UK Social Culture: Tips For New Arrivals
Posted on 3rd December 2021 at 13:58
Welcome to the UK! This article will provide you with everything you need to know in order to feel comfortable in your new surroundings and give you an understanding of the social side of UK culture.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known is UK) is a sovereign country made up of four separate nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UK language is predominately English. The UK is a very multicultural country, and you may hear other languages as part of your normal day, but all signs, literature and public information is shared in English. The UK has many regional dialects that deviate slightly from the traditional English language, but don’t worry, if you don’t understand a phrase or a word, just ask!
Living in the UK Religion:
The most widely followed religion in the UK is Christianity, however the country is multicultural and everyone is free to practice whatever religion they please. Most cities will have places of worship for a variety of religions.
Christianity replaced Anglo-Saxon Paganism as the primary religion over 1,000 years ago. Catholicism was the official religion until 1534 when King Henry VIII introduced The Church of England, which has remained ever since.
Religion in the United Kingdom (2011 census)
- Christianity (59.5%)
- No Religion (25.7%)
- Islam (4.4%)
- Hinduism (1.3%)
- Sikhism (0.7%)
- Judaism (0.4%)
- Buddhism (0.4%)
- Other Religion (0.4%)
- Not Stated (7.2%)
Body Language & Dress Code: It is widely recongnised that British people are not keen on displaying affection in public. Kissing, hugging and touching is usually for family members and close friends. You should also avoid talking too loudly in public or standing too close to another person you do not know.
When it comes to clothing, there are no restrictions on what you may wear, just be mindful that some establishments and places of business will require lay out general rules for how they would like you to dress (e.g., no jeans, no hats, smart shoes only etc.). If you are not sure of the rules before you attend a restaurant or a function of any kind, feel free to ask.
In the UK men and women are of equal status and respect and the same rules apply to all genders.
British people are known for being polite and this not a myth! 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 doesn’t join the queue and pushes in.
Please and Thank You
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.
A 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 it’s 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 person’s 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 someone’s 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.
In Britain it is quite normal to tip taxi drivers and it's customary to round the total fare up to the nearest pound. If you choose to tip your taxi driver because they help you with your luggage or have delivered excellent service, a 10-15 per cent tip is a nice gesture.
Although you don't need to tip a delivery person when they drop off your food, an extra pound or two will always be appreciated. If you're in a restaurant a service charge is sometimes added to your total bill, which you are expected to pay. If nothing is added and you are happy with the service you've received, a tip of around 10-15 per cent is standard. Many restaurants automatically add a service charge to the bill, so make sure you check before leaving a tip. Again, if you are unsure about whether a service charge was added, just ask.
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