
How do you do? is a greeting not a question & the correct response is to repeat
How do you do? You say this when shaking hands with someone.
In Britain, Unlike some other European Countries, It is not unusual to embrace or
kiss the other person ( unless they are family or a very close friend). The British
might seem a little stiff and formal at first but after a while they will relax as you get
to know each other.

Avoid prolonged eye contact when you meet people for the first time, as it might
make them feel uncomfortable. In Britain, there still some protocol to follow when
introducing people in a business or more formal social situation. Introduce a
younger person to an older person, that is, introduce a person of lower status to a
person of higher status. When two people are of similar age and rank, introduce the
one you know better to the other person.
3) Gift Giving Etiquette.
During Birthday and Christmas celebrations, it is common for the British to
exchange gifts between family members and close friends. The gift need not be
expensive, but it should usually demonstrate an attempt to find something that is
related to the recipients interests. When invited to someones home, it is normal to
take along a box of good chocolates, a good bottle of wine or flowers. I have found
from experience that the British love chocolates. Note that Gifts are opened when

4) Queuing
Queuing is a unique part of the British culture. People in Britain usually form a
queue or a single line in a shop, or when they want to buy a ticket with the
intention of allowing those who arrived first to be served first. It is advisable to take

your place in the queue and not try to muscle your way to the front as this may
annoy other people in the queue. If you are really in a desperate hurry, people will
always let you through to the front if you politely ask.

People queuing and waiting for the Iphone.

5) Punctuality.
The Brits are generally punctual, especially the Scots. The Brits consider it rude and
impolite if you turn up late for an appointment. Punctuality is very important in
business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Call
even if you will be 5 minutes later than agreed. If you have been delayed or cannot
make the appointment , then make an effort to contact the person to let them know.
It is a good idea to telephone and offer your apologies.
6) Dining Etiquette
If invited to a persons house for dinner, ensure you are punctual as already
discussed. Do not sit down at once when you arrive. The host may show you to a
particular seat. Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand
and the knife in the right while eating.
Do not rest your elbows on the table. When you finish eating, lay your knife and fork
parallel across the right side of your plate. remember If you have not finished
eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

If invited to a meal at a restaurant, the person extending the invitation usually pays.
Usually Starters will be served first, followed by the main course, before dessert.
When discussing business over dinner, be prepared to back up your claims with
facts and figures. Brits rely on facts, rather than emotions, to make decisions.

7) Making Friends
As Mentioned in my post 10 British facts all international students should know, the
Brits are generally friendly and open-minded. It usually takes some effort at first to
build relationships, but once built it could last over a long period of time. one easy
way to make friends is to chat with your school mates as the opportunity presents
itself. Attending activities and parties organized by the Student Union is another
great way to make friends and meet new people.
Generally, the Brits are very reserved and private people and their women are
accustomed to being independent. It is considered impolite to ask a lady her
age. The two classic signs a lady would like to be left alone are reading a newspaper
or listening to music through headphones. Only interrupt if you actually know the
lady quite well.

In the UK It is deemed okay for a woman or young lady to drink alcohol and smoke
cigarettes, unlike many parts of Africa.
8) Tipping
Tipping is not expected in the UK, in the way it is in the United States or Canada,
but is much appreciated. It is not necessary to tip at all in taxis, but it is customary
to round up to the nearest pound on metered taxi journeys, more as a convenience
than a tip. On an airport journey in a booked minicab you might wish to tip two or
three pounds if the driver helps with your bags. If taking a metered London taxi
from Heathrow the metered charge will be so high compared to minicabs, that this
really is not necessary.
Some restaurants add on an optional service charge to bills, of typically 10% or
12.5%. This should always be noted in the menu. If you are unhappy with the
service you can ask for it to be removed. For parties of six or more the service
charge is sometimes mandatory. If a service charge has been added onto your bill,
you should NOT add any further tip
9) How to Behave in Public Places
It is impolite to stare at people in public places; and spitting in the street is
considered to be very bad mannered. Also try not to pick your nose in a public
place. If your nostrils need de-bugging, use a handkerchief.
Most members of the British public will happily provide you with directions if you
approach them politely. Make sure you are familiar with terms like roundabouts,
level crossings, traffic lights, zebra crossings, bus lanes, contra flow, and, if using
any of the motorways, traffic jams.
10) Thank you/ Im Sorry/ Please
The Brits say thank you a lot, even for minor things. 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.
sometime the Brits say cheers instead of thank you. You may hear cheers said
instead of good bye, what they are really saying is thanks and bye. There are no
absolute rules about when to use polite terms, but you should certainly use them
when shopping or addressing strangers.
- See more at: http://internationalscholarshipguide.com/10-british-etiquettecustoms-shouldnt-forget/#sthash.UEWlLhf9.dpuf

British Etiquette and Customs

Meeting and Greeting

The handshake is the common form of greeting.

