England, Old Blighty…
Britain is only 30 miles from France, linked by a tunnel under the English Channel, and yet so utterly removed from life ‘on the continent’. That the ‘sun never set’ on an empire forged by a country barely 870 miles long, is a testament to the fortitude and strength of this island kingdom. In fact, it is the ‘stiff upper lip’ sentiment seemingly bred into any Brit, that has helped maintain this small Kingdom, a rocky island that sits in the North Atlantic Ocean, as a leader on the world’s political stage. It is also a country with a history as ancient as they come – a country where French was spoken for over 300 years, and heralded stories of countless battles with neighbors. But, life within Great Britain is full of quirky sentiments, colloquialisms, and cultural norms that seem, well, odd to outsiders…
England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom all refer to different things
Confusingly, these three terms do not all mean the same thing. ‘England’ refers to the country itself, ‘Great Britain’ includes the mainland of England, Scotland and Wales and the ‘United Kingdom’ includes Northern Ireland under its umbrella.
People love to talk about the weather
If you’d like to get to know the locals, strike up a conversation about the beautiful sunshine or the relentless rain. Most people will be happy to complain about whatever weather conditions they’re currently experiencing, before checking their weather apps on their phones to inform you of the weather conditions for the upcoming week.
Everyone loves a cup of tea
Tea is the answer to everything. If you’re feeling sad, if your train is delayed, if it’s blazing sunshine outside – someone will always offer you a cup of tea. Brits also love their coffee, but tea is definitely the national drink.
Place names are utterly bizarre
Be prepared to guffaw at the sight of road signs for places such as Minge Lane, Twatt and Boggy Bottom. For some bizarre reason, these strange and hilarious names of towns and villages exist all around the country.
Stand on the right
This is a standard rule across the country but is essential information if you’re using the London underground. Never, ever stand on the left when traveling on an escalator. If you wish to stand still and take the journey at ease, always stand on the right as people in a hurry will be rushing past on the left and do not take kindly to people standing in their way.
The true meaning of ‘a quick pint’
If someone suggests popping to the nearest pub for what they refer to as ‘a quick pint’, immediately wipe off the rest of the day’s plans. What they’re actually referring to is sitting in a dark pub (or a beer garden if you’re lucky and the sun is out) and sinking numerous pints of lager and perhaps enjoying a few packs of crisps until the bell is rung for last orders.
The sun shining is practically a national holiday
As soon as the sun comes out, everyone seems to leave their homes and workplaces to flock outdoors. A sunny day is not as rare an occurrence as this may suggest, but Brits relish the chance to soak up the sun and will flood parks, beer gardens and nearby beaches as soon as the mercury rises above 18 degrees.
Be prepared for odd greetings
Outside of London, expect a variety of strange greetings when you meet local people. In Newcastle you’ll hear ‘alright pet’, ‘ey up duck’ is the standard greeting in Derby and ‘hiya’ in an informal greeting used throughout the country.
Never, ever jump a queue (line)
Everyone in England takes queuing incredibly seriously, so much so that you sometimes need to take a ticket as proof of your place in a queue. One of the most offensive things that you can do in England is to push into a queue. Know your place and get in line.
Weird sports are rife
Yes, England is famed for its football and cricket, but have you ever heard of some of the more baffling sports practiced in the country? Look up ‘cheese rolling’, ‘black pudding throwing’ or ‘the egg and spoon race’, and prepare to be completely confused.
Regional accents are incredibly diverse
All across the country, different regional accents are recognizable with most visitors being able to identify at least Scouse, Geordie and Cockney dialects. If you’re spending a lot of time exploring a particular area, however, you’ll soon learn that regional accents are incredibly diverse and two towns merely ten miles apart can have obviously different tinges to their accents.
Mastering the use of two taps
Apparently the rest of the world uses one tap that fuses hot and cold water to offer different temperatures. In England, be prepared for freezing cold (yet beautifully drinkable) water streaming from the cold tap and scalding hot (usually with a warning sign) water rushing from the hot tap.
‘Sorry’ isn’t always an apology
The word ‘sorry’ has many meanings in England. It is used in the traditional way to apologize to somebody, but it is also used if someone is barging past and wants you to get out of their way, or when someone hasn’t heard what you said and would like you to repeat your sentence.
Regional cuisine can be confusing
For the most part, eating out in England is pretty straight forward with a variety of international cuisines and nice restaurants available. It’s only when you delve into the local delicacies that things get odd. Yorkshire puddings are actually savory and served with gravy, jellied eels are exactly like they sound and there is actually a dessert named spotted dick.
Pronouncing place names can be tricky
Not all is as it seems when it comes to pronouncing English place names. ‘Leicester’, ‘Worcestershire’ and ‘Marylebone’ are among the most confusing names to speak, none of them sounding at all like they look.
Good to know
Visa in not needed for US citizens
Stereotypes: True or False?
1. British people drink a lot of tea = True! We Brits love to sip, slurp and gulp down tea while occasionally dunking a digestive in there too.
2. And speak rather posh = False! Accents obviously vary from town to town in GB but it’s still a common misconception that all Brits speak like The Queen.
3. We’re super polite = True! Polite and proud. We are overtly appreciative and profusely apologetic, but it’s what makes us so darn nice. We’d encourage you not to try to prove this one wrong. Thank you, please.
4. We eat terrible food = False! This false assessment stems from WW2, American troops stationed in Britain…and food rations. Food was scarce, basic and at times spartan in availability – it wasn’t the best presentation to visitors a the time lol!.
5. We live in castles and cottages = False! Movies have a lot to answer for when it comes to stereotypes and it’s because of flicks like Braveheart, Harry Potter and The Holiday that others around the world believe our accommodation options are very twee and traditional. They haven’t seen the new build cul de sacs or council house estates where the majority of us dwell
6. They love the Royal Family = False! There are quite a few Brits who either outright dislike the concept (if not the family itself) or don’t particularly care for it. They bring in a lot of tourist money and occasionally there’s a day off for something or the other so tolerance and tempered appreciation wins out.
7. Brits have bad teeth = False/True...no comment haha