PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

Quintessentially British

I am not British, as most of our students know and I have been living in Cardiff, or the UK generally, for almost four years. It seems to be a long time, but I still remember the first couple of weeks when I was discovering British culture and asked myself questions that probably every foreign person visiting or living in the UK, asks at some point. One of the most common ones is: "Why on Earth does everybody want to know if I am okay?" and secondly, "what is so interesting about discussing the weather?"
Our intern Lisa writes this blog and she is trying to research the stories behind the most typical British habits.
Let us know if we have missed something and post any questions under the article. 

"Two large cod and chips and some mushy peas, please"

Is there anything more British than fish and chips? This quintessentially British dish was brought to the UK from the New World in the 17th century by Sir Walter Raleigh. The grateful British public soon decided that serving fried fish and chips together was an extremely innovative and wonderful combination and so a national dish born! The very first fish and chip shop in the north of England is thought to have opened in Mossely, near Oldham, Lancashire, in around 1863 with the following inscription on the window: “This is the first fish and chip shop in the world”.

Drinking tea 

I’m sure that I’m not telling you a secret when I say that tea is Britain’s most favourite drink. It slowly but surely insinuated itself into the British culture, language and society. Tea is everywhere: afternoon tea, high tea, tea gowns, tea cakes, tea towels, tea gardens, tea dances, tea-time, tea services, tea breaks, tea for two, storms in tea cups. So always remember: “A day without tea is a day without joy.” It was the Portuguese and Dutch traders who first imported tea to Europe in 1610. The UK was a latecomer to the tea trade, and tea's popularity didn’t settle until the mid-18th century. It quickly gained popularity due to its unique taste and by 1750 it had become the favoured drink of Britain's lower classes.

Going to the pub 

Going to the pub has a very long tradition. The great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger, it is a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities. Therefore, it is very common to go to the pub even straight after work and there is nothing wrong with it. If you want to socialize, you go to the pub - it’s simple as that!

Having a considerable interest in the weather at all times 

Talking about the weather is some kind of code that British people have developed to help themselves overcome conversational inhibitions. It can be seen as some sort of icebreaker. Furthermore, it is used to fill awkward silences or divert the conversation away from uncomfortable topics. It is quite simple to talk about the weather, isn’t it? However, as a foreigner I discovered some unwritten rules when talking about the weather: The topic will almost always be introduced as a form of question, even if only the intonation suggests it was a question (e.g., “Raining again?”) The person answering must agree. Failing to agree is quite a serious breach of etiquette. If you don’t agree because you’re of another opinion, then be prepared to give a good reason. Make sure to keep the atmosphere relaxed as this isn’t something to argue about.

The ability to queue nicely 

When you are travelling around Britain, the British Art of Queuing can be seen quite often. That’s because they learn from an early age that it’s just the right thing to do. In Britain, civilised queuing is a throwback from World War II, a result of rationing and a sense of civic duty. In fact, many Brits find queues magnetic and will often join the end of a queue just to see what it is at the front. So, British people are doing their utmost to uphold the reputation they have when it comes to forming a solid, orderly line.

 Apologising, saying “please” and “thank you” 

Saying sorry when you’ve not done anything wrong - that is something you will have to do when you don’t want to be impolite. Whether you are sorry about the weather or because somebody else has bumped into you, “sorry” is a high frequently used word. Also, make sure to always include “please” when asking for something. The same applies for saying “thank you” after having received something. Being polite shows respect and that you value your opposite.
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About Peartree Languages

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.


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