The British might seem a little stiff and formal at first.
Avoid prolonged eye contact as it makes people feel uncomfortable.
There is still some protocol to follow when introducing people in a business or more
formal social situation. This is often a class distinction, with the 'upper class' holding
on to the long-standing traditions:
Introduce a younger person to an older person.
Introduce a person of lower status to a person of higher status.
When two people are of similar age and rank, introduce the one you know better to
the other person.
Gift Giving Etiquette

The British exchange gifts between family members and close friends for birthdays
and Christmas.
The gift need not be expensive, but it should usually demonstrate an attempt to find
something that related to the recipients interests.
If invited to someone's home, it is normal to take along a box of good chocolates, a
good bottle of wine or flowers.
Gifts are opened when received.

United Kingdom - Great Britain - England

Always be punctual in England. Arriving a few minutes early for safety is acceptable.
Decision-making is slower in England than in the United States; therefore it is unwise to rush the
English into making a decision.

A simple handshake is the standard greeting (for both men and women) for business occasions and
for visiting a home.
Privacy is very important to the English. Therefore asking personal questions or intensely staring at
another person should be avoided.
Eye contact is seldom kept during British conversations.
To signal that something is to be kept confidential or secret, tap your nose.
Personal space is important in England, and one should maintain a wide physical space when
conversing. Furthermore, it is considered inappropriate to touch others in public.
Giving of gifts are not required as part of doing business in England.
A business lunch will often be conducted in a pub and will consist of a light meal and perhaps a pint
of ale.
When socializing after work hours, do not bring up the subject of work.
When dining out, it is not considered polite to toast those who are older than yourself.

Get started with this short primer on culture and social etiquette in the United
There are no strict etiquette rules that you have to stick to when in the UK. It is advisable, however,
to demonstrate decent manners and respect to the local culture and traditions.
The first, and most important step, is to be aware of the clearly distinct nations which form the UK.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of England, Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland. The citizens of any of these countries may be referred to as "British". This term is
also the safest to use when not certain of a person's heritage. When certain of heritage, you are free
to call the different residents as follows: English, Scot, Welsh or Irish. While the four countries share
many customs, each has its own set of traditions and history.

Greetings and meetings

When first meeting a Brit, he or she may seem reserved and cold, but that is just an impression. In
reality, they are very friendly and helpful to foreigners. A handshake is the common form of greeting,
but try to avoid prolonged eye contact, as it may make people feel ill at ease. Use last names and
appropriate titles until specifically invited to use first names. It is proper to shake hands with
everyone to whom you are introduced, both men and women; the appropriate response to an
introduction is "Pleased to meet you".
Time and punctuality
British people are very strict when it comes to punctuality. In Britain people make a great effort to
arrive on time, so it is considered impolite to be late, even with by few minutes. If you are delayed,
be sure to inform the person you are meeting. Here are some situations when you are obliged to be
on time, as well as some situations when it is advisable:

For formal dinners, lunches, or appointments you always come at the exact time appointed.

For public meetings, plays, concerts, movies, sporting events, classes, church services, and
weddings, it's best to arrive a few minutes early.

You can arrive any time during the hours specified for teas, receptions and cocktail parties.

The British often use expressions such as "drop in anytime" and "come see me soon". However, do
not take these literally. To be on the safe side, always telephone before visiting someone at home. If
you receive a written invitation to an event that says "RSVP", you should respond to the sender as
soon as possible, whether you are going to attend or not.

Body language and dress code

British people are not very keen on displaying affection in public. Hugging, kissing and touching are
usually reserved for family members and very close friends. You should also avoid talking loudly in
public or going to extremes with hand gestures during the course of communication. The British like
a certain amount of personal space. Do not stand too close to another person or put your arm
around someone's shoulder.
When it comes to clothes, there are no limits and restrictions on how to dress. Just make sure that
you respect the general rules when in formal situations. Observation will reveal that people in larger
cities dress more formally, especially in London. Men and women wear wools and tweeds for casual
occasions. Slacks, sweaters and jackets are appropriate for men and women. Do not wear a blazer
to work -- it is country or weekend wear. On formal occasions, always select an outfit that fits the
dress code. When attending a holiday dinner or cultural event, such as a concert or theatre
performance, it is best to dress formally.
General advice
Men should open doors for women and stand when a woman enters a room, although it is generally
accepted for men and women both to hold the door open for each other, depending on who goes
through the door first.
It is important to respect the British desire for privacy. Don't ask personal questions about family
background and origin, profession, marital status, political preferences or money issues. It is
considered extremely impolite to violate a queue, so never push ahead in a line. It is also considered
very rude to try to sound British or mimic their accent.
Remember that humour is ever-present in English life. It is often self-deprecating, ribbing, sarcastic,
sexist or racist. Try not to take offense.
Cultural etiquette dictates that when invited to someone's home, you should bring a small gift for the
hostess. Give flowers, chocolates, wine, champagne or books. Feel free to express your gratitude
and delight with the visit on the next day with a note or a telephone call.

Women's rules
Women in Britain are entitled to equal respect and status as men, both at work and daily life. The
British have the habit to use 'affectionate' names when addressing someone, so do not take any
offense if they call you love, dearie, or darling. These are commonly used and not considered rude.
It is acceptable, but may be misconstrued, for a foreign woman to invite an English man to dinner. It
is best to stick with lunch. Also, if you would like to pay for your meal, you should state it at the
outset. Remember that when in public, it is proper to cross your legs at the ankles, instead at the

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