The British are said to be reserved in manners, dress and speech. They are famous for their politeness, self-discipline and especially for a sense of humour. Basic politeness (please, thank you, excuse me) is expected.
British 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.
Find out more about greetings: www.woodlandsjunior.kent.sch.uk/customs/greetings.htm
You may be called by many different ’affectionate’ names, according to which part of the Britain you are visiting. Do not be offended, this is quite normal. For example, you may be called dear, deary, flower, love, chick, chuck, me duck, me ducky, mate, guy, son, ma’am, madam, miss, sir, or treacle, according to your sex, age and location.
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.
British eat continental style, with fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. Rules for eating in England:
In theory, official working hours are normally 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. In practice, most employees work considerably longer hours; many will be at their desks by 8:30 a.m. and executives rarely leave before 7:00 p.m. Professionals like lawyers and consultants may not arrive before 9:30 a.m. but, on the other hand, they may not leave the office until the following day. Generally, the British prefer to stay late in the office than to take work home with them even if they do carry a briefcase (their ’executive lunch-box’).
Conservative dress is the norm for both men and women in British business culture where darker colours (black, dark blue, charcoal grey) and heavier fabrics (wool) predominate. No one wears a morning suit and bowler hat to work nowadays but the traditional pinstripe is still immensely popular.
Most Britons are reserved by nature and often find it difficult to indulge in small talk with a complete stranger. Indeed, there are situations where idle conversation is actually frowned upon, for example when travelling on the London underground; in these circumstances, a newspaper will act as a defensive tool in public whilst also providing potential material for subsequent social intercourse in private.
Despite their reputation for stiff formality, the British are in fact quite informal and the immediate use of first names is increasingly prevalent in all walks of British life, especially amongst the young (under 40-45 years of age) and in the newer industries.
Whilst younger, junior employees are perfectly capable of conducting negotiations at a distance, it is always desirable to send older, senior representatives to the United Kingdom for face-to-face discussions.
The guiding principle must always be St Ambrose’s dictum, ’when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, i.e. follow the lead of your hosts.
Britons, and the English in particular, are notoriously undemonstrative. The ’stiff upper lip’ is not just the stuff of fiction and emotional displays, positive or negative, are generally frowned upon. Gestures such as backslapping and hugging are discouraged and a wide distance should be maintained between participants in a conversation. Maintaining eye contact may be necessary when you are trying to emphasise important points but you must avoid any temptation to ’eye-ball’. Talking loudly is unacceptable and shouting is beyond the pale. Some old-fashioned interlocutors may not hear you if you have your hands in your pockets. The British do not gesticulate frantically.