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United Kingdom Customs & Etiquettes
 
 
 

SOCIAL CUSTOMS & ETIQUETTES IN THE UK

General

As a nation, the Brits tend not to use superlatives and may not appear terribly animated when they speak. This does not mean that they do not have strong emotions; merely that they do not choose to put them on public display. They are generally not very openly demonstrative, and, unless you know someone well, may not appreciate it if you put your arm around their shoulder. Kissing is most often reserved for family members in the privacy of home, rather than in public. You'll see that the British prefer to maintain a few feet of distance between themselves and the person to whom they are speaking. If you have insulted someone, their facial expression may not change.

The British are very reserved and private people. Privacy is extremely important. The British will not necessarily give you a tour of their home and, in fact, may keep most doors closed. They expect others to respect their privacy. This extends to not asking personal questions. The question, “Where are you from?” may be viewed as an attempt to “place” the person on the social or class scale. Even close friends do not ask pointedly personal questions, particularly pertaining to one’s financial situation or relationships.

There is a proper way to act in most situations and the British are sticklers for adherence to protocol. The British are a bit more contained in their body language and hand gestures while speaking. They are generally more distant and reserved than North and South Americans and Southern Europeans, and may not initially appear to be as open or friendly. Friendships take longer to build; however, once established they tend to be deep and may last over time and distance.

However, the mixture of ethnic groups and cultures make it difficult to define “Britishness” nowadays and a debate rages within the nation as to what now really constitutes being a Briton.

Meeting & 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:
a) introduce a younger person to an older person;
b) introduce a person of lower status to a person of higher status;
c) 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 recipient’s 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.


